In the last decade or so there has been a series of laws bringing about greater equality for previously marginalised groups, but alongside these there has been a rise in politicians, celebrities and others vocalising their refusal to accept people outside the ‘norm’. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to live in a community which verbally, physically or violently denies your right to exist. Being bullied as a child really shaped how I viewed my self-worth as an adult, as the voices of those who told me I was worthless or “wrong” then became my own critical voice. Self-compassion and acceptance were crucial for me to overcome my own mental health issues and whether you’re battling internal or external bullies accepting yourself could be life changing.
I’m surrounded by accomplished, talented and kind people but often they’ll bring up conversations about what they haven’t done, how they have failed or that they aren’t moving fast enough towards their goals. I knew I had beaten myself up for my failures and flaws but after a conversation with my aunt recently, who has had a successful professional career, owns her own home, has travelled around the world, retired, retrained and leads a very fulfilled life, I realised how pervasive it can be. She told me she had been worried about not feeling she was capable of starting a side project, looking at this highly accomplished and experience women I realised how difficult it is for so many people to see their accomplishments and accept themselves for what they are not what they should be. Surely if I had all the things she had I wouldn’t mind about not writing a journal regularly or not having more success with a small business which was inspired out of a hobby she had. But knowing how little credit I have given myself my whole life I realised, I would be doing the exact same, I have made a lot of progress but I still struggle to accept myself as I am and not question my ability to succeed at anything.
Why is it that we can never see the talents and accomplishments others see in us? Why does praising ourselves or patting ourselves on the back make us feel like we are being big-headed, over-confident or smug?
Or maybe you think that you are just realistic? I remember having this conversation with my therapist, “how can I accept myself without judgement when I have failed and done bad things? How can I accept the things I know are bad about myself? I want them to change and if I accept them then I won’t be motivated to change them.”
“Happiness and self-acceptance go hand in hand. In fact, your level of self-acceptance determines your level of happiness. The more self-acceptance you have, the more happiness you’ll allow yourself to accept, receive and enjoy. In other words, you enjoy as much happiness as you believe you’re worthy of”, Robert Holden, Happiness Now!
But acceptance doesn’t mean you can’t work to change things it just means you don’t need to hate on yourself for them. Beating yourself up for the things you dislike about yourself or your life isn’t going to make you feel any better! In fact, I spent so long hating myself for being such a horrible failure I became convinced that I would never achieve anything, I couldn’t imagine myself content or healthy, I bullied the hope and optimism out of myself.
But how does this link to self-care?
Self-care is different for everyone, what I do to make myself feel good (eat pickles, watch Moana or do some yoga) might not have the same impact on someone else (who prefers bacon, kick boxing and star trek) but the point of self-care is to feel better and remind yourself you deserve nice things.
If you don’t accept who you are and what you have achieved then how will you feel happy with yourself? No matter what you do there will always be something else that isn’t right.
Things will change, your body, your job, your relationships, your community, all of the things which help shape you will themselves look different and you won’t have any control over it…
Self-acceptance will allow you to go through changes and steady periods without judgement. Things will keep changing, you will change, you will achieve but you measure yourself exclusively on it, it will be part of the picture of who you are, not a stain you’re a trying desperately to wipe off.
Ways to practice self-acceptance
I really, really, really struggle with this. In therapy I did a lot of activities focusing on bad thoughts I had about myself and more accepting/compassionate ways I could think about them. I found it excruciatingly difficult and then felt guilty about not being better at it. But it helped speaking to other people about it, hearing that they found it hard too and being told the things they thought were positive about me so I could use that to
Since I am still very much on my own journey with this I will borrow some advice nd guidance from Oprah
Step 1: Making contact with your inner self
This implies paying more attention to self-care. Through meditation, self-reflection or contemplation, and the experience of quiet at least a few minutes every day, you make contact with your inner world. You learn to appreciate and enjoy it.
Step 2: Honestly facing your inner obstacles and resistance
Most people don’t like to face their weaknesses and flaws because they judge against them. But you are only human, and you will find that your sense of insecurity and anxiety represents feelings from the past that can be healed. In fact, they want to be released if you will give them a chance. The first step in healing is to look inside and let the process of releasing begin. Healing can proceed along many avenues, from therapy and support groups to energy work, massage, mind-body programs and various Eastern medical approaches.
Step 3: Dealing with old wounds
One could also call this advanced healing. As old residues of negative emotions are released, you find that you are stuck with resentments, hurts and scars that must be dealt with. Beneath the scar, such wounds feel very fresh. It takes help from someone else who understands the situation to go into these dark places—it could be a close friend, mentor, confidant, priest or therapist. No one can do this work alone, I feel, but I’m not underlining any sense of danger or fear. The work can be done safely, without anxiety, and once you start, there’s a tremendous sense of exhilaration, even triumph in the process. Just find someone who has walked the path successfully and sympathizes with you fully.
Step 4: Forgiving your past
You shouldn’t jump too quickly into forgiveness. It’s all too easy to pretend to yourself that you forgive old hurts and abusive treatment, when, in fact, what you are eager for is to escape the pain. The absence of pain, achieved through healing, gives you the right foundation for deep, lasting forgiveness. Self-acceptance is required first, and the realization that you—and everyone around you—have been doing the best you can from your own level of awareness. This can be quite a challenge when someone has hurt you deeply, but you can’t fully separate from wrongdoing until you accept that others are trapped inside a reality they can’t escape.
Step 5: Accepting where you are right now
This, too, is a stage you shouldn’t jump into too quickly. The present moment isn’t free of the burdens, memories and wounds of the past. They must be attended to before you can look around, breathe easily and love the moment you are in right now. A good beginning is to catch yourself when you have a bad memory and say, “I am not that person anymore.” For the truth is that you aren’t.
Step 6: Forming relationships where you feel loved and appreciated
The path to unconditional love isn’t meant to be lonely. You should walk it with people who reflect the love you see in yourself. You are likely to look around at some point and realize that not everyone among your family and friends is in sync with your aspirations. Without rejecting them, you have the right to find people who understand the path you’re walking and sympathize with it. They are more likely to appreciate you for who you are now, and who you want to become.
Step 7: Practicing the kind of love you aspire to receive
I encountered many people, most of them women, who were constantly waiting for “the one” to show up and sweep them off their feet. But the only way to realistically find “the one” is to be “the one” yourself. Like attracts like, and the more you live your own ideal of love, the more your light will draw another light to you. This single point, I am told, has helped the most people find their love.
If you spend time every day with one or two of these steps, you will find a practical road that takes you to more love than you have in your life today. The steps unfold naturally once you begin to devote attention to them. You were born to be perfectly loved and you are completely lovable. The loss of that status is what’s unnatural, not wanting to return to it, and the return means reconnecting with your true self. The path has been walked successfully for centuries, so I hope you take heart and join the fortunate ones who aspire this high. There is no better time to begin than now.