Life Lessons in the Real World

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Have You Learned to Accept Yourself?

loveself.jpgLast 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.

Self-Acceptance Defined

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 Discard Outdated Childhood Evaluations: Last week, I told you about my mother, who spent the better part of her life thinking she was stupid because of the poor parenting she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.

Categories: Purpose and Meaning


18 Responses to “Have You Learned to Accept Yourself?”

  • Skylark says:

    A couple of months (?) ago I said I would be making a small donation to your work when I received payment for mine. I received, and am ready to give. How does one donate to you, in gratitude for your excellent work in this newsletter?

    Thank you.

  • Stefan Rotenberg says:

    Exactly what I needed; I’ve been suffering a bit about this in the last days. Doesn’t matter how perfect my girlfriend says I am, I could never overcome my big faults (especially near her, which IS perfect, :p)

    Thank you, keep on your wonderful job.

  • SpiKe says:

    Wow, great article, pretty much sums up my own approach to life nowadays. In fact, learning to accept myself and view the advantages of any situation/personality type has brought about the most positive changes to me. I wrote a little piece that adds another angle to this topic, which you might find interesting.

  • JohnPlace says:

    Thanks for the great comments, everyone!

    Skylark: I do intend to put a “donate” link up sooner or later. :-)

  • […] Place has a great article up about self acceptance. In a previous post I dismissed the concept of being yourself, which caused some debate. However […]

  • Vee says:

    As someone that has been through many a visit with a doctor I can tell you that your self acceptance won’t mean anything, it others don’t accept you as well!!!!

    You may loved yourself all you like, but if others aren’t there with you, life doesn’t mean anything!

  • JohnPlace says:

    One lesson at a time, Vee. While you are correct that life is greatly enriched through our ability to share with others, self-acceptance remains important. For every lesson on the road to happiness, there is another awaiting discovery. That is not to diminish each step along the way.

  • […] The pace of life and work has increased a lot and I daresay we don’t give as much thought as we could to the circumstances of other people’s lives. Sometimes, we’re so caught up in our own struggle that we don’t think we can even afford the time to “give” our time, suggestions, talents, to others. And yet, if we do, we are rewarded. […]

  • […] serves a purpose in our lives but don’t allow excessive anger destroy […]

  • […] happens to young people who crave attention and acceptance but do not yet have enough basis for self acceptance.  This is detrimental to a person’s growth because there is no more room for self […]

  • […] yourself down and understand that your strength lies in other places. You can then pursue the strengths that you know you have, so you would not be able to keep getting disappointed as well. Once you are […]

  • […] what this article means when you have self esteem help right at your doorstep. You are the biggest difference to […]

  • […] Place has a great article up about self acceptance. In a previous post I dismissed the concept of being yourself, which caused some debate. However […]

  • J says:

    Hi John,

    Your blog is interesting.

    One thing I find frustrating in trying to improve myself is a lack of knowledge of HOW things are done.

    I tell myself pretty much daily, for a long time now, to forgive, for example. But I haven’t found the ability to put things behind me, and the same anger can still arise given a certain trigger.

    Anyway, thanks for this blog; I read the link about your mother’s story and it was good reading.

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