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Most people can tell you at least one or two things that they dislike about themselves. It might be a part of their body, a personality trait or an illness. But if you ask anyone what they like about themselves, the pause while they try to figure out what is acceptable to say, is audible. This post is to help you learn how to accept yourself as you are.
I am one of those people who looks in the mirror the least amount possible. I don’t like what I see, but I don’t necessarily know what to do about it. I’m not majorly overweight, though I’m not particularly skinny either.
I don’t like the way my illnesses affect my social life, family life or work life. I wish I didn’t worry so much, the list goes on.
But I’m working on these things, and learning to accept who I am, as I am. In this post, I’d like to invite you to do the same with some techniques I’ve learnt to see ourselves in a different light.
Why is it so hard to accept yourself?
First of all, it’s important to understand why you find it so hard to accept yourself as you are. It’s not because something is wrong with you. It’s to do with the societal rules that we are brought up in. We are taught that we should be modest, not brag, not gloat, etc.
But we are never taught that we must find time for ourselves, to nourish our own bodies, minds and souls. Being completely healthy means looking after ourselves as a whole package. However, all too often, we are guilty of putting others’ needs before our own, and it is usually to the detriment of some part of our wellbeing.
How can you start to appreciate your good qualities?
So just how do we go about changing these habits, and learning how to appreciate the things that are good about us? Well, I have a step-by-step approach to this:
- Write it down. Make a list of all the things you think are your good qualities and the things you think you could improve on. Most of the time, it’s easier to come up with the negatives, than the positives. That’s ok, keep it as basic as you need to, you can always add to it later.
- Ask friends and close family to do the same for you. The way others see us is so different from the way we see ourselves. The things your friends appreciate about you might surprise you. Be careful not to ask people who are overly critical or are too biased towards you. You need honesty, not bias.
- Make a goal to accept things as they are. Every human being is unique, we all have our strengths and weaknesses. You do not need to be perfect. The problem is that focusing too much on what we want to change about ourselves, we often forget to live our lives to the fullest. So every day, pick one good quality, and one bad one and accept that they are parts of who you are.
- Understand that your reality can impact your nature. Your best friend may be a free spirit, eat what they want and never put on weight, or have a successful career in their dream job. That’s great, celebrate that with them. But know that it doesn’t mean you are less because you don’t have those things. Their reality is different to yours, and you can bet on your life, that they have things they don’t like about themselves too. Pay attention to the obstacles you have overcome to get to where you are today. Think of all the lives you have touched, and also the things you have done to help others.
- Forgive yourself. One of the hardest things to overcome when it comes to accepting yourself is to forgive the things you believe you have done wrong. The past is in the past; you cannot do anything to change it now. Regretting things you have done or said is pointless and also hurts you. If you feel you have wronged someone, say you’re sorry. It’s up to that person to decide what to do with your apology, but for you, you have corrected your wrongdoing and you can do no more, so let it go and move on.
- Let go of dreams you haven’t fulfilled. Everyone has dreams and ambitions that weren’t realised. Whether through making choices that take you in another direction or because the choice was taken away from you. If there is absolutely no chance of making it happen, grieve the loss of it and let it go. The dreams that don’t happen make room for the ones that can.
- Volunteer. As cliche as this may sound, offering your time for the good of others will make you feel good about yourself. Offer to volunteer at an Age Concern, animal shelter or in a charity shop. You will see the results of your actions, and it is hard to maintain your own inner image of being a bad person when people or animals are showing you otherwise.
- Put your energy into what you can control, not what you can’t. One of the most important lessons I have learnt through my journey with anxiety and depression is this: You can’t control how others behave, you can only control your reaction to it. This also goes for the things you don’t like about yourself. If you can’t change something, dwelling on it endlessly is not going to help you. Instead, focus on the things you can and want to change, and do something about it.
Does this mean you shouldn’t change or grow?
It’s important to realise, that accepting yourself as you are doesn’t mean settling for it if you don’t like it. It’s more about understanding who you are as a person. What are your core values? What do you believe in?
These things will change as you move throughout your life. For example, I was brought up to believe in God, as my mum is a Christian. Over the years, I have developed my own beliefs, and while I don’t knock anyone’s faith, I no longer believe in the Christian version of God.
My beliefs and values changed because of circumstances in my life. That will happen to you too.
What does it mean to know your core values?
Your core values are essentially the way you see yourself. The things that you describe if someone asks you to tell them about yourself. I tend to prioritise nature and the environment, as I believe that the planet deserves better than what we give it, but I also have an innate need to belong and be liked, and I don’t like to talk about my achievements or receive compliments.
My focus on financial stability, giving my time to others as well as putting others’ needs ahead of my own leads to my own burnout.
I would like to challenge myself more and take myself out of my comfort zone, as I believe that is how we grow. I would also like my health to be a bigger priority in my life as well as creativity and focusing on my spirituality.
I’m not a particularly independent person unless I have to be, and I don’t like to be alone too much.
Some of these values have changed as I’ve gotten older, some have always been there. Some will change again. But they are the things that make me who I am, and I regularly try to make sure my life is in tune with my values. For example, several years ago, I adopted a vegan lifestyle to help with my focus on nature and the environment. Eating meat, buying single-use plastic and buying things I don’t need didn’t align with my value of concern for the environment.
How do you put it all together and accept who you are?
Your first step is to figure out what you do and don’t like about yourself. But also get an outside perspective. Other people see you without the negativity you place on yourself.
Then work out what your core values are (you can do this here) and start to work out where you can align your values with the things you don’t like. If health and activity are a core value but you feel you’re overweight, maybe you need to start thinking about how you can incorporate a healthy diet and exercise plan.
If you feel you don’t do anything creative, look into dance or acting classes. Take drawing lessons or start writing a book.
The point is that without accepting who you are, you will never truly move forward. You will be stuck ruminating over the things you ‘lack,’ instead of appreciating what you have, and that you are one of a kind. There is no other human being on this planet quite like you, and there never will be, and that’s something to amazed by.
How do you feel about yourself? Do you accept yourself as you are? Let me know in the comments!