Allison DeLuca's Scholarship Essay
In today’s world, acceptance seems to be difficult to find. If you turn on a television or read the news, you see stories or images that display a lack of acceptance. News stories about discrimination, seen displayed by the powerful all the way down to everyday citizens, show a lack of acceptance of other people. Usually, this lack of acceptance is due to a difference in someone’s skin color, religious beliefs, or cultural background. Also, a lack of self-acceptance can occur. The media, in part, can be to blame for this. Individuals are bombarded with images of what is deemed “acceptable”, “pretty”, or “perfect”, which can affect an individual’s self-esteem and lead to a lack of self-acceptance and self-love.
We, as a community and as individuals, need to be more accepting of others and of ourselves. Not only are these important separately, but also they tie together quite nicely. If we are accepting of others, despite any difference they may have, they may find it easier to be more accepting towards themselves. Also, a lack of acceptance can lead to an increase in hate and fear, which we are sadly seeing so much of in the United States and in the world. It will be a great day when we can wake up and not turn on the television to hear of yet another hate crime, shooting or another story of general discrimination. The fear that leads to a lack of acceptance can also lead to a sense of animosity towards others.
So why is acceptance so important to me personally? Sure, I want to see the world be a better place. However, my drive for acceptance comes from a more personal source. I have struggled with anxiety for the majority of my life. Even as a young child, I struggled with anxiety and panic attacks from the age of six. Because of this, I often felt like I wasn’t being accepted in the same way that others were. I was often left out of things because friends knew they were situations that might have made me feel uncomfortable. In high school, when I started to deal with depression, I felt even less acceptance. I always felt as though people were uncomfortable being around me because I was not always one hundred percent pleasant or outgoing.
On top of all of that, struggling with mental illness made me realize how hard it was to accept myself. Depression is a disease that can slowly eat away at your self-confidence, leaving you with little to no self-love. Pairing that with anxiety leads to a high level of self-doubt caused by a mixture of the lack of desire to participate in activities paired by the anxiety of not participating in those activities. Depression also made it easier for me to judge my body and my flaws, leading to an unhealthy relationship with food and with myself. I could stand in a mirror and pick out flaws that didn’t even exist and I could find fault anywhere, even if it was miniscule and unimportant. I judged myself more harshly than the people around me were, even to the point where I was using self-harm as almost a form of punishment. I could not accept myself because I could not bring myself to truly love myself, flaws included.
Today, I feel as though I am in a much better place when it comes to self-acceptance. I think that it is important to be able to accept yourself, because it makes it easier to accept others for who they truly are. Currently, I use my participation in the Miss America Organization to talk about my personal platform Your Mind Matters: Promoting Mental Health. Acceptance is a huge part of my platform, particularly the acceptance of mental health and individuals struggling with mental illness. My own struggles made it clear to me that acceptance can be viewed in a circular way. In order to accept others, we need to accept ourselves completely, including all of our mistakes and faults. In order to accept ourselves, we need to support of others and the acceptance of others, despite any imperfections we have. I hope that I can use my experiences and my story to help others grow to accept themselves and others. Maybe, by making my small contribution, I can help make a wave of acceptance that will lead to acceptance throughout the world.
Submitted by Listen, Lucy Essay Winner.