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In Search of Acceptance

written by: Kosjenka Muk

Did you ever feel fully seen and accepted - welcomed - just as you are, here and now? Perhaps you'd agree that it's a feeling that rivals falling in love in some ways. Yet, not only few people in this world really have a chance to experience this, but few people even recognize it's what they need most.

Some of us might have had such an experience in the first year of two of our lives, but too early to recall. Some might've not even felt it at that age, which probably means they developed some kind of attachment problem, which makes it more difficult to create such a relationship in the future, too. Even when we are in a good love relationship, it often turns out that it was based more on projections, transference or just sexual attraction, rather than on true recognition of the other person. We might feel it subconsciously in such a case, which makes it more difficult to fully relax even when in love.

Can you imagine feeling welcome? For me, a good word to describe such a feeling is refuge; At least a temporary shelter and release of all the stress, conflict and ugly news we face day by day. Sadly, few people feel like this even within their families - and even fewer people know how to give it to others.

Once you recognize it's a feeling you want, you might increase your expectations of others and be even more dissapointed. Be aware that nobody owes you such a thing. This kind of acceptance can only be offered, not demanded. Seek people who already have this attitude and ability, rather than people you'd have to prod and beg to accept you.

Of masks and true selves

If you want other people to see your true face, you need to show it. Some people wear a mask of toughness, and later are surprised and complain if others don't see the warmth inside them. Many people wear a mask they believe is socially expected - and if the mask receives approval and praise, they feel lonely and unseen as who they truly are. People cannot and don't have to read your mind (even if our instincts are quite fine-tuned to reading non-verbal signals).

If you are used to wearing a mask, it might be time to unlearn this habit, at least starting with chosen friends and family members. You might feel uncomfortable at first, but it's likely that your real self will be more interesting and lively than any mask you are used to, and therefore more attractive. No matter what you do and what kind of person you are, there will always be people who will approve of you and people who'll criticize you. Why not let go of your mask then, so at least you can connect to people who like the true you? (Just make sure that you express the best version of yourself and do not hurt other people in process.)

Similarly, you are unlikely to receive something you are not willing to give. Do you try to see people beyond their looks and their masks? Even beyond their mistakes and faults? (Don't exaggerate with the latter, though, and confuse seeing people's potential with neglecting your boundaries.) There are people who are truly mean and selfish, but the majority is just confused and damaged by unhealthy environment.

Staying balanced

Exaggerated expectations are counter-productive, both of yourself and others. Stress, lack of time, accumulated unpleasant experience and disappointment, instincts that might be overly alert to potential danger... to be accepting of other people might make you feel vulnerable, especially if you are emotionaly sensitive. Most other people have similar obstacles, too. Yet we could at least start with trying to see people around us fully, not just externally but their inner selves; not just the behavior and emotions they express, but also the causes of such emotions and behavior. Once there is recognition, acceptance becomes easier.

Be alert to staying in balance, though. Be aware that acceptance of others doesn't mean neglecting yourself and ignoring possible problems. It's perfectly possible to be primarily focused on recognizing the good in people, while still having firm boundaries and being able to say, "No.". It's only important that you can do it in a friendly and respectful way.

You might feel that it's difficult to find people who would see and accept who you are (especially if you are an introvert or shy). In that case, start with accepting yourself. After all, you can only ever fully count on yourself forever. Even if the relief and pleasure are deeper if acceptance is received from somebody else, external experience rarely result in lasting internal change. True change happens when you can welcome your own self, recognize your own core rather than believing demeaning comments you heard or still hear from others. Then you can find the refuge within - and such a refuge is forever.

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