Your approval is not required. That’s a popular saying that goes around and it wasn’t until recently that I really began to believe it about myself, but the farther I move along in my recovery, the more true this statement becomes for me. Here’s some examples of that:
1. My appearance – I’ve come to the place in my life where I dress and look the way I do for me. If I want to wear something that others may not consider flattering to my curvy body, I think to myself that they can just choose not to look at what I’m wearing and keep their opinions and attitudes to themselves. Before, I would feel self-conscious and I cared if some little twenty year old gave me “the look” and now, I just strut my stuff like I own it. Because I do. This is the body I have right now and I’m no longer going to hide it to make others comfortable. Get over yourselves. I’m not going to let their hang ups and insecurities determine my self worth any longer. It’s helped to have role models like Tess Halladay, a plus size supermodel and The Militant Baker who’s working hard to stamp out stigma and body shaming.
2. My Boundaries – knowing what’s right or wrong for me personally is my business and enforcing them is my job. I didn’t figure this one out until just recently so I’m still working on this but I’m learning that setting boundaries is about defining who I am and what’s important to me, and then having the courage to stand up and fight for maintaining them. It’s meant losing people who couldn’t respect the boundaries I put in place, but at the end of the day, I need to be surrounded by people who will respect them. In learning my own rules around boundaries, I’ve come to respect others as well. I realize the importance they play in a person’s well-being and getting respect means giving it.
3. My values – although I feel that nobody should have to explain or justify their values to anyone because they’re so deeply personal, I’m thankful that I do hold so many of the integral ones that make me a compassionate and kind human being. I believe in striving to live as honest and compassionate life as you can. I believe in treating others how you yourself would like to be treated. I follow the laws that help keep society in order but fight for fair and equal treatment for the disadvantaged. I don’t believe in a society where there’s excessive wealth and extreme poverty or obscene extortion of people and resources for the profit of a few.
4. My Social Values – over the course of my life, I’ve discovered what I value and I’ve learned that I’m a leftie, a socialist, a bleeding heart, and a true democrat. If there’s a social cause going on, there’s a 99% chance I’m on the side of science and justice. To take a few:
- I 100% support equal rights for humankind, not to be determined by gender, age, race, or disability. To me that means the right to marry, to have children, to live a life of sustainability, to live a life free from discrimination, war or threat of harm
- I believe that while people should have the freedom to believe and practice in religious freedoms, those practices should not be imposed on anyone else including influencing education, political governments, or in law. No religious organization should be exempt from paying its share of taxes. No religious organization should receive funding from government bodies. Yes, I’m an Athiest and I believe that I am as entitled to as much protection and freedom to my belief as someone who may believe in a God that doesn’t exist.
- I believe that Mental Illness is an epidemic in this country and the way people have been treated for having an illness has been appalling. We’ve had to be secretive and ashamed and it’s time for our revolution. I believe in a movement started by the people, for the people, that will demand fair treatment and respect from society and government.
- I am appalled that racism is still alive in this country. All lives matter. In Canada, 100’s of Aboriginial women go missing or are murdered and nothing is done about it. We just now are acknowledging the horrible crime against humanity that was done with the Residential Schools. In the US black lives are tragically lost every day. This shit matters.
5. Loving Myself – through the years of therapy and hard work, and surrounding myself with people that were good for me, I’m starting to love myself. And to not feel awkward or ashamed in doing so. It’s an amazing experience to fall in love with yourself. To discover things about yourself that you didn’t know, peeling away the layers to get at that person deep inside. You spend years adding those layers, hiding who you truly want to be, so you can fit in with what you think society tells you to be. And in the journey of self-discovery, you get to remove those layers one by one, and each time you find someone you used to know and it’s like finding an old friend. It’s weird because I thought that in peeling away those layers, I would be bringing up past hurts and pains that I had worked so hard to cover up as well, but it’s like they had been healed and what remained were the idealistic and delightful parts of myself that I had to suppress.
This journey that I’ve been on has been surreal. It’s been 9 years since my discovery of having a mental illness and it wasn’t just one rabbit hole that I encountered along the way. The road to recovery is full of pitfalls and obstacles along the way, there to challenge you and help define you. If you are on that path right now, do not give up. Keep moving yourself along the path. I promise you that it does get easier as you get stronger. You’ll learn skills and coping strategies along the way that will help you avoid the pitfalls or get you out of them much faster and each time that happens, you grow stronger and more confident.
Be who you are. Love who you are. Celebrate who you are.