I live in a house with three younger siblings, all of whom have been under my dictatorship at one point or another. I won’t lie; I can be a mean big sister who shows no mercy. But watching my siblings grow and rebel against my authority has shown me they each have their own personalities that may or may not clash with my own. It’s taken years to understand this, and even as I write this, I’m recovering from a sibling showdown in which I played the role of sheriff and merciless totalitarian. Still, conflict isn’t always a bad thing, and acceptance should be the goal of all relationships. When you learn to keep all your mess and imperfections in check, you allow yourself to do the same with others.

I wish I had superpowers for only one reason: to see what people really think of themselves. Over the years, my curiosity has manifested itself in a number of ways—with me trying to read people’s thoughts or guessing their level of self-confidence by the way they walk or talk. From a young age, I’ve struggled with self-consciousness and low self-esteem. I would often change my personality so that I could be accepted in a particular crowd, while never really allowing anyone to see the real me, as I was never really certain of who that was in the first place.

I used to envy self-assured people no matter how unpopular they were. I wanted that cool confidence that comes from knowing who you are and who your real friends are. It’s taken me a long time to assess myself, to get to know who I am and who I am not. You would never tell just by looking at me how uncertain I am, which gets me back to my desire for superpowers. I wanted to know who else struggled with self-identity so I wouldn’t feel like the odd man out.

As I get older I realize we all do, maybe some more than others, but in a way self-identity is a question that everyone must deal with at one point or another. But here’s the thing about knowing who you are and being OK with it: you learn to love and accept others for who they are. Accepting yourself unlocks the key to understanding that not everyone is perfect, but in each flaw is a purpose, a puzzle piece that fits into a larger complete picture.

Acceptance of myself has meant that I embrace all my past mistakes, that I’m kind to my flaws and that I forgive myself when I do something wrong. I’m not perfect, I don’t always have the right answers or responses to situations and I find myself making silly mistakes on a daily, hourly basis. But that’s OK, and it’s OK for others to make mistakes too, even ones that hurt me. Self-acceptance has helped my confidence, because I’ve grown comfortable with being myself and allowing others to see that. I’m beginning to reach a place where I can say, “It’s great if you like me but it’s not a tragedy if you don’t.”  

Of course being yourself means that you’re going to butt heads with others who are not like you which is the next stage in acceptance. Acceptance not only boosts positive self-esteem, but it teaches us how to manage conflict and build healthy relationships.

Acceptance and love for yourself is the first step to keeping conflict in check. It allows conflict to occur without allowing unforgivingness to take root. When someone does something to hurt me, I feel all the emotions any normal person does, but I also try my best to see that I’ve also done things to hurt others. For that reason I can’t hold a grudge because, to do that, I would have to be a flawless person who’s never done wrong. Give people chances, allow them to accept you and in turn accept them. After all, we’re all beautiful messes.

by Arielle Townsend
Image: megaphone leader kid girl via Shutterstock