Acceptance. A simple word that holds such energetic power and conjures up many different feelings and pre-programmed responses for each of us. Acceptance of yourself as you are now as well as where you have been on this life’s journey is a tough road for many women. Accepting your past can be a painful process, I know, as I have been there.
If you have had tragedy in your life, been a victim of sorts, made some poor decisions along the way, or wished your upbringing had been different in one way or another you are not alone. With these trials and errors come grief, guilt, regret, and sometimes shame.
I think we all could find a reason to claim the role of “victim”. We all have had something in our lives which could easily put that label on us. But, there is something really powerful in accepting ourselves and our past.
“Accepting ourselves and our past means the following: There are no regrets, only lessons. Your grief can lead to healing and thriving. There is no guilt, only wisdom gained. There is no shame, only transparency. How powerful is that?”
I lived through sexual abuse which began at the tender age of four. I did not know this man; he was a family “friend”. This initial act literally took my childhood away from me in an instant and changed me forever. I was immediately aware of my body and my sexuality at age four. This event shaped the way I looked at myself and at men and at other women. It caused much confusion with my body image and I developed self esteem issues. I was unable to trust. I became self conscious and codependent. As a result of this I was abused by others well into my teenage years. Wasn’t my body the reason why men liked me? I became promiscuous and liked to numb myself with drugs and alcohol.
In college, I finally became brave enough to go to counseling and get the help I needed to repair my self esteem and to finally accept my past. I had never told a soul about the abuse as it was such a scary thing for me to admit. It brought up so much shame, as if it was my fault that this had happened to me. Isn’t that a silly notion? I was truly a “victim” and I felt shame because of my abuse. If you have ever been a victim, I know you understand.
After years of counseling I finally arrived at a healthy place of acceptance. I not only accepted myself and my past, but I also accepted the fact that those people who abused me were doing the best they knew how to do. With acceptance comes forgiveness. That is the most POWERFUL thing of all.
Through my own healing journey I have learned 7 powerful lessons in acceptance:
1 . Accepting a painful situation does not mean that you condone it. Accepting something for what it is gives you your power back. It does not mean that what happened to you was right. You can still believe that you were wronged, but accepting it is the first step toward healing.
2. Forgiving someone is for you, not for them. Holding a grudge only hurts you, not the person you are feeling bitterness toward. When you carry around all that anger, then they are still overpowering you and winning. There is true freedom when we forgive. If the word forgive feels daunting, you can replace it with ‘letting go’. This frees us from blame, guilt, shame, anger, and the like. The perpetrator knows not how we feel, nor should it matter. I can honestly say that I truly forgive those men who abused me, and that is very freeing.
3. Accepting and forgiving allow you to open up to the lessons. When you are holding on to and repeating the past hurtful situations over and over in your mind and in the words you speak, you are essentially reliving them. When we accept and forgive, then and only then, can we see the value and the lessons in those situations. There are lessons in all our pain and suffering. We must be open to them. What you have made it through is a true testament that you can get through any circumstance that presents itself to you.
4. Acceptance has taught me to forgive myself. There can be so much shame and self blame when we are victimized. We have such a hard time forgiving ourselves. We think, if only I did this differently, or what if I had walked a different way home, or a million other scenarios. This thinking only causes more guilt and shame and keeps us in the role of victim. We must forgive ourselves.
5. Acceptance and Forgiveness have allowed me to develop some really great character traits. Without these trials I went through, I wouldn’t have had the chance to build some really awesome character traits. I am now stronger, smarter, and more confident. I am able to set healthy boundaries.
6. Accepting myself and my past has shown me that without those painful experiences I would be a different person today…and I LOVE who I am today. When we realize that all the situations, both good and bad, mold us into who we are today…that is when we can celebrate all our past experiences. It goes back to the lessons we were lucky enough to learn and the character traits we were able to develop.
7. Accepting means that you do not have to pretend your life is perfect. When we have shame and guilt over something, we sometimes try to pretend it did not happen. We don’t want anyone to know we have a blemish or that we are not perfect. Guess what? Nobody is perfect! When we accept where we have been and how far we have come, then we do not have to pretend to be perfect. We get to be real!
So, I challenge you to get quiet, go inward, and discover where you are still feeling like a “victim”. Get the professional help you may have been avoiding, and allow yourself to find a healthy place of acceptance and forgiveness.
You are so worth it!