Someday I will be perfect. Everything will be fixed. I will have no reason to worry about my failures because I won’t have any. I won’t have to worry about anyone’s judgment. I will be perfect, and so will my life.
Probably, most people wouldn’t admit to believing the above, at least not in such blatant form, but when I ask myself if I’m happy with myself exactly as I am, I can always think of many things that need to be improved before I can say yes, which means I’m saying no.
This means that I can’t fully appreciate the present moment. Mindfulness means acceptance. More than that, it means appreciation for oneself and for one’s circumstances and surroundings—for everything that is in one’s awareness in the present moment.
This became especially clear to me when I was reading The Peaceable Kingdom, by Jan de Hartog, a novel about the founding of the Friends as a religion and its development in the U.S. At one point, Margaret Fell, who was in many ways the organizing force behind the Quaker movement, had intense doubt about her motives. Finally, she said, “God, You’ll have to accept me just as I am.”
My initial response was “Yes!” Upon reflection, I thought that it isn’t anyone outside of me who has to accept me just as I am. I’m the one who needs to unconditionally accept myself.
Where, I wondered, did that leave perfection? I explored this word from a different angle. In the past, I’d always seen it as a static, frozen condition. What if perfection, too, could reflect the present moment? What if it could be a dynamic state, as in: “I can only be who I am. I accept this reality in the here and now. I am perfect just as I am.”
I have noticed that when I’m pursuing a line of thought that’s true for me, the universe drops helpful psychic bread crumbs along the trail. I’m sure that’s why a few days later, I discovered this statement by the psychologist, Carl Rogers:
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself as I am, then I change. What I am is good enough if only I would be it openly.”
We don’t wait until we’re good enough to earn self-acceptance; when we accept ourselves, we are always good enough.