How can we accept ourselves when we’re still trying to find ourselves? And at what point do our beliefs about the world begin to affect our beliefs about ourselves?
I didn’t grow up in a religious household. We believed in fairies, ghosts, and all the magical things you could think of. I was taught that the world is our religion, that we should prioritise reconnecting with nature to reconnect with ourselves, and that faith in myself was greater than any faith I could place elsewhere.
And yet, my schools were religious schools. My academics were focused on a christian curriculum. I ended up choosing to go to church, Sunday school, etc. Religion still found its way into my life, and influenced much of it, without any effort from myself or my family.
As I've gotten older I have come to wonder about how the mix of these two influences has affected my views on the world, but also the views I hold about myself. Can I accept all parts of myself whilst forming a myriad of beliefs about the world and my part in it? How does anyone learn to accept themselves fully, and what effect can this have on our lives?
Self acceptance and self image are areas of our lives that I think many of us can say we struggle with. They’re areas that are constantly bombarded by comments,stereotypes, social media updates, and societal pressure. And yet we very rarely, if ever, consider deeper and more systematic causes of our struggle with self acceptance.
I recognise within myself how different criticisms and praises of my actions or self stem from a variety of areas. Whether that’s praising my love of houseplants, and how I try to be as active as possible with environmental causes. Or potentially criticising myself for not making more time for family or mindfulness. And so, I question how our beliefs and religious upbringing may also affect our self worth and image.
In our day-to-day discussions on belief and religion,we often use words like “faith”, “spirituality”, “belief”, and “religion” interchangeably. However, these words relate to different aspects of the psychology of religion and as such, can impact our own self view quite differently.
For instance, when we discuss faith, we may think of it as our faith in a deity, or a higher being. But faith in this instance is instead the innate sense that there is more out there than just ourselves. It is an innate drive to seek meaning, purpose, and significance in our own lives, and in the world as a whole. Affecting how we may interpret others’ actions, or how we may act ourselves. Our faith is our motivator. Religious or not, it comes in many forms.
Spirituality represents where we direct our faith, how we express it, and the paths we travel on in the name of our faith. Making connections between the mundane and our faith is an act of our own spirituality, and can be expressed in a multitude of ways. Maybe you pray, or go hiking to connect with nature. Do you burn incense? Or read different texts that connect you with your faith? Regardless of what the action is, this is your faith in action and, as such, your spirituality emerging. The actions we undertake here may directly impact our self acceptance, or maybe they affect our views on the world and how we interpret it.
Our beliefs, or belief, are the truths we commit to and claim as part of our individual journeys. By engaging in various spiritual acts and satisfying our faith, we establish a system of beliefs and truths that we hold. Different experiences shape different beliefs, and,thus, people who may share initial spiritual practices and faiths may hold completely different beliefs.
A religion is a community of people who share similar beliefs and develop a sense of community through them. Supporting one another, exploring their beliefs together, and sharing spiritual experiences. In some instances, this is expressed through attending the same place of worship. For others, this may be sharing recipes or stories in the kitchen. Often, both the mundane practices, and those we consider religious already, can fall under the same banner of spiritual community practices.
When considering ourselves, it’s important to consider the difference in the definitions above,as they all contribute to our own ideas of self.
My own ideas of self now encompass much of both aspects of my upbringing, a love of nature and solitude, a profound respect for my wider community, and the benefits that religion can provide. I look at myself and see someone who took the wisdom imparted on her and made it her own. I strive every day for greater self acceptance, and the belief systems I am developing help me along the way.
If there is one thing I hope you take away from this article, it’s that our self acceptance is more than how we look at ourselves, it’s how we look at the world. And I hope that we can all become a bit more accepting and embrace all aspects of ourselves.
By Teigan A (she/her)