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The Skin I’m In: Practicing Radical Self-Acceptance

Authors: Jasmine Belvin, LMHC, LPC | Dr. Stacia’ Alexander, LPC-S | Erica Talbert, LMFT

Black women share a remarkable history—our journey toward living authentically: triumphant yet ongoing. And, describing to some women the struggle other women had to go through to reach this societal phase might shock them. Today, living your truth might seem trendy. Many platforms encourage authenticity and transparency. Some profiles share stories of what it is like to live their authentic lives – the good and the bad.

To others, however, living their truth feels scary as an actual practice. And people are justified for feeling this way. Historically, women who spoke up for themselves or courageously expressed a personal desire that went against commonly held norms were at risk of physical and emotional abuse because it was deemed disrespectful and unappreciative. The journey continues, but we have seen a significant change regarding women who choose their destinies and live in their truth.

Black women in the LGBTQIA community cite an active example–living your truth continues to be an uphill battle due to discrimination on multiple fronts, including race, gender, and sexual orientation, also known as intersectionality. Merriam-Webster dictionary describes intersectionality as “the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or group.” With this in mind, it is understandable why many Black LGBTQIA women feel forced to live in the shadows versus living in their truth. The silenced voices and double invisibility of Black LGBTQIA women reinforce thoughts of “I am not valuable or good enough.” However, you owe it to yourself and the women before you to live your truth. When you live your truth, you empower others and pave the way for the next generation. When you live your truth, you honor and liberate yourself from the mental imprisonment of societal expectations. When you live your truth, you are choosing to love yourself unconditionally.

Although living our truth is a life-long journey and daily practice, it is achievable when we apply P.R.E.S.S.U.R.E:

  1. Practice self-kindness and self-compassion 
  2. Release beliefs and patterns that no longer serve you
  3. Embrace your uniqueness 
  4. Speak your truth 
  5. Surround yourself with people that love and support you
  6. Unapologetically be you
  7. Remind yourself daily of great qualities you possess  
  8. Envision your future self and start showing up as her

Do not allow fear to rob you of the freedom to be your authentic self and experience the peace you truly deserve. Live your truth.

Self-acceptance

You might be thinking, “self-acceptance is something I do every day.” Nonetheless, the ease of this practice may look different with each day. You might find that it is natural for you to accept the parts you like or make you feel worthy. However, accepting the things that make you feel shameful or feel you have to hide is challenging. Self-acceptance is the essence of living in your truth. When you begin to accept yourself, you begin to stand firm in who you are regardless of your flaws, past, or mistakes. You’re learning to accept the good, the bad, and the ugly. Self-acceptance allows you to permit yourself to release the doubts, fears, and shame that have kept you small and empower yourself to live your truth.

Debunking Myths

Living your truth is more than just speaking it. It should show in your behaviors and the way you move through life. This may go against everything you have been taught and conditioned to believe, as you might have heard myths such as “children should be seen, not heard” or conditioned to take up as little space as possible. Women, especially Black women, have been conditioned to shrink themselves to make themselves more acceptable to society. If you fall into a minority group that society deems “not normal” or “inferior” because of your sexuality, gender, or abilities, you probably have hidden parts of yourself to make others comfortable. Understandably so it can be difficult to break free of those beliefs that have told you that you need to stifle your truth in the first place. Allow yourself to unlearn the lies, myths, and conditions that you have been taught. You are allowed to develop new beliefs. It won’t always be easy and may get a little messy before it gets better. Standing in your truth is going to require you to get uncomfortable before you can be comfortable. It also may change the dynamics of your relationships and cause you to outgrow some people and things. However, the one relationship that will be growing and nourishing is the one with yourself.

Mental Health Impacts

Without getting too technical on what it does to a person emotionally and cognitively to walk in an imposter shroud constantly, we can say that it creates a state of disconnect that is difficult to sustain over a lifetime without negative impacts.   The strain creates fractures in the relationship with self and the relationship with others.   The relationship with self is healthy when a person is pleased with who they are and their choices.  Even when they have setbacks, they still believe in who they are and the ability to be well.  The relationship with others is healthy when there is a healthy exchange of giving and take, which supports growth.   

For people who are not living in their truth, mental health counseling is a helpful tool to identify and explore the circumstances creating the fractured concept of self.  Having a safe space to understand the source of the discontent and disconnect is a valuable tool for growth and development. Unfortunately, people often consider mental health options for crises only.  Instead, incorporate mental health services into your normal wellness routine.  Making adjustments along these lines normalizes developmental discussions such as this, which are not necessarily life-debilitating or threatening and more about quality of life.  Living in your truth is definitely about a harmonious quality of life which is fertile ground for growth. 

Helpful Tips

Living your truth may look different for everyone. However, for all, it looks like living out our most authentic self. When you are conditioned to hide parts of yourself because society deems them undesirable or “abnormal,” it can be difficult to figure out where to start.

A great way to start is being clear about who you are and what you believe. Decipher between what your family, society, and others have taught you and determine what is truly what you believe. This may look like doing self-reflection and thinking about what you were taught versus what you believe now. Get clear on your beliefs, your boundaries, and most of all, your passions. Listen to your inner-self and let it guide you.

Another way to start living in your truth is releasing yourself from the things that are holding you back. In most cases, it’s fear of being judged, self-judgment, uncertainty, or even some anxiety about if you’ll be accepted. Naturally, those feelings will occur because you are allowing yourself to be vulnerable and live more boldly. It’s important to understand that you won’t always be met with acceptance when you start living your truth. Everyone won’t be comfortable, or like that, you’re living your truth because they may disagree, understand it, or wish they could do what you’re doing. Living your truth can be scary, and you may feel lonely if you hid who you were for so long, but it can also be freeing. It can be life-changing. Start taking small steps to get comfortable with your fear.