Self Improvement or Self Acceptance

Self Acceptance or Self Improvement

Climbing the stairs to coach Gibson’s office, I wonder what I’m in trouble for.  I grew up in a time when, at age fifteen, you always assumed you were in trouble if you were called to someone’s office.  This is in sharp contrast to today’s youth who assume they are never in trouble; it’s that entitled attitude they project.

Knocking on his door, I wait for his response.

“Come in,” comes his familiar bark.

Coach is sitting in his desk chair with his feet propped on his desk.  Looking up, he notices me.  “Oh, hey Johnson.  Come on in.”

Coach Gibson is one of three different basketball coaches I had the three years I played basketball.  You might assume that that is because I changed schools three times.  But you’d be wrong.  I was at the same school all three years.  As they say, you figure it out.  (Coaching never has been an easy profession.)

Knowing that anything I say can and will be used against me, I keep quiet, waiting to see which way the wind is going to blow.

Folding his hands, coach’s face takes on a somber expression.  “Listen Johnson,” he begins, “We’ve got to put some meat on your bones.”

I flip my hair out of my eyes and say, “Huh?”

“Your weight son, your weight.  You’re six feet two inches tall, right?”

Stretching to my full height, I say, “Yes sir coach.”  I’m just happy to be able to answer a question that makes sense to me.

“And how much do you weigh Johnson?”

My shoulders sag a bit.  To say I was slim in high school is to put a kind spin on the truth.  I was the butt end of all the skinny jokes.  The kid that was so skinny that when he turned sideways and stuck out his tongue he looked like a zipper, was me.  Yes, I could stand underneath a clothesline during a rain storm and stay dry.

“145 pounds, coach,” I lie.

His raised eyebrow tells me he knows better.

Looking at the floor, I mumble, “140.”

“Exactly,” coach concurs.  “And we’re going to do something about it.”

I look up, intrigued by his optimistic tone.

“I want you to drink two milkshakes with raw eggs in them every night before you go to bed,” he says emphatically.

Either my lack of an enthusiastic response, or my dumbfounded look, or both, prompts coach to explain further.

“I want your parents to get a blender and make the milkshakes.  You know – ice cream, sugar, milk, and two raw eggs in each.  Drink them every night before you go to bed.  I want you to try it for six weeks.  That’ll put some pounds on you.”

Lest you suspect Coach Gibson had a more sinister motive for dealing with the lack of talent on his team, I think it only fair to point out that when I was growing up we were clueless to the dangers of salmonella in raw eggs.  Not that that would have mattered, because I was raised on the maxim, “Rub a little dirt on it.  It’ll be alright.”  This amazing recipe was the cure for a bloody nose, a lacerated chin, or a sprained ankle.

Now that the mission is clear to me, I answer, “Yes sir, coach.”

Like a dutiful soldier, I march home and report the General’s orders to my Quartermaster.  Mom says simply, “We’ll talk about it.”

I realize this statement is all about counting pennies to see if buying a blender, ice cream and extra eggs and milk can be worked into my parent’s budget.  Living on the salary of a minister was not easy back in those days.

The next morning I am told that a blender will be bought and the “milk shake mission” will begin tonight.

Two milkshakes every night sounded like every teenager’s dream.  I couldn’t believe how lucky I was.

I don’t believe I had ever heard the phrase, “be careful what you ask for” when I was a teenager.  But I quickly learned its meaning.

When does a milkshake taste like medicine?  When you have to drink two a night for six weeks.

I never thought I would gag on a milkshake.

But retreat was not an option, especially sense my parents had made a significant financial investment in this campaign.

At the end of the six weeks, I climb on the scales feeling swollen and bulked up.  The scales mock me by reading “140 pounds.”

It was true.  I did not gain an ounce.  The mission was an utter failure.

My friends who were aware of what I was trying to accomplish were both amazed and empathetic.  But no one decided they would “unfriend” me (to use the Facebook vernacular of today).  Actually, nothing changed in my world as a result of my failing to gain weight.

It was at that point that I made an important shift in my view of self.  I decided that God made me the way I am, thin though I was.  It was other people who seemed to be more obsessed about it than I.  So I quit worrying about it.

All of us have things about ourselves that we are not happy about.  Some of those things are cosmetic in nature (weight, kinky/smooth/straight hair, height, etc.).  Other things are performance related (as an athlete, grades, job position, etc.).

When you find yourself feeling unhappy about some aspect of yourself and your life, let me recommend two approaches.

The first is self improvement.  Throw yourself into becoming whatever it is you want to become.  Do research.  Make a plan.  Practice.  Be diligent.  Don’t give up too soon.  There is much about ourselves that we can improve on.  One of the awesome things about us human beings is that we can continue to evolve, even up to the time of our death.

The second approach is also very important – self acceptance.  There may be some things that you can never achieve.  I hate to tell you that because I see the sadness and defeat in your eyes.  But my commentary isn’t meant to create hopelessness.  Rather, I’m talking about being more accepting of who you are, exactly the way you are.

Relax and embrace the uniqueness of who you are.

Breathe deeply and take pleasure in the things you do well.

Our world needs people just like you.

“The snow goose need not bathe

to make itself white.

Neither need you do anything

but be yourself.”

            ~Lao Tzu

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