I’ve been re-watching Breaking Bad this summer and, as one might expect to happen during a second run-through, I found that I was picking up details and foreshadowing I’d missed previously. I also found that watching it at a different stage in my life meant that different moments resonated with me.
*SPOILER* One scene in particular that struck me is after Jesse’s stint in rehab, he confronts the mistakes that he’s made. He meets up with Walt, and they have this exchange:
Something about it, the way Jesse says “I am who I am,” hit home for me. He’s accepting who he is and what he’s done, and is choosing to face it rather than run away. And even though it’s fictional, I found myself pausing the Netflix stream and dragging the bar back to watch the scene a second, third, forth time.
The truth is, self-acceptance can be an incredibly difficult thing to achieve. Like a lot of people in the queer and trans communities, I struggled with this for a long time. I denied, ignored and simply did not understand my gender identity and sexuality. This confusion and ultimate lack of self-acceptance prompted me to do a lot of things I’m not particularly proud of.
I’ve hurt a lot of people, and that’s been the hardest part to accept. It’s one thing to come to terms with your own identity, but it gets more difficult when you consider part of that identity has caused people harm. I try every single day to better myself, but there are some days that I can’t shake feeling guilty.
But we are who we are. Everyone makes mistakes, and that’s important to remember. I believe that you can’t really be happy unless you accept and love yourself (mistakes, flaws and all), and so I’ve spent a lot of time trying to do this. In my path toward self-acceptance, I’ve learned a few things about how to deal with feeling guilty about your past:
Find reasons, don’t make excuses.
I spent most of my life incredibly ashamed and insecure of my sexuality and gender identity. Because of that, I clung to any amount of attention anyone would give me. I’ve been unfaithful to people I committed to. Feeling how I did isn’t an excuse for those actions, but it was a reason.
Excuses are attempts to justify bad behavior, and making them won’t solve anything for anybody. However, understanding your own thought process and how that relates to your actions is essential. For example, some people grow up in abusive households and are then more prone to fall into that cycle with a partner or their own children. Does that make it okay? Of course not. But it does provide a reason for the behavior. And once you identify the root of a problem, it becomes easier to change it. Which brings me to my next point…
Learn from your mistakes.
Understanding yourself doesn’t matter if you can’t learn from the mistakes you make. If you know what you’re doing is wrong, and you know why you’re doing it, but you don’t take the steps to better yourself...what’s the point?
It’s important to seek out the people you’ve hurt and try to remedy the situation. Showing humility and remorse about being wrong or causing harm is necessary, and it’s also important to communicate that to the people on the receiving end of your actions.
Forgiveness from other people is important for the healing process on both sides, but I’ve learned it does little if you can’t forgive yourself. The premise of guilt or shame might serve as a reason to not repeat mistakes, but wallowing in those feelings won’t help you gain self-acceptance. Feeling sorry for yourself won’t change what’s already happened; it’s better to channel that energy toward growing as a person.
At the end of the day, the journey toward ultimate self-acceptance can be long and arduous, but it’s well worth the struggle. Coming face-to-face with your mistakes can be painful, but it’s important to own up to them, to learn from them, and to understand you can be more than them. Never stop growing.
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