It is powerful to accept someone exactly as they are. When we stop expecting perfection or our own projected sense of how another person should be, we offer a gift of love and grace to another person. I am coming to see that this acceptance has the power to transform us from the inside out and eventually impact the world in a meaningful way.
We are all damaged, and therefore this kind of acceptance does not come easily to us. Many of us received conflicting messages as children about our identity, and we spend the bulk of our adult lives confused about who we are. Are we selfish if we pursue our own desires and dreams instead of conforming to what others want us to be?
I think that the answer is no. The only firm ground we have to stand on is the truth of who we really are. When we live from that place, we connect with joy and peace and happiness in a way we can only approximate when we are trying to please authority figures in our lives.
No one should have to perform to be loved. If you are stuck in relationships where you are constantly seeking approval in order to feel good about yourself, the only way to get free is to begin to approve yourself. Put all of that energy into your own identity. Get to know what your opinions are and express them.
There will be fall-out. People who are accustomed to dictating to you may be shocked and unhappy. Stay on this path and it will lead you to yourself, and when you fully possess your own identity no one can take it away from you again without your permission. Become more deliberate about who you are. Don't give control of your own emotions to someone else.
Other people can be unhappy or angry and you can hold the space within yourself to feel how you want to feel at any given time. You can unhitch your wagon from someone else's emotional horse. You can care about others without taking on their problems as your own. It's possible because I've done it, and I used to carry everyone's pain as my own.
Eventually the weight was far too heavy for me. I was suffocating under a blanket of other people's issues, and I had to shake it all off and decide not to take on any more. I learned to feel my own emotions and allow others to manage theirs. It was the best thing I ever did because suddenly I was living life on my terms, and I could understand what true happiness and freedom felt like.
We are meant to be who we are. Not who our parents/friends/pastors/teachers/society expect us to be. We can identify the roles we've been playing in order to be loved and start living as ourselves all of the time. Relationships will fail but new and more authentic ones will rise up to take their place. We will develop true confidence in ourselves and learn to love who we are and acceptance lives in that space.