Is there anything which you don’t like about yourself?
Have you dreamed of being someone else other than yourself?
If you find it hard to accept yourself, you are not alone. Even the most successful and beautiful have rejected themselves some point in their life.
I once thought that I was socially inept or had autism. Everyone in school seemed to get along with each other, except me. My mum was so worried that she asked the classmate sitting in front of me to be my friend on the first day of school.
I used to hate recess because the canteen was always so crowded. I would go somewhere quiet instead of my classroom before school starts. I always needed a place to hide from all the people and the noise.
I thought that something was wrong with me. I thought that I couldn’t communicate well with others. I even thought that I didn’t like people. I used to hate that about myself until I realized that:
I’m just different.
Acceptance is the bridge from hate to love. Over the years, I accepted myself as a highly sensitive person and an introvert. Crowds give me a headache. Noise makes me agitated. I needed to shut myself in a room to recharge. I needed harmony.
That’s me. And there’s nothing wrong with me.
What Is Self-Acceptance?
Self-acceptance means to embrace both your strengths and your flaws. It means to welcome all of you. It means to love yourself unconditionally just the way you are.
Some people think accepting their weaknesses is a form of denial. They think: “How could you be poor and not work harder for money? How could you be fat and not lose weight? How could you be unhappy with yourself and be okay with it? Aren’t you living in denial?”
Acceptance doesn’t mean denial.
There is a huge difference between acceptance and denial. Self-acceptance doesn’t mean not changing or improving yourself. It just means that you acknowledge who you are first. Then, decide if there’s something you want to take action on.
Denial, on the other hand, is not recognizing the truth. It means thinking you are rich, skinny and happy when you are actually poor, fat and unhappy.
My whole life, people have been telling me I was too skinny, I needed to eat more and gained weight. When I was a teen, I was really bothered about that. I was the only person in my class who was extremely underweight. And I did try to eat more and do more exercise.
But ever since I was 30, I have accepted my weight and my physique. There are basically two things I could do after acceptance. First, is to gain weight. Second, is to let it be. I choose the second option because:
- Being skinny doesn’t affect my health.
- Other people are more bothered with me being skinny than I am.
- I realized it doesn’t have an impact on my self-confidence. My higher self-esteem was a result of my inner work, not my physique.
- I have more important things to do than gaining weight. I would rather invest my money in education than gym membership and protein shakes.
Whether to improve or not is a personal choice. And when you accept yourself fully, you can exercise that choice without any self-limitations.
Developing Self-Acceptance: How to Accept Yourself for Who You Are?
1. Compare Less.
Comparing yourself with others is the quickest way to make you feel miserable. You can always find people who are more beautiful, more successful and more intelligent than you. The more you compare, the more inadequate you feel.
There is no winner in comparison.
You may think that being better than others would make you feel good. The truth is once you started comparing to feel good, you are already telling yourself you are not good enough. You are using others to boost your own self-worth and ego.
2. Accept yourself NOW.
Don’t wait for something to happen before you can accept yourself. Accept yourself now, despite your flaws, imperfections and failure.
Every time you say, “I’ll be happy with myself when ______”, you are basically rejecting who you are right now. The perfect image of yourself that you have projected belongs to the future. Let it stay in the future. The future will come eventually. Instead, lower your self-expectation and make the best of what you have right now.
Love your present self, not your future or your past self.
And forgive your past self. Let the past stay in the past. No matter how great or bad you were, you can’t change or go back to the past. Don’t let it stop you from admiring the beauty you are right now.
3. Accept all of you.
When it comes to self-acceptance, take a holistic approach. Examine all aspects of yourself and accept yourself as a whole. It could be:
Some people find it difficult to accept themselves because they focus too much on one area. For example, they may define themselves solely based on how they look and neglect the intelligent they possess.
Focus on the whole. See the big picture.
It’s like going to an art gallery and criticizing the artwork based on colors only: “I don’t like red, so all the paintings with red on them must be bad.” You have to take a step back and see the picture as a whole. You want to see how to the red works with the other colors, the lines and the shapes.
Same as self-acceptance. Don’t just look at your weaknesses with a magnifying glass. See how they work well with your strengths.
4. Be thankful.
When you are really bad at something, you should be happy about it. Because it means you must be very good at something else.
We are all gifted in something. I’m grateful to be an introvert. Because socializing isn’t my natural strength, I spent a lot of time alone and that gave me a lot of insights from self-reflection and quiet introspection. If not for my introverted personality, I would probably not be a writer nor a blogger.
Embrace both the good and the bad.
Be thankful for both. What you are bad at may not be so bad after all. Accept your limitations and see the opportunities they bring, not the obstacles.
5. Seek acceptance from yourself, not others.
Even though I support underdogs in reality TV, I do wonder why is there a need for the cast to prove themselves sometimes. Why do blondes have to prove that they can be tough? Why do the older cast have to prove that they can be strong? Why do moms have to prove to their kids that they can win?
You have nothing to prove to anyone.
If you are good enough and perfect the way you are, there’s nothing you need to prove. There’s no need to get other people to see how good you are. They don’t have to agree with what you already know about yourself.
Approve and accept yourself first. Never look to others for acceptance. Like what Dr Wayne Dyer once said, “What other people think of me is none of my business.”
6. Find your tribe.
Rather than fitting in with the crowd, why not find people or groups with people who are just like you? You won’t have to try to fit in because you are already a fit.
You don’t have to fit in when you are already a fit.
Find people who have the same interests or similar personalities as you. Hang out with people who will accept you for who you are. There are some relationships which you can’t choose like your family members, but you have a choice in most relationships.
It’s easier to accept yourself when you are with people who are just like you and supportive of your quirks. If you have friends or colleagues who don’t accept you, let them go and move on with your life.
7. Be honest with yourself.
You don’t have to reveal everything about yourself to everyone. But you need to at least reveal everything to yourself.
Before you can be yourself, you need to know who you are. Be honest with your own flaws and weaknesses. But also, be generous with your strengths and gifts. Just don’t be someone you are not.
For work, ask yourself, “Am I doing something I love?” For relationship, ask yourself, “Am I becoming someone I’m not so that my partner would love me?” Even children have learned to pretend to be good in front of their parents to receive love from them. So we might have forgotten what our true self is like.
Like an onion, peel all layers to get to your true self.
Recognizing your weaknesses doesn’t mean you can be nasty to someone else. What you have identified with is just another layer that is protecting yourself. Peel off that layer and keep peeling until you get to your true self.
8. Do the mirror exercise.
One way of accepting yourself is to do the mirror exercise. Many have recommended this exercise. I first heard of this from Jack Canfield’s audio tapes and I’d tried it myself. It feels good to be kind and compassionate to yourself.
Basically, you need to stand in front of the mirror and look at yourself in the eye. The shorter version would be to say:
“I love and accept exactly the way you are.”
Continue by looking at every part of your face and body and repeat the sentence above. Even if there are parts of you which you didn’t like, keep acknowledging them. Understand there’s nothing wrong with you.
The longer version would be to acknowledge and appreciate all your achievements, discipline kept and temptations overcome. Affirm yourself daily until you can speak nicely to yourself.
Question: What else could you do to accept yourself fully?
Featured Photo Credit: Bex / Peter Grifoni