The Need for Acceptance
The need for acceptance starts at an early age. In elementary school, we sit around the lunch table hoping one of the “cool” kids notices our new funky light up sneakers and want to sit down next to us. In high school, we work hard to join a sports team so we can make a name for ourselves and receive the popularity that we so desire.
College years are spent “finding ourselves,” which sometimes can mean experimenting with all the wrong things because we are too afraid to stand up or become an outcast. Yet, even as mature adults, we can’t help but try to “fit in” among our coworkers or friends, so we tell outrages stories to receive approval and praise.
Granted we may not all fight for acceptance the same way. Some of us take a different path. Some of us rebel and run in the opposite direction doing everything we can to prove we are different. But if we dig down deep to the root of our behaviors, we often find that rebelling happens because we want to be accepted despite our differences.
When I was younger, I had two best friends I would hang with. There was the not so nice girl who I will call “Susan.” Susan was from a large family and although both her mother and father lived in her home, she was very wild, mean and loved to fight. Yet, at times she would be very vulnerable with me, so I knew there was more to her than meets the eye. My other friend, who I will call “Jackie”, was kind and peaceful. Jackie comes from a smaller family and raised by a single mom. I am mentioning their home life because sometimes we think that if both parents are in the home that children come out better, which is not the case at all. As I approached middle school I had to choose who I wanted to hang out with and who to let go of. Although I liked Susan, and I understood her better than most, I knew she was headed for self-destruction, so I chose to hang with Jackie. I had to decide early on if I wanted to fit in or be true to who I really am.
Yes, fitting in is a comfortable place to be. We fear change for many reasons, but it’s inevitable. Growth must happen in our lives as we move forward, and we need to be deliberate about changing our need from “fitting in” to honoring who we are instead. When all is said and done, we only hurt ourselves when we fight against what makes us different.
Let’s change the way we think about acceptance. Here are three ways we can stop changing who we are:
- Get rid of the word “should.”
If we constantly tell ourselves we “should” be doing this or that, we miss out on simply being. While we pursue the “shoulds” that go along with the latest trends or get us the attention we want at work, we are missing out on developing the people we already are.
- Know who you are fighting against.
The battle is not with others. The battle is within us. Sure, when those kids in school chased us on the playground calling us names, we thought they were our enemy. And that boss at work who is never satisfied with us? He is the adult version of a bully. But when all is said and done, their approval means far less than our acceptance of ourselves. We must have enough respect for who we are that we don’t fight what makes us different.
- See the power in differences.
There is power in being unique. We all bring something different to this world that can only be used effectively when our unique parts are nurtured and not neglected.
Accepting the way we were created is a hard but a necessary choice to make. Only then can we feel joy and true acceptance from others.
I hope you will take the first step TODAY toward accepting yourself just as you are!
Maya Angelou said, “The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself.”