Acceptance & Growth

Christine Chang Photography

I was watching the Mr. Roger’s documentary when my heart softened hearing one of his loving messages: “I don’t think anyone can grow unless he’s loved exactly as he is rather than what he will be.”

Has anyone ever said, “You have so much potential”?  And for some reason, instead of hearing it as I can do great things, you heard I’m not doing great right now or Something’s wrong with the way I am right now.  I’m guilty of that.  And the timing and who the message comes from makes a big difference…

I was working at Nordstrom in downtown San Francisco when I received a phone call that I got accepted into UCLA.  I ran to my sister’s store nearby, we hugged, rejoiced and celebrated together in her stock room.  At some point between the hugging, my sister looked at me and said “you’re going to be so great. I just know it.”  That didn’t make me feel like I wasn’t great – something awesome just happened and my future was looking bright.  I took it as her words of truth and support. 

On the other hand, I’ve had tough business planning conversations with my better half while starting SilhouPETte.  He explained that he was invested in my success and that I have so much potential.  Regardless of his sweet efforts to advise and support me in my business, I took those words to mean I’m not doing enough right now — even though he’s the most supportive person in my life who truly wants the best for me. 

When we hear something that makes us feel unaccepted for who we are right now, it can feel like a setback that really hurts.  There’s so much freedom in being accepted exactly as we are, successes and failures, healthy eater or junk food addict (I’ve been both), and in my case, anxiety-stricken and panic attack prone.

I suffered from anxiety and panic attacks when Mark and I were dating.  My anxieties would occasionally start some kind of argument, and we’d go to bed upset.  Not resolving our issues before bedtime would create an all-hell-broke-loose-disaster in my mind and I would have a panic attack just after the lights went off at bedtime.  It was torture for both of us and Mark had no idea how to handle it. 

Initially, he’d get annoyed, toss, turn and huff, and sometimes sleep in another room (we were just in an argument after all).  That only made the impact harder for me to deal with.  I’d call a best friend who I knew was up at 2am (love you, Lisa), and she’d talk me through it.  After this happened a couple times, I wished my boyfriend who became my fiancé in time, would be the one I could go to, to talk me through it.  I don’t know what changed, but at some point, he became that person. 

He started to notice the cycle, recognized signs of it coming, and instead of leaving the room, he’d pull the blankets back, turn on the lights (wasn’t the most gentle approach, but it worked), and tell me to get up and move around.  The first time he did that, it shook me so much that my panic attack ended immediately.  When Mark took action to help me deal with my panic attacks, I felt accepted and loved, with panic attacks and all. 

It happened only a couple more times after that.  Eventually between switching birth control pills (should have been an obvious one!) and gaining confidence that I could be “flawed” and still loved – the panic attacks and anxiety disappeared. 

Mark showing that he accepted what once felt like a major flaw, made it feel like less of one.  It gave me space to talk to him about it, look for answers together, and heal.  We look back at those anxious early days in disbelief that that was actually me.

Having just one person – especially the person I’m most intimate with – accept me and not run away during those intense moments, gave me the space to grow out of them.  Mark and I have been together since 2009 and 2010 was the last time I had an attack.  I am so grateful that he stood by my side, while we worked through it as a team.

With my whole heart I truly believe that we all can grow, when we are accepted exactly as we are. There is more freedom than we can imagine in acceptance, and what we resist — about others or ourselves — always persists. Once given the gift of acceptance by others to be exactly who we are, there is an opportunity for them to choose us or not. Once we accept ourselves exactly as we are, we give ourselves space to choose a new path or stay on the same one.