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In a previous post I talked about how important acceptance is in our daily lives. I also mentioned that accepting something doesn’t mean we must like it. After a long conversation tonight, I started thinking about how often I don’t accept things about myself that are simply part of my personality or my physical being. Instead, I constantly feel as if I have to change everything I am and everything I do so I can fit some sort of mold that I’m not sure even exists.

How many times do we stop to think about who we have always been in relation to who we have become as a result of life’s circumstances? Do we assume that we don’t like this or that because it’s a dislike that was placed inside of us at conception or do we consider that it could be a result of a situation that happened to us or an experience we had?

Where am I going with this? Well, I think I all too frequently feel as if everything about me is inadequate and must be improved. I try stopping myself from being funny assuming that I need to be more serious all of the time. I tell myself, and others, “I’m trying to work on not doing…” when in reality it’s part of my personality; it’s who I am. Rarely do I say, “I’m trying to work on embracing my hilarity,” or “I really love that I have a lot to talk about.” No. I just try to fix it when no one is even complaining about it- no one except me.

When we find ourselves picking apart our entire being in an attempt to adhere to perceived standards, I think we miss out on the great characteristics that were carefully selected by the higher power upon our creation. I think we can get so wrapped up in fixing what’s not even broken that we fail to see the beauty in ourselves. One of the greatest things about life and the human race is that we’re all different. We all have a story and we’re all unique. It’s what makes us, us.

I’m making an internal vow (and I suppose external since I’m posting it here) that instead of assuming I need to change all that I am, I will accept that there are characteristics that make me Meredith. I may not always like these things about myself, but the point is that I can’t spend the rest of my life trying to change a personality and a body that were both given to me with care. I can, however, embrace that personality and my body while using my uniqueness to my advantage. I simply don’t want to find that another 28 years has passed and I’ve done nothing more than try to continually change who I am.

What about you?

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Photo taken by Maggie Wright of Wilmington, Ohio.

Humans have a natural tendency toward worrying. When we don’t know what is going to happen in any given situation, we may start to feel ourselves getting keyed up and thinking the worst possible outcome will come into existence. We may lose sleep, no longer have a normal appetite and becoming irritable without intending to do so. That’s what worry does.

A former co-worker of mine told me during a spiritual conversation one day that worry is a sin. He mentioned how the Bible instructs us not to worry and how God is in control, we just have to have faith. When I heard this, it helped change my perspective about the excessive worrying I had done my whole life. Yes, I was dubbed a “worry wart.”

This, along with becoming familiar with acceptance and mindfulness, has transformed my worry into productive energy. Acceptance-based interventions are part of a treatment modality known as Dialectical Behavior Therapy, developed in the 1970s by Marsha Linehan. Counselors and psychologists across the country use this as part of their treatment (and insurance companies love that).

Part of the goal in DBT is to work toward acceptance of what IS and even what WAS. So often we can fall into the mindset of “I wish…” or “I should…” rather than looking at what we are thinking, feeling and doing right now. Adding mindfulness to our lives takes acceptance of the here-and-now, this moment, and allows us to be fully present where we are.

Sound complicated? It’s actually quite the opposite, but it does take a conscious effort to alleviate worry and practice acceptance and mindfulness. However, it DOES work. At least, that’s my experience. When we can stop “shoulding on ourselves” and move to a place where we can be okay with what is in front of us in this moment, we can then start to realize that there is no need to worry about the next moment. It will take care of itself.

Let me give you an example of how I use these practices in my daily life. My schedule is overwhelming as I am finishing graduate school and sometimes I look at my planner thinking “How in the world will I ever get all of this done?” Then I start stressing out and feeling like I want to give up because it seems impossible to complete all of these tasks. It is in that moment that I stop, take a deep breath or two, remember where I am (i.e. work or school) and re-focus on what I must do in the moment; what’s the task at hand. If I have a paper due in three weeks, of course I don’t want to wait until the last minute to finish it, but if I’m at work and there is nothing I can do to complete the paper while I’m there, I’m able to notice the stress coming up, feel it, not judge it, and let it go (also known as having a “teflon mind”). I can then stay present in the moment and my worry subsides.

At first I thought there was simply no way I could stay in the moment. Worrying is what I did… always. I was turned off by the idea of accepting what is and being fully present where I am because I “don’t have time to practice all of this stuff. I have too much to get done.” Yet, those were the reasons it was crucial to implement such skills.

DBT skills extend beyond acceptance and mindfulness, but I will spare you and not get into all of that. You can Google DBT to find a wealth of information that may help you stop worrying for worry’s sake.

In this moment, I am finishing this blog and heading out the door for work.

Until next time…

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