Today, I was reading about self-acceptance.
Wikipedia definition: Self-acceptance is defined as affirmation or acceptance of self in spite of weaknesses or deficiencies.
The power of this concept is striking, but how does this affect the way we thing about our hopes and dreams? And if we do have certain weaknesses and deficiencies, does this there are some things we can do and some that we cannot do. If we know we are terrified of snakes, should we try to conquer the fear and become a zookeeper, or just say no to that trip to the Amazon? We tell our children that they can do anything if they dream hard enough, but at what point do we stop telling ourselves the same thing, and accept our position in society? Do we give ourselves to a certain age, say 35, to achieve all of our dreams, and if not, should we just accept our lot, and be happy be with it.
It amused me that the first thought to came to mind when thinking about self-acceptance was my own childhood dream — to become an astronaut. You know the story — child of the 1970’s, Apollo, Star Wars, Star Trek, Ray Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles.” Who is the most important Neil in world history? No, not Neil Sedaka. It’s Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon. When I would hear his name in elementary school, I would feel a tinge of pride.
My Facebook update this morning: What do people think of the term “self-acceptance? New Age BS or the key to it all? Does it mean accepting your limitations? Don’t we live in a culture that says we can do it and have it ALL if we believe in it?
After receiving a number of intelligent (and not so intelligent) comments, I wrote:
Should I give up my dream of ever being an astronaut, considering my allergies?
I think that sounds like a plan, but allergies don’t factor into it – unless you majored in aeronautical engineering and became a pilot recently.
She was right. Tough love. I will never become an astronaut.
Did this realization make me make me sad?
Not really. To the adult-self, being an astronaut seems boring. My interest in space has lessened over the years. I ignored last week’s Venus passing the sun for the last time in our lifetime so I could watch “The Bachelorette” on TV instead. Our interests change over time.
Before I sat down to write this post, I create two lists on my laptop:
List #1 –Dreams and Follies that I Still Hope to Achieve
List #2 — Accepting the Limitations of Who I Am and What I Should Give Up as a Dream
LIST #1 was easy.
1) I can write a best-selling book. Didn’t Jenny Lawson just do that? Why not me?
2) I can run a marathon. If I wanted to, I could train hard enough. Of course I am lazy and unmotivated. But if I WANTED TO —
3) I can have a three-some with two hot babes. Why not?
The list of possible dreams came flowing from my brain right to the keyboard –from being a father to ringing the bell at NASDAQ.
And then it was time for the list of my limitations. What are my faults? What will I never be able to do? Can I still be happy accepting myself as an imperfect person who is just not good enough in so many ways? Does accepting my foibles mean not trying to change them?
This is where the trouble began. It was impossible to write this list.
1) Because of my physical and educational and emotional limitations, I will never be an…
I wanted to write… astronaut, but I just couldn’t do it. Maybe Ray Bradbury, RIP, would understand how I felt. If I wrote it out, it would become a reality, and that would mean killing some childish fantasy, one that I don’t even want to achieve anymore. The “I CAN DO ANYTHING” mentality of American culture is so ingrained in my blood, that making a list of my limitations seemed almost… well, anti-American!
“Why can’t I be an astronaut?” I asked myself.
I immediately came up with several ways that I could become an astronaut. I could buckle down and get a Masters in Astrophysics. I could move to Houston and get a job with SpaceCamp. I could become a traitor to my country and become Iran’s first astronaut, pissing on the American flag from space as a publicity stunt in support of the Iranian regime. I could focus on making A LOT of money for the next twenty years — I would need BILLIONS of $$$ — so I could buy my way into one of those Russian space trips for hire. These scenarios are unlikely, but they are POSSIBLE. There was no reason to kill my dream.
Will I ever become an astronaut, the Rocket Man of my childhood, the second most famous Neil in space history?! Probably not. Perhaps my biggest limitation, the area of self-acceptance that I need the most work in, is about my own lack of self-acceptance.
If I were smarter, I would remember my first trip to Denver, Colorado — the Mile High city, and how I ended up spending all day in an “oxygen bar” because of my inability to deal with the high altitude.
Do I really want to go into Space? Do I want to pee in my suit and drink that awful Tang?
Perhaps I am still a child at heart, not ready for adult self-acceptance.
I still believe that one day I will be an astronaut.
Or at least write a story about it.