How to cope with not feeling accepted
Acceptance: When to Reveal your True Self
The subject of acceptance comes up often these days. I think as a people we are recognizing the stress placed on individuals who fall outside of their social circles, and that forcing people to conform is not as healthy for individuals or for society as once believed. Now, I may not be the best person to offer advice on this topic, as I like—maybe like many of you—often have that uncomfortable feeling of not being accepted for who I am. I struggle with this daily.
By acceptance, I certainly don’t mean a lack of boundaries. It’s healthy for our friends to check us, and tell us when we’ve gone too far. We need that in our life; in fact, it is critical. But when that extends past a reasonable protection of ourselves and those around us into a redefinition of who we are, what we enjoy, and what we believe—then we are presented with more difficult choices.
It doesn’t have to be something big. It doesn’t have to be the essence of who are. Sometimes it is. But sometimes it’s little things too. I suspect we’ve all felt that pressure at one time or another. Often, we bend to it. Whether it’s biting their tongue while people laugh about a subject they hold dear, holding back from sharing things that bring them joy, or even pretending to be like or not like a team or musician, I notice this tendency in people frequently.
I was once told by a friend in his seventies, “I can’t tell people what I think, because I might lose them.” I suspect the man’s friends would have been shocked to hear him say such a thing. I wanted to say, “No, be yourself. Say what you will and your true friends will stick with you.” But who am I to tell another person to risk their family or friends, for some altruistic notion of broader acceptance? I would not be the one to live with those consequences.
I deal with this subject a lot in my writing, and it is especially a theme of The Banished Craft. In this novel, several characters struggle with ideas or lifestyles that go against the norm. Some fight this fight, and others withdraw.
So what do I think? Should I urge each one of you to be yourself at all times, and ignore the consequences? It feels good to say it, but it doesn’t work in most people’s every day life. For many, the consequences would be too dire. Nor would I suggest that one should be forced to live a lie. Even when attempted, it is not sustainable. Your soul is precious, and beautiful, and it should sing. So we are left with a dilemma that is not new to our age: when, and how much, to reveal your true self in settings you know it will not be accepted.
We can start here. We can start by talking about it. Piece by piece, we can make those decisions in our lives. We can be brave, and choose our battles. And when we hear people making fun of someone for being different, we can tell them how it makes us feel. We can ask them to stop. Together, we can change our view of each other. In other words: I have no solution. But I hope we can continue to try.
One of the last lines of my first novel, Spireseeker, is this: There is no better friend than someone who cares for you just as you are. The struggle for acceptance will not end today, or tomorrow, yet those are words I think we can all live by.
The Banished Craft
By E.D.E. Bell
The Banished Craft is a genre-bending fantasy saga that follows the adventures of Cor, a woman caught in a dying world that does not accept her, and Atesh, a dragon scientist who’s been asked to violate his own ethics or put the lives of his family at risk. Follow their trials as they deal with a shattered world, mired in political upheaval, while they try to rediscover a lost magic. The Banished Craft begins the Shkode trilogy: a quirky and modern take on dragons and wizards, exploring themes of identity, prejudice, violence, compassion, and the ways we are all connected.
Author E.D.E. Bell is a graduate of the University of Michigan with an MSE in Electrical Engineering, and works as an advisor in technical intelligence. A vegan and enthusiastic ignorer of gender rules, she feels strongly about issues related to human equality and animal compassion. Married with three children, she decided to pursue her dream of writing and is excited to share that vision with fans of epic fantasy.