November 1, 2003
Just As You Are
“I’ve accepted my reality. I was meant to sound the way I do.
Every June, I pull out my list of New Year’s resolutions for a midyear assessment. It’s not a formal ritual. I just do it to remind myself of goals and hopes for the year.
I keep my resolutions taped to the left-hand corner of my top desk drawer, so all that’s involved is pulling the drawer out, clearing the clutter away, and reading. It’s about a 10-item list.
The top two are usually family-oriented: Really listen to the people I love. Spend more time with my parents. A few are usually work-related and have something to do with writing my next book, or two, or three. There are always at least two spirit-tending goals (savor more, worry less) followed by some sort of nod to better health (eat more salad). And then there’s the perennial final entry — it just wouldn’t be New Year’s without it: Lose 10 pounds!
As I check my progress, I typically discover a distinct lack of it. I can usually pat myself on the back for making strides in at least three areas. But that next book has been riding the list for a few years now, right alongside those lovely 10 pounds. Then there’s at least one resolution that I’ve since decided doesn’t matter at all. Some years, it’s that last one. Which got me to thinking, what if one of my resolutions was to accept myself just as I am? In fact, what if one year that was my only resolution?
At the start of each year, most of us get so focused on what we want to change about ourselves that we completely neglect the notion that we’re fine. Is there good to be gained in continual self-improvement? Sure. We all want to grow. But isn’t the development of healthy self-acceptance one of the most meaningful and positive improvements you can make? Isn’t that, in itself, a goal worth attaining?
Many of my friends have turned that corner into their 40s, and they all talk about shedding the burdens that used to weigh down their lives — other people’s expectations, futile relationships, overreaching ambition, pointless fears and insecurities. They are more accepting of their varied realities than ever before, and that frees them from so much wasted angst. At church recently, a visiting pastor caught my attention when he shared this affirmation: “I am enough. I do enough. I have enough.” How often do we tell ourselves that? Do we ever truly believe it?
Sure, it’s easy for the incomparable Kathleen Battle to accept the way she sounds. She’s a world-renowned soprano! But what if, some days, she wishes she sounded more like India.Arie than Marian Anderson? Even great success is relative, unless you define it clearly for yourself.
Which brings me to another question, good to consider at any time of year: What is your definition of success? Does it include the acceptance of who you are, and are not; of what you’ve achieved, and may