California. Home of the tan, the blonde, and the outgoing. It was also my home for 8 years. At least I was blonde, but tan? Outgoing? Not so much. As a kid, I was extremely quiet and just as blindingly pale as I am now, and I did not like it at all. Throughout my early elementary school years, I tried my hardest to fit in with the rowdy Californians in my class. I wanted to get into the cool kids group so badly that I tried more than once to pass the initiation tests that they had set up for me. One day I spent the entire recess in search of the “special woodchip” that they had buried somewhere on the grounds. When that didn’t pan out I tried to impress them all with my drawing skills. But apparently my chalk masterpieces weren’t good enough for them. Needless to say, I could never make myself fit in with those particular kids. I refused to accept who I actually was. As I grew older I realized that there are certain things I can’t change about myself, like the amount of melanin in my skin or my naturally introverted personality. Then I slowly started to embrace these characteristics. In our day and age we are constantly orbiting around the concept of change, and change is often good. But there are many things about ourselves and about the people around us that we cannot change and therefore need to accept. In my speech I will explain how we can accept ourselves, why we should accept ourselves, and the importance of accepting other people.
Acceptance in human psychology is a person’s assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a process or condition without attempting to change it, protest, or exit. Accepting oneself is one of the hardest forms of acceptance. This is because acceptance does not just involve confidence and self esteem, it involves loving one’s entire self. On Psychology Today, Dr. Leon F Seltzer speaks on loving your whole self. “Though related, self-acceptance is not the same as self-esteem. Whereas self-esteem refers specifically to how valuable, or worthwhile, we see ourselves, self-acceptance alludes to a far more global affirmation of self. When we're self-accepting, we're able to embrace all facets of ourselves--not just the positive, more "esteem-able" parts”. This “global affirmation” of ourselves implies that we should also love our faults or vices, which seems backwards. No, we should not love our faults in the way that we are attached to them. But we should embrace them because they are our foundation of self-improvement. Paul Vitz on catholiceducation.org wrote, “Self worth, a feeling of respect and confidence in one's being has merit... But an ego-centered, let me feel good self-esteem, where we can ignore our failures and our need for God is quite another thing”. Accepting our faults and vices is important because we are recognizing and not ignoring them. An example of a fault that I have accepted and that most of you seniors can probably relate to is a lack of motivation. Often I’ll come home in the evenings with piles of homework, college work, and senior speech work to do when, suddenly, baking cupcakes sounds like a great idea. So does watching Netflix. Thanks to my tanking calculus grade, I’ve realized the extent to which I have been avoiding doing my work. And while I’m nowhere near being rid of this fault, at least I now know that I will have to work harder if I want to succeed. Now that I have acknowledged this fault, I can become a stronger and more motivated person. This is how we can accept and embrace our faults and vices.
One of the reasons why it is so hard to accept one’s self is because, like I explained in my California story, we all have a desire to fit in. We usually feel that we need acceptance from others to accept ourselves. Social media and what other people say about us has too much of an effect on us. When someone says something bad to us or about us we tend to take it to heart. So many people crave attention on social media and do not feel satisfied with themselves unless they get a sufficient amount of likes or comments on their Facebook statuses or Instagram pictures. They may not be happy with themselves until someone comments with the classic, “Save some gorgeous for the rest of us!” or “Omg, can I be you”. We want to be accepted by others before accepting ourselves. Often this requires conforming ourselves to try and become the person that others think we should be. I could use my own words to describe why this is not a good idea, but an episode of the popular TV show How I Met Your Mother describes it perfectly. During a particular episode, womanizer Barney Stinson tries to help his friend Marshall fit in at his new job, “You're different. Now I suppose you could learn to love yourself for the unique little snowflake you are or you could change your entire personality – which is just so much easier!” While Barney is right that it may in the short term be easier to lay low or conform to those around you, accepting yourself is much more fruitful and will lead to a happier, more carefree lifestyle. Marshall realizes this by the end of the episode, after his wife is upset and confused with the different man her husband has become. Marshall then puts away the fake new friendships he had made at work and redeems the old and honest ones. When we act like someone different, we become someone different, and God knows that we are only happy as the person he made us to be. There are also more practical reasons as to why we should accept ourselves. According to the Health Promotion Board, a negative view of oneself could lead to health issues such as eating disorders and depression. When you don’t accept the unchangeable, you become upset with yourself. And when you get upset with yourself, you become vulnerable to these health problems. All in all, accepting ourselves is not only beneficial to our happiness, but also to our health.
Along with accepting ourselves, we need to accept the people around us. I don’t want to talk about accepting people’s appearances. We have all been taught to look beyond the flesh, and there is not much to say about it besides that we should indeed accept people’s appearances. But I do want to talk about accepting other’s personalities. Every time we get annoyed at someone for being too blunt, too shy, too loud, too optimistic, too pessimistic, or “too” any personality trait, we are not accepting them. This person that we all have in mind is different from us and it irks us. I only realized how hard accepting other people is when I started writing this speech. For example, I noticed that whenever someone would get very animated about something that to me seemed like no big deal at all, I would get a bit annoyed and want to tell him or her to calm down. But then I realized that asking him or her to calm down would be pointless. I can’t make someone be less passionate about something, nor should I want to. I wouldn’t appreciate it if someone told me that I should be more enthusiastic or excited about something that has no importance to me. Why should I be? Accepting other people is important because it enables us to appreciate how they differ from us. To accept other people we need to understand that all of their different personalities are what distinguishes them from us. We were all made for different purposes. God made you the way you are because there is no one else like you, and he has great plans for the person in you that He has made. No one else will do what God intends for you to do. People also differ from each other in that we believe in many different things. There are billions of ideas out there, including religions, philosophies, and political views. We are not going to see eye to eye with everyone. So we should have firm foundations for our own ideas, but be sure to listen to people even if we don’t agree with them. We should debate, but not attack. If we think we know the truth about something, we are obligated to spread that truth. But everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. American author and abolitionist Henry David Thoreau once said, “Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” So try to appreciate that annoying person in your life. If they are making mistakes, do your best to kindly point them in the right direction. Try to help them. But don’t feel superior, because you also make mistakes. You also lose your way. You, just like anybody else, are not perfect.
So embrace what you cannot change about yourself and the people around you. There is always change happening in our lives, so step back once in a while and get to know the person you are before proceeding. We should never want to become a different person because, no matter how hard we may try, we cannot be anyone other than ourselves. So we should accept the person we were made to be, yet always work to improve ourselves. Always try to reach your highest potential as a person. Accept yourself and other people because you can’t change either. Motivational speaker Martha Beck states, "Resisting what we can’t control removes us from reality, rendering our emotions, circumstances and loved ones inaccessible. The result is a terrible emptiness, which we usually blame on our failure to get what we want. Actually, it comes from refusing to accept what we have.” We should aim to become the best possible versions of ourselves, but not a different person altogether. So as you leave today, you would do well to try and accept what you can’t change, and to remember these three things. First, don’t be the gullible and try-hard little girl that I was in California. Just don’t. Second, don’t be that person craving the “can I be you?” comment on Instagram. And third, don’t listen to Barney Stinson when it comes to your occupation. Be your own person. Thank you.
© Copyright 2016 shannon jj white. All rights reserved.