A Personal Account of Acceptance
What does acceptance even look like? For someone who has had to mask, suppress and hide who they really are for their whole life, feeling accepted can bring up a whole host of emotions. A whirlwind of conflict and confusion beyond words.
Because truth is, they were. It felt amazing, I felt invincible. But what was not amazing, and what I need to remind myself nearly every day, was the come downs as the drugs wore off. The anxiety and feelings of shame, guilt and tYou see, I have always been told I am unacceptable, I am too loud, too quiet, too hyper, too boring. I was always just too something. Never right. So, I have spent my whole life trying to be what everyone else wants me to be, morph into this perfect version for someone else. Whilst in the process I completely lost who I really was, what did I want, who even am I?
I guess I am only just finding out.
I remember having a discussion with my family one evening, I must have been early teens, about feelings I was having for someone that was the same sex as myself. I was beaten the shit out of, teased, told not to be so stupid, so of course, went back into the closet. It took me sixteen years to poke my head round the closet door again, testing the waters. I do talk about the fact I am pansexual, however, only around certain people. You see I am married, so when I say I am pansexual, I am often met with severe confusion……. How can you be, you are married?
Yes, I am married to a man, however, I am attracted to the person, not the gender. I am attracted to the soul and the way someone makes me feel. Gender has nothing to do with it. So, I guess my sexuality finally being accepted by those around me is key to feeling accepted on the whole. Not fearing I will get hurt if I talk about it. I know I am safe to be open about this at work, nearly every one that works where I do is LGBTQ+, being able to discuss recent news and politics around this subject, so openly and freely, has made such a difference. Allowing a part of my mask to slip.
Not stressing about the what if’s
Another part of myself I am exploring is my personality. I do have ADHD, so being told to just sit still and be quiet all the time was not helpful. Taking away my voice, making me believe my voice did not matter. I can be incredibly hyperactive at times, but again as a child being laid into for being disruptive, meant I had to suppress myself all the time. I kind of forgot I was doing it as it was just so natural to me. Again, similar to my sexuality, I have started testing the waters with those I feel safe around. Allowed my mask to slip further and just be, the pressure and tension that has been taken away by allowing myself to do this…….. again, no words. Not stressing about the what if’s, not panicking that I am too much, just being in the present moment. Allowing myself to just be.
So what happens when you start a college course, plonked in a room with other trainee counsellors?
For me what happened, was I completely broke. I started to self-criticise and very quickly spiralled from there. They are going to find out I don’t belong here; I am too much of an oddball. They will judge me if I talk about things that has happened to me, they will think I am too much, too hyper, They will think I am stupid, as I have been told this my whole life. All the things that have literally been beaten into me; they will feel the same. I knew deep down I would not get physically hurt, but my body did not know that. Every week I have left college feeling so bloody exhausted, because I have been so on edge trying to mask everything about my personality, hide who I truly was.
But what purpose was this actually serving? What was masking actually achieving?
Turns out, fuck all. I have slowly tested the waters over the weeks, mentioned a few things about myself in triads, making sure I was safe. Mentioning I am actually pansexual, mentioning I do have ADHD and also dyslexia. Mentioning the little things I hide, that actually add up to the big thing, the big thing being my whole personality. I realised I just could not keep this up anymore and decided to just throw myself out there. One week we were asked to prepare a presentation on things we have learnt so far. Straight away my brain went ‘spoken word poetry’ but then that negative voice kicked in. No, you get too passionate and will look like an idiot. Everyone will laugh. So, I started preparing a presentation instead. However, I just could not connect with it, could not engage in the task, it was not what I wanted to do. So, one night I sat down and started to write a poem. All of a sudden it just flowed, and I ended up writing the whole thing over one weekend. I kept going back to it, tweaking bits, changing the layout, of course. But the main bulk of it was out. I sat and looked at it, spoke it out loud and just felt so much better. This is me, who I am. A creative graduate. But what do I do with it? Could I actually put myself out there and allow these people to see me for who I really am? Sod it.
I do public speaking as a second job, so I am use to speaking in front of others and it has been said a few times I get quite animated when it is obvious, I am passionate about something. I have been complimented before that I can have the audience in the palm of my hand and know how to work the room. The difference being, the people who I normally speak in front of, I never have to see again. These people, I have to see weekly. I practiced for hours. Learning the rhythm of the words and feeling what I was saying, the weeks went by and before I knew it, the day had come. The day of the presentation.
I am just an imposter…
Stood in front of everyone, I started to shake. They are going to burst out laughing, think I am an idiot, realise I do not belong here and I am just an imposter, too stupid to be on the course. I took a deep breath and rooted my feet to the floor, feeling the ground beneath me, and started to speak. I kind of zoned out whilst delivering the poem, got lost in the words, feeling them. Then when I finished, I went back to my seat but someone just launched onto me and gave me a hug, told me she nearly cried at one point. The feedback I got, I did not expect, at all, not in the slightest. I was completely overwhelmed with emotion. Then for the first time I started to think, they have just seen the real me. Who I really am and they actually accepted me. For the first time in my life, I showed vulnerability to peers, but was accepted. Not teased, tormented or even physically attacked. I was met with warm wishes, compliments and praise. Normally I shrug off compliments, unable to take them in. I assume people have an ulterior motive or are lying. However, for some reason, I actually allowed myself to take the compliments.
I am safe…
I was unable to sleep that evening. Thoughts whirling around my head, I was accepted. By a group of peers. I was myself and did not mask. I accepted the compliments without making a joke. I started to cry, tears falling delicately down my cheek, as I absorbed what was happening. Allowing myself to feel accepted, acknowledging I was indeed accepted. Acknowledging that actually, I might just be able to do this course, I might not completely fuck it up. I can be myself, show vulnerability, I am safe.
It feels like something has clicked. Why am I trying to mask who I am, there are people out there that do actually accept me, wholeheartedly. Those that don’t, so be it. I feel I am able to engage more now, within the college, contribute more and actually get more out of the sessions. Just from feeling accepted. It seems so trivial, but to me, it means the world.
There is a famous quote by dr suess that I want to leave you with,
Be who you are and say how you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.
By – anonymous