This makes me laugh. Yesterday’s quote was about our inability to change something until we accept it. Today’s is about the terror one feels when accepting oneself completely. Knowing me, I’m going to try to tie it all together and make fun of Jung at the same time. ‘Cause he’s dead and he can’t fight back.
Welcome to Day 24 of “30 Days of Jung,” my series, wherein (soon, I will start repeating myself, like now) I take a famous quote of Carl G. Jung‘s and try to make sense or refute or invert or disembowel it or where I turn into a heaping pile of mush because of it in 1,000 words or less.
If you don’t know who Jung is, he formulated the theories of introverted and extroverted personalities, the stages of individuation, the basis of the “Meyers-Briggs” personality (INFJ / ESFJ, etc.) tests. He’s the “father” of modern-day psychoanalysis. In short, he’s a badass. But he’s dead, so he can’t be with us today.
“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.”
― C.G. Jung
Ya wanna know something really hilarious? I screwed this up royally when I read the quote the first time. I mentally replaced “accept” with “love” and I was off to the races quoting Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, and going all wedding “love is patient, love is kind” on us all and about 3/4 through I was stuck. I got to writing about my mom, how she’s aging and how it’s been hard; I felt she never really loved herself and then I wrote about unconditional love and I got sick of it all and so I looked at the quote again and saw accept and I picked up my laptop and hurled it across my backyard, pulled a shotgun from my sleeve and made like I was skeet shooting. I blew my MacBook Pro to “smithereenies” as Yosemite Sam would say.
Then I reached into my silk pajama pockets, pulled out another laptop and started this post. Just like they do on Looney Toons. Y’know how time flies on Looney Toons (I’ve written about this before) when Bugs Bunny orders something and puts the order envelope in the mailbox and a second or two later a truck from Acme Earmuffs screeches up and the driver yells, “Daaah, package for Bugs Bunny!”? That’s how it is with me and my laptops.
So I’m back on my laptop. Let’s stop the count at 1400. I’ve taken up enough of your time.
I’m 45 now. I’m nothing like I used to be about myself even five years ago. I was relentless on myself, physically demanding and constantly self-critical. That’s what kept
me feeling alive; that’s what kept the engines running chaos flowing. I admit, that my kinder, gentler opinion of myself is easier on the knees and lower back, but I believe for me anyhow that the most terrifying thing would be for me to be completely complacent with myself and never want to be fitter, healthier, smarter, kinder, gentler again. I just don’t think I’m genetically engineered that way. I always see room for improvement, but I don’t mean that in a critical way, I mean it as a term of growth, of wholeheartedness.
I realize that there are thresholds, that we have age categories now for athletic events: masters, seniors… dead. But, I really think that for me, to be completely accepting of myself would be a mistake; it’s not terrifying to me to consider it. It just feels too close to giving up.
I do accept myself: I’m slower than I used to be; my hair is finer and grayer than ever; I still have time until my boobs resemble the “golf ball in the tube sock” as a good friend once described her own years ago and she made me almost pee from laughter; my skin is more loose than I’d prefer, my up-close eyesight is going; parts of me jiggle without me moving; sometimes I don’t sleep well at all anymore; all of these things are happening and I accept them. I don’t adore them, but this is part of my acceptance that I’m human. Maybe that’s what he’s talking about — our humanity, our mortality, our universality and connection with one another… that in order for me to accept me, it would follow that I accept you … all of you, even the Osama bin Ladens out there… I know that would be hard, to let evil continue with acceptance. That my fight against evil is finite, as finite as my heartbeat. That’s terrifying, I suppose, that when it comes to putting up a good fight that I might be inert. That I can’t protect my brood from evil and harm. That terrifies me.
I see myself in the mirror and sometimes I look like a headline: “45-year-old Virginia Woman Wakes Up” but what can I do? I will continue to stay fit, push my cardio threshold for a few seconds longer, eat well and care about my health, but I get it: I am on the downhill slope now; only one of my relatives has made it past 90. And the one who’s still here, she’s a firecracker, but in my family, she’s an anomaly.
