By Rebekah Cahill
Repeat after me:
I accept myself.
I love myself.
I forgive myself for what I didn’t know until I learned it.
Did you do it? How do you feel?
Maybe you feel a little happier, a little lighter? Or maybe not. Why are these words so difficult? What makes self-acceptance so intangible for many of us?
One common misconception surrounding self-acceptance is the idea that if we approve of ourselves then we will never change, never improve and never get better or get what we want in life. That’s just crazy! What do these have to do with each other? Nothing. I can't emphasize enough that it's possible to accept and love ourselves and still be committed to a lifetime of personal growth. Accepting ourselves as we are today doesn't mean we'll be without the motivation to make changes or improvements that will make us more effective, or that will enrich our lives. It's simply that self-acceptance is in no way tied to such alterations.
Another misconception is in the belief that we don't deserve self-acceptance. The messages we receive from our culture, family, friends, and ourselves become deeply ingrained, in part due to sheer repetition. It's not that we hear "you're too quiet" once or twice; we hear it over and over again from many different sources. Because these negative messages bombard us, and because we never stop to question whether they're true, we internalize the feeling that we are, indeed, defective. We don't believe we're deserving of acceptance, at least not now.
Fortunately, self-acceptance is something we can nurture. Look at it as a skill that you can practice versus an innate trait that you either have or don’t. Here are some ways we can cultivate self-acceptance:
Set an intention
Self-acceptance should begin with intention. When we set an intention to shift blame, doubt and shame to that of allowance, tolerance, acceptance and trust we are acknowledging that self- loathing simply doesn’t lead to a satisfying life.
Celebrate your strengths
Ask just about anyone to name a personal strength and chances are there will be a notable pause. Ask them to produce a weakness and the answer will surely come faster and in multiples. Many people fail to see their strengths and instead cling to every shred of support pointing to their lack of worth. Start by writing down one strength every day. Or try writing down some of the hardships you have overcome or the goals you have accomplished.
Consider the people around you
What kinds of people do you surround yourself with? Are they supportive? Do they reinforce negative talk? Distance yourself from people who bring you down and, instead, surround yourself with people who accept you and believe in you.
Past regrets can prevent us from practicing self-acceptance. Forgive yourself, and move on. Whether it’s about something you’ve done, a personality quirk, or an unmet goal or aspiration it’s important to learn from the mistake, make efforts to grow, and accept that you can’t change the past
Shush your inner critic
Many people equate their inner critic with a voice of truth. But if you wouldn’t say it to a loved one, it’s not honesty or sincerity. It’s unwarranted, harsh and judgmental. You have done the best you can. Our mistakes and imperfections are a testament to our humanity. They create space for learning, healing and growth.
Be kind to yourself
It is difficult for many people to show self-kindness and often it is perceived as selfish or undeserved. But the key to self-compassion is in understanding that weakness and frailty are part of the human experience.
When we're self-accepting, we're able to embrace all facets of ourselves--not just the positive, more "esteem-able" parts. We aren't trying to "fix" anything in ourselves. With self-acceptance we're just--non-judgmentally--affirming who we are, with whatever strengths--and weaknesses-- we possess in the moment.