Dr. Eileen Callahan, Ph.D.: Self Acceptance

mlg-web.jpg (Medium 325px )Trudging My Way To Self Acceptance

An essay by Michelle Linn-Gust, Ph.D.

This past week I sat on top of a ’61 Chevrolet Impala Convertible under the hot sun on the University of New Mexico campus smiling for a camera, hoping that in 100-plus photos, I’d be happy with five. They say we are our own worst critics and I can pick apart myself better than the next person can critique herself.

But when I picked up the contact sheet and cd of the photos the following day, I was pleasantly surprised that a slew of photos would work for various projects. Because I couldn’t decide which photo I liked best, I began to think I needed to write a book for each of those photos, giving every one a place on a back cover.

That same afternoon, I spoke to one of my closest friends who had been the first person to read my latest fiction manuscript, Sisters: The Karma Twist (and I chose her because I knew that she would tell me if it was bad and because I also realized she reads more than anyone else I know), When she told me that my “voice came through” in it, to say I was ecstatic would put it mildly. Between the photo shoot and my writing, I had such a sense that, while I’m not yet where I want to be, I am happy with how far I’ve come. And where I stand today.

This hasn’t been the case for my entire life. I could go through a list of reasons why I never felt good enough, pretty enough, smart enough. I fought myself by limiting my eating and running more, something most people thought was admirable and easily disguisable in the late 1980s. A bikini was out of the question from the end of elementary school on. It was that funhouse mirror in front of me; I thought I was too fat for one.

Somewhere along the way though, something changed. I’m not sure that in the rest of my lifetime I can ever pinpoint where it changed, instead believing that it was about continuing to make friends with myself and who I am in the world. Slowly, I emerged into someone I really wanted to be, someone I am proud of. It involved not only the discipline of fighting the negative thoughts about myself but also about creating a sense of uniqueness about myself in the world.

Some people who have known me for a large portion of my life might be chuckling, knowing that I always was a unique person, however, I can look back and see that I squashed her at some point. While the 1980s gel-laden, a-symmetrical haircuts won’t be returning any time soon, I realized it was time to enjoy the fact that I can wear bikinis and tight fitting dresses. Several years ago, I let this person re-emerge and took the time to weave her into the rest of who I am today.

It also involved a slew of writing. And a lot of writing that never will be published, stuff I thought was great and now I read and am thankful that it never made it to print. But when I write today, I see how I have evolved; I can see how I had to travel all these places to get where I am.

And that place was sitting on the trunk of the turquoise convertible where I continue to not only evolve, but also LIKE myself a little more each day. While I will never wear a bikini when sitting on the convertible, I will wear one beyond my backyard swimming pool. It was worth the endurance to get here. I look forward to where it will continue to take me because it is only by getting to this place that I can be who I truly am supposed to be. Without getting here, I couldn’t contribute to the world as I do and there’s a confidence that comes with accomplishing that.

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