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Accepting Ourselves – the Key to Mental Health

“When we are young we are in a frenzied rush to shape and mould ourselves into the image we think is acceptable. Usually we fail to recognise how much we are shaped by popular culture. As we get older, we tend to become more accepting of ourselves.”

If God became wearied by your constant requests to be someone else, and he finally gave you the choice to become another human being, who would you choose to become?

The caveat is potentially a deal breaker – you have to become fully that other person – not just pick and choose aspects which were desirable, and hold on to the tolerable bits of yourself. It would mean saying goodbye to all of you even those often overlooked aspects that aren’t too bad. On the flipside, you would have to take on all aspects of this idealised person including the aspects which are not so great – past, present and future. Would you still go ahead and accept God’s offer, or would you instantly repent of your self-dissatisfaction and self-rejection?

You might like your eyes but not your thighs. You may wish you could be a few inches taller or even a different colour. You may br ashamed of your heritage, family background or the vile acts you did in the past.

When you actually get to know another human being, you might love them regardless and choose to hold on to the relationship simply because that person’s value outshines his or her weaknesses and foibles. This is the essence of unconditional love, and is the essence of many significant relationships – parent-child, marriage partners, best friends. You may admire these people but you would never choose to become them because you are all too well aware of their darker sides.

When we idolise another human being and think their life is so perfect that we would want to be in their skin and shoes, it is easy to become disillusioned when the image of perfection begins to crack and you begin to see them as they truly are – flawed and blemished as we all are.

When we are young we are in a frenzied rush to shape and mould ourselves into the image we think is acceptable. Usually we fail to recognise how much we are shaped by popular culture.  As we get older, we tend to become more accepting of ourselves.

On a physical level, by the time we reach puberty, men want bigger muscles and women want bigger breasts. There are superficial changes we choose to make e.g. taking a celebrity hairdo into the hair salon and saying I want my hair to look like that. But what happens when we choose to make changes on the insides of our bodies – changes which might have lasting implications.

We are all alone in an existential sense – we come into this world alone and leave it alone, our thoughts are private even if we choose to share some with others, but it would be impossible to share all of them. Sometimes, we struggle to understand and come to grip with our own thoughts. Those closest to you will never fully understand you. In fact, you will never fully understand yourself. It doesn’t matter how many people love you, if you don’t love yourself, you could still end up living a miserable life.

Although many people choose to be alone, it’s when it’s no longer a choice that it can become problematic.

A major obstacle to self-love is self-reproach often born out of guilt. You may have done something or not done something which led to a negative outcome for you or someone else. You may conclude that you don’t deserve forgiveness, and therefore you reject God’s offer of forgiveness. The good news is that God offers forgiveness even if man doesn’t and that His forgiveness trumps everything.

Another obstacle is comparison. Social media tends to reinforce feelings of self-reproach and inferiority because people post the best of themselves. you might think that by comparison your life sucks. But no-one’s life is ever as perfect as it first appears.

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