Have You Learned to Accept Yourself?
Last week, I wrote about my mother’s journey of self-acceptance, which prompted several of you to ask me if I would expand upon what self-acceptance means. Keep reading and I’ll share what I know about how you can learn to accept yourself, thereby tapping into one of the great secrets of happy living.
At its core, self-acceptance is being comfortable in your skin. Understanding and appreciating whom you are. Looking in the mirror and recognizing the unique, wonderful work-in-progress staring back at you. Accepting yourself, faults and all.
Self-acceptance Does Not Equal Complacency
Accepting yourself does not mean you should forsake improving yourself, nor does it imply you should talk yourself into believing you are perfect. Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that I’m not one to blow smoke or delude myself, nor would I advise you to do those things. If you have an area of yourself that you’d like to improve, by all means, do so!
But let’s be honest: Some of us magnify our faults to ridiculous extremes, beat ourselves up about things outside our control, or hold ourselves to impossible standards. Some of us focus on our faults instead of seeing a bigger picture of ourselves that includes both strengths and weaknesses.
Examples of Low Self-Acceptance
Consider the woman who has worked hard to be physically fit and yet hates what she sees in the mirror because she doesn’t have the face of a super-model. Instead of giving herself credit for her healthy lifestyle and all her hard work, she magnifies a part of herself that she’s unhappy with until that’s all she sees.
Consider the student who studies hard and passes all his classes, yet hates himself because he can’t earn straight A’s.
Consider the victim of childhood abuse, still carrying around all the emotional baggage dumped upon her years ago, blaming herself for things that were not her fault.
Yes, consider each of these individuals, and then consider how their lives might be different if they learned to accept themselves, warts and all.
Instead of spending a lot of time discussing the philosophy of self-acceptance (a discussion that’s easily sidetracked and full of caveats), let’s spend a few minutes reviewing 5 practical tips to help you learn to accept yourself without sacrificing your ambitions:
1. Discard Outdated Childhood Evaluations: Last week, I told you about my mother, who spent the better part of her life thinking she was stupid because of the poor parenting she endured as a child. And yet, at the age of 65, my mother finally enrolled in college and proved her mother wrong by earning straight A’s. The moral here is simple: Don’t let anyone else tell you what you can or can’t do. Yes, learning to accept yourself does mean learning to accept your faults, but you owe it to yourself to test those perceived faults in the real world instead of letting someone else inventory your strengths and weaknesses for you. Before you can accept yourself, you have to understand yourself.
2. Develop a Holistic View of Yourself: Instead of focusing only on your weaknesses, make sure you take time to consider your strengths as well. You are far more complicated and wonderful than your morning affirmations would have you believe.
3. Give Yourself Permission to Be a Work in Progress: You will never be complete. That’s Okay.
4. Stop Beating Yourself Up: Yes, it’s important to recognize your faults so you can learn and grow. But there’s a big difference between positive growth and negative obsession: make sure you haven’t crossed that line.
5. Forgive: If you’re still carrying around baggage because of something you did years ago, make amends and move on. Very little good can come from a perpetual sense of guilt. Conversely, if you’re still holding a grudge because of something that someone else has done to you, do your best to let that go too. That doesn’t mean that you should foolishly subject yourself to future abuse, merely that anger harbored towards others tends to hurt you a whole lot more than it hurts them.
When it comes to the lifelong process of self-acceptance, this list is really only the beginning… but we have to start somewhere, don’t we?
Some of you are naturally accepting of yourselves, in which case this list serves little purpose. But for those of you who struggle to believe in yourselves, my hope is that this list will start you on the journey to appreciating all you have to offer, imperfections and all. No one’s perfect. Thankfully, no one has to be.
December 20, 2007 Thursday at 10:54 pm