I see it as a good thing that I’m on the descent now — not so much that my best years are behind me, but that my most stressed years about my appearance, about my competitiveness, about my rightful place in the sun… those concerns are still there, but they don’t matter so much anymore. It’s about health now, not super-awesome fitness and trying to look good in Lycra.
My heart is softer, my emotional reactivity is slower, I’m less prone to raise my voice, but my wit is sharper than ever I think and that’s probably because I have less bandwidth taken up with worries such as “Do these jeans make my butt look big?” and “Is Helga VonSchmidt going to be at that party? She’s so nasty…” I’ve confronted enough Helgas to not care anymore.
I am secure with who I am; now if I can just be secure with where I am; but I think that’s good: the book, the yoga certification, the writing, the rowing club stuff, the parenting — heck, that’ll never go away.
Good God, there will always be something else to do, and I’m so grateful for it. What I’m waiting for is the time when I can go to Ireland because it’s there; when I can let the laundry go and no one will yell that they’re out of socks; and when I can eat my Cap’n Crunch in peace. I will miss my kids when they grow up and move out, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen; they’ve all told me and their father that we’re too cool and they don’t ever want to leave us. I knew we shouldn’t have gotten the hot tub…
Yesterday Jung said we can not change things unless we accept them; now he is telling us that accepting ourselves is terrifying. Why? I don’t know if these quotes are from the same book; I provide the name of the source material whenever it’s provided to me. If we were to follow these quotes in a quasi-logical order (just go with me here for a second) it would be that Jung is supposing that we’d be able to change ourselves once we’d accepted ourselves, but that accepting ourselves is terrifying and hence, change would be unlikely.
I want a new wagon. Skippy stole my rainbow crayon. Can you drive cars on Jupiter? Pad Thai smells like peanut carrots.
Jung… stick with the program. Don’t make me go all posthumous on your ass.
I think people are better about accepting themselves these days; no. Strike that. We have more anxiety, depression, addiction, suicides, divorces, unwed births, wars, people in nursing homes, sadness, self-mutilation, abuse, murder and isolation and people on this planet than ever before. Plenty of people are terrified of accepting themselves. I just wish I could help.
What a bummer this one turned out to be. Yes, he’s right. People are terrified of self-acceptance, because maybe what they’d see –their impotence, their fragility, their connection– they’d want to change. This feels like mortality to me. Or maybe the contrast of how much we’ve changed from our beginning of being made of light and energy; that once left to our own devices, this is how we’ve turned out. But that assumes that everyone’s miserable.
Is everyone miserable?
This one’s tough. What do you think?
‘The Sage’s’ reaction to this is that Jung was on to something. I would venture a guess that he is alluding to “embracing our shadow side”, the darker parts of ourselves. I read somewhere that one of the characteristic of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is an inability to accept criticism from others no matter how justified it may be. You may laugh about this but Bob Dole apparently had an epiphany that he was not a very nice person and his behavior changed radically after that. Too many people in the U.S.A. nowadays cannot admit they were wrong anymore sincerely and we pay a big price for it. 😦
Great comment, Wayne!
right on, Wayne. i think that’s what he meant as well. this one kept me up a bit last night. i wrote about “love” and I was determined to write about “accept” and somehow get my “day” back.
so i couldn’t go to sleep because i was thinking, “he’s talking about the dark stuff, the deep stuff, the ‘stuff no one likes to talk about a cocktail parties’ stuff. the how-would-you-behave-if-you-had-a-camera-on-you-at-all-times stuff.” and i started to think about that and how much i have changed since i came to a similar realization as Dole’s but mine was unfounded; i am a nice person, but for years I’d believed I was not simply because i equated “nice” or “good” with “fixing” people and some people not only can’t be fixed, but simply don’t wanna be fixed.
the sincerity game is over: Weiner, Pataki… really?! these guys want back in?! and i bet NY is going to let them back in. “there’s no sincerity there” –> an abberation of Stein’s, “there is no there there.”
i love your insight into this one, Wayne. thank you. again. 😉
Just a few musings: So many are raised to achieve in order to receive the ultimate reward of love and acceptance (parents and their darned unlived lives.) What if we invert the golden rule and treat ourselves as we would treat others? I’m way more accepting of everyone else than I am of myself. If we could somehow reconcile the drive to better with accepting the good enough. I’m with you, Mol, I let go of trying to be a size 0 and friends with everyone, but I’ve got a long way to go toward accepting myself completely.
