My True Recovery Started With Self-Acceptance (AKA How I Learned That I’m Not Garbage)

My True Recovery Started With Self-Acceptance (How I Learned I'm Not Garbage)

Today’s post is a bit of a departure from the usual lighthearted tone of my blog.

It is based on a post I wrote on the old version of this blog. (I took all my posts down during a particularly bad bout of depressive symptoms about… a year ago, maybe. I’ve been resurrecting some of those thoughts in bits and pieces in my new posts… hopefully not more than once.)

Anyway, this post offers some insight into my mental state “pre-therapy” and “pre-recovery,” and what I’ve learned since. An anxiety origin story of sorts.

I hope you find something valuable or relatable in here 🙂

Just get over it

All my (teenage/adult) life, I thought that if I could just “get over my issues,” I would be happy.

I would be “there,” in that place where I feel okay in my own body and mind.

If only I could get past my shyness, past my body image issues, past my imperfections… that’s what I thought the answer was.

Fake it til you make it

So I learned to “fake it til I made it” by adopting the mannerisms of people
I considered more socially graceful. I turned my people-pleasing powers on full strength and tried to become the Perfect Friend/Guest/Partner/Employee/Whatever.

But I couldn’t connect deeply with people. There was this barrier for me, this emotional distance. I held my true self back.

Socially acceptable mask

I didn’t want my discomfort to make anyone uncomfortable. I didn’t want to be the high-maintenance friend who needs reassurance and encouragement just to be herself.

I didn’t want my anxiety to inconvenience anyone or make them question my affection for them. So I put on my Socially Acceptable Mask and stuffed my fretting down deep inside.

And I became miserable. (Anxiety can often lead to depression. I think this is why.)

Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let it show

I felt like I was standing on the outside of most of my relationships, looking in through a window clouded by my own fear of being truly authentic and vulnerable.

Yes, I could speak candidly about myself, but only in an abstract way devoid of any true vulnerability.

I worked so far to stifle my blushing, hold back my nervous tears, and steady my shaky hands. And if there were situations where I knew I wouldn’t have that control, I would just avoid them.

At all costs, I tried to hide how shy and awkward and lost I truly felt.

I was desperate not to let anyone see how nervous I was.

How much I hated myself.

When you think you’re “bad”

I was starting from the assumption that there was something bad and unlovable about me, and then I was working backwards from there, looking for the evidence that made the assumption true.

It’s easy to find that kind of evidence if this is your mindset.

The biggest thing therapy has given me

And that’s why the biggest breakthrough in my recovery has come not from “controlling” my anxiety or “getting over my issues,” but from accepting the anxiety.

Validating it.

Validating myself.

I had to change the assumptions I had about myself and become open to the possibility that I am not, in fact, garbage.

Once I started to think of myself with more compassion and empathy, I stopped looking for the “evidence” of my unlovability and badness.

And everything else has flowed from this mindshift.

You can’t “hate” yourself better

We need to get over the idea that we need to “get over our issues.”

I think a better approach would be to introduce some softness and kindness in how we think about these “issues” in the first place. And above all, how we think about ourselves.

You can’t “hate” yourself into recovery.

You can’t “hate-heal” yourself.

Go easy on yourself

And you are not, in fact, garbage.

Let’s just be clear about that.

25 thoughts on “My True Recovery Started With Self-Acceptance (AKA How I Learned That I’m Not Garbage)

  1. This is a very profound discovery. And I love that last thought, that you can’t “hate-heal” yourself. I have never heard this phrase, but how apt it is. I’ll bet the world is full of people trying to do exactly that.

    You analyzed the situation clearly by realizing that you can’t cherry pick evidence to support a pre-conceived notion. There is a lot of bad science going on out there today that does exactly that. Good for you for realizing that you are better off accepting what the evidence is telling you rather than trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

    It is all about accepting who you are. Until you do, you can’t move forward, and all kinds of other issues either emerge, or get buried. Either way, the outcome is less than ideal.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh no! I am sending you self-compassion by express post. You didn’t “cause” depression or choose it. And yes, depression totally sucks — but YOU don’t suck. You, the person behind the depression. The depression isn’t you — so don’t hate you. 💙

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it’s common to try to hate oneself better… it seems to come so much more naturally than self-compassion and self-acceptance. And it makes sense — we don’t LIKE the anxiety and depression.

      I know little about the autism spectrum, aside from some reading I’ve done on (formerly) Asperger’s. But I’ve definitely read that autism is something to be worked with/managed rather than “cured” (whatever that would mean)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful post, Sadie! As someone who was mercilessly bullied in school, it took many years to reach the point where I no longer hated myself. I’m now a happy and confident adult!

    Thank you for this article!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautifully written. I just want to reach through the internet and give you a hug! I hear you so loud and clear. I was a blushing and a sweaty-palm nervous mess most of my first 25 years. How amazing when we start to extend kindness and compassion to ourselves instead of beating ourselves up! Thank you for sharing. We are all works in progress.

    Liked by 1 person

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