Accepting the Whole Enchilada
Accepting ourselves is similar to how wise parents would accept their children. Being kind parents, they see that their children are children, that they are full of imperfections, and that they have plenty of room for growth.
We all know that, being samsaric beings, we all have flaws and room to improve. That said, we should also be able to completely accept ourselves. This is seemingly contradictory, but we must pay close attention to understand the notions of flaw and acceptance. Acceptance does not mean being ignorant, completely oblivious to our shortcomings. It does not mean that we are fine the way we are for the rest of our lives. In fact, it means something completely different.
We can truly accept ourselves only when we can fully see ourselves with our imperfections and weaknesses, acknowledging all our fears and insecurities. The whole enchilada.
Acceptance is a state of mind, seeing ourselves the way we are at this very moment, with all our failings, with no judgements or blame. It is a courageous moment of self-proclamation, accepting the fact that we have learned from our previous mistakes, with no guilt whatsoever.
If we have a tendency to feel guilty whenever we are faced with the opportunity to learn and improve, we become our own biggest enemy when it comes to bettering ourselves. We then become defensive against our own inner calling to change, to improve ourselves.
Therefore, friends, make no mistake: accepting ourselves is not ego-clinging. Accepting ourselves is, rather, our first step to address and transform ego-clinging. After becoming familiar with some Buddhist principles, we may mistakenly become afraid of the notion of accepting ourselves, believing that we are straying from the path of liberation if we are kind to our samsaric conditions. That is to say, we may want to hold an idealized, disembodied view of ourselves, instead of understanding the more difficult truth that having a human form comes with certain physical and emotional realities. It is thus important to understand what we mean by acceptance. Is our acceptance of ourselves clear, unmistaken, and kind? Or is our acceptance of ourselves biased, undiscerning, and cruel?
We can test this. When we accept ourselves, are we coming closer to falling into samsaric tendencies, or are we beginning to fully confront those tendencies? Are we becoming kind, wise, and cheerful, or are we becoming selfish, inconsiderate, and fearful? Are we becoming a more committed person, or do we run away from commitments?
Accepting ourselves is similar to how wise parents would accept their children. Being kind parents, they see that their children are children, that they are full of imperfections, and that they have plenty of room for growth. But they are compassionate when they guide them to become wise, responsible adults, who can transform their own lives. Imagine how silly it would be for such a parent to encourage their children to spend precious time and effort blaming themselves for their failings along the way. We need to distinguish self-reflection and self-acceptance, which are positive qualities, from self-criticism and self-blame, which are painful and static. If we have sorted ourselves out in this way, this attitude will not only help us in our everyday lives, but will also protect us from potential misunderstandings of precious purification and confession teachings and practices – such as Vajrasattva and the Three Heaps Sūtra (35 Buddhas) – and will make us more accepting of others as well.
Instead of dwelling on blame and guilt, if we accept ourselves, we will become more reflective, less defensive, and we can evolve, fulfilling all our social roles more effectively, while being joyful – truly joyful.