To start off the new year, our Tuesday workshop group has been delving into the topic of self-acceptance. This has involved several lessons exploring who we are as individuals, and how we view ourselves and others. This exploration was aided in part by a learning module written by noted author and self-advocate Dave Hingsburger.
Our group took this journey together over the last few weeks, surrounded by the safety and comfort of our friends.
Discovering Who I Am
The first step of this process was realizing how important it is to be honest with ourselves about who we are. This includes the difficult task of acknowledging and accepting our shortcomings along with our strengths
For some of us, this brought up painful memories of being bullied and treated differently. That’s why step two is so important: understanding that although words can be used to describe a person, they do not tell us anything about who a person is.
For example, the word “disabled” can be used to describe a person with a disability, but it doesn’t tell us anything about who the person is. It doesn’t tell us about the person’s sense of humor, their interests, their hopes, their fears, their love for their family and friends, or their worth as a human being.
The word “disabled” tells us just one thing: that a person has a disability.
Accepting Who I Am
The third step, and perhaps the hardest step, is to separate the words we use from the hidden (or not so hidden) meanings that society places on them.
We are constantly bombarded with media messages telling us that we are not good enough. Even if you manage to avoid seeing and hearing these messages, they still find their way into our lives through the feelings and attitudes of the people around us. These messages attach themselves to words that are then used to hurt us.
The word “fat” describes someone who is overweight.
But when we use “fat” as an insult we are saying that what it really means is “bad”, “lesser”, “unattractive” and “unlovable”. Obviously this is not the definition of “fat”. By removing these added meanings, we take away the power of these words to bring us down. We become able to look at ourselves in the mirror and say: “I am fat. That is a part of who I am, and I like myself.”
Similarly, the word “disabled” doesn’t mean “stupid”, “lazy”, “weird” or “unworthy”. It means: “I am a person with a disability. That is a part of who I am. There are also many other parts that make up who I am. I am unique. I know myself. I accept myself. I like myself.”
Expressing Who I Am
After learning about the importance of accepting yourself for who you are, and how that leads to improved self-esteem and happiness, our group took a closer look at some of the things that make us who we are, including our beliefs and values.
We ended our lesson with a positive affirmation activity, where each person wrote their own personal vision statement about what they are trying to achieve. This is a broad, inspirational message encompassing their personal values.
Take a look at some of the fantastic vision statements the group came up with to express their personal goals and values:
I will look out for people more often.
I will stay connected to my family and help them as much as I can.
Forwards until death.
I will make the world a better place for everyone, one step at a time.