Side personal note: this series came at a perfect time for me, as we are addressing some issues with my elderly mother, so thank you for helping me to deal with some heavy stuff.
Blame it on the self-esteem movement, I unfortunately was part of that ill conceived movement and watched the self-esteem of gang members and entitled brats grow exponentially. Maybe the movement was good for a few depressed kids I worked with but we forgot that real self-esteem is a function of productivity
I would like to live and raise my kids in a community made up of the people who comment on this blog. Wayne, I agree wholeheartedly. I was raised by parents who gave zero fu#@s about our self esteem but cared how our behavior reflected on them–pick your dysfunction. Now, I’m trying to raise my kids to be responsible, compassionate, contributing members of society among the aforementioned entitled brats who view themselves and their children in fun house mirrors.
me too, mary. i want to raise them to be conscious of themselves and of others; to help those in need but not be suckers because there are real cretins out there, and to know when to stop if it’s just not good.
fun house mirrors… you’re on to something there. it’s all a game to some folks.
right – those who dream look outward… those who are awake, look inward (or something like that.)
I wish I could treat myself as well as I treat others. I catch myself all the time now expecting way more out of myself than I ever expect out of other people and then beating myself up when I fail to meet my own ridiculous standards. I guess having that awareness is the first step.
i say this more and more to myself, “what would i say to my best friend if s/he treated her/himself this way?” i am hopeful that maybe one day, i will hear me say it to me too.
the awareness is helpful, but it lasts too long!! i want action! i want it now! i know… it will come. my demands on myself are better, more humane. i just wish i could be more consistent.
i’m really glad this is helping you. you will like tomorrow’s post. i just wrote it. i won’t give it away, but it makes me wish i could end the series with it. it makes me smile.
my mom… she’s old too, and i’m really struggling with things as well. i feel like all she wants is some kindness but then because she’s sort of exploitative, then it becomes more and drawing a line feels like estrangement so then i recoil altogether. she didn’t do a good job raising me with any real sense of boundaries so i’m learning all about that now.
yes: no more trying to be friends with everyone. that’s exhausting!! when i was thinking about that line about Lycra last night i thought, “just getting out of lycra at times is a workout!!”
we are already good enough. we just have to believe it. i said in a comment to someone on this awesome thread that if we could treat ourselves as we do our best friends then maybe… just maybe we might be able to be consistently kinder to ourselves.
mary: you’re very welcome. for all of it and i am grateful, truly, for your kindnesses. in this big wide web, we manage to find one another. that’s nice. 🙂
I think the trouble that most people have with wholly accepting themselves would mean, by definition, that they would first have to acknowledge their flaws. We live in such a image conscious immediate gratification selfish society that far too many people stop taking genuine looks in the mirror. Acceptance of who and what they are first requires them to see all that. The path to self actualization must be full of mirrors.
my path to authenticity is rife with potholes, cracks, fissures, lumps, gaps and bridges. it’s a messed up road, but a lot of it begins with putting accountability back where it belongs, then i can work on me. it’s hard to try to repair yourself when you think what’s wrong with other people is your problem to repair too… xo
Molly you started out so strong with this series and you just keep getting better.
I think self-acceptance is being OK with your imperfections and weaknesses, your sometimes mean thoughts. It’s also about accepting your strengths and talents too. I know I am much more like to embrace and acknowledge my bad traits and ignore my good traits sometimes. I think women do that a lot. We aren’t suppose to bad at something, but we also aren’t suppose to be too good at it either.
thanks, Lil! it’s tough being a woman. have you read “self-made man” by norah vincent? amazing. check it out — i know women have it tough, but as you know from Brene’s book too, men have a rough deal too. maybe in a few more generations, just when the earth is ready to burn up, we will be closer to having it figured out.