Updated: Jan 13
To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don't need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.
Accepting yourself is such a beautiful skill - it allows you to find compassion for yourself, provides you with unconditional love for yourself and it creates a happier, more fulfilled life.
We all, as humans, seek acceptance of some kind, it is something that we need - to be accepted as part of something and to feel valued and valid. It is in our nature, therefore to rely on other people's acceptance of us to provide us with the acceptance we crave. However, with relying on other people's acceptance, we are then subject to their everchanging moods, opinions and beliefs. This can lead us to jump through numerous hoops to get some form of validation. It means, the only time we are able to feel good about ourselves is when someone else feels good about us.
Is this a great way to be? To always rely on other people's opinion of us? I found out the hard way. I am a natural people pleaser and I crave acceptance and validation from everyone I come into contact with. However, there comes a time when I just cannot please everyone and when that time comes, I can do just about anything to get those little crumbs of acceptance. But whatever I do, it will still not be good enough which leaves me in a state of anxiety and with poor self esteem. Because our self worth is tied to the validation and acceptance of others, if we are unable to get this acceptance and validation from whoever we are seeking it from, our self esteem plummets.
Therefore, the only for sure way of feeling good about ourselves, feeling accepted, validated and valued is on our terms. To give ourselves the permission, acceptance and validation we need.
So how did I do this?
I read Books, listened to podcasts and public figures go on about how we should "just accept ourselves" and everything will be better. However, no one actually told me how to accept myself or what accepting myself really looked like so I knew that I was doing it right. It just seemed to be this switch that people could flick on and off - a switch that I clearly did not have!
So off I went to find this magical switch...
I started off by looking at what the problems were:
Problem #1: Understanding what accepting myself actually meant to me.
Problem #2: Awareness of what was stopping me from accepting myself.
Self acceptance, from what I found, meant different things to different people. Some explained that it was about embracing our flaws. Others thought that it was to show ourselves compassion and forgiving ourselves...
Accepting myself did mean these things to me, but they also meant so much more. Accepting myself was a way that I could stop criticising myself and giving myself a hard time. Accepting myself meant that I could I could be kinder to myself. Accepting myself would allow me to be OK with the person I am and where I am in my life. Accepting myself meant giving myself validation and reassurance. Accepting myself was a way for me to see my strengths, weaknesses, beauty and ugliness and be able to welcome these things with open and unconditional arms.
What was stopping me from accepting myself? The loud voice in my head. Yes - we all have one! We have all have that monstrous creature that lurks in the back of our minds telling us we are not good enough, that we are terrible people and that we do not deserve love, compassion and happiness. Mine consists of a voice which resembles several people within my life, spanning over a series family members, "friends" and of course my own judgemental self. Along with this voice (which now sounds like smeagol from Lord of the Rings for some reason) is a bank of bad memories which withdraw themselves unpredictably and serve as reminders and of what a pathetic, ridiculous, manipulative and selfish person I really am.
No wonder why I wasn't able to accept myself...
A few years ago, I was promoted to a sales manager for the company I work for. As part of this, I was expected to attend a monthly managers meeting and talk through a presentation of how my team was performing, our activities, revenue that was being generated, what areas needed to change and what areas I foresaw growth. Watching other managers present for the first time to the rest of the team, I found myself feeling very intimidated, underprepared and incapable. When it came to my turn to present, I painfully stuttered and stumbled on my words, I found myself explaining things more than once and struggled to relay my message to the rest of the team. When I returned to my seat, I was shaking nervously. I felt as if I didn't belong or deserve to be there. I felt like everyone was judging me and internally laughing at my humiliating performance.
At this time, I had just started reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. It was within this book that I discovered - the inner critic. (That loud voice inside my head which I had listened to constantly without realising). It was this voice that was making me feel that I was incapable, it was this voice that was telling me that I was wrong and it was this voice that was telling that I was undeserving. With help from this book, I was able to notice my inner critic (Smeagol), listen to it and reframe.
The next managers meeting, when I got up to present, I still felt nervous, I still felt like I lacked and dragged behind everyone else. Once I had sat back at my seat, I actively heard my inner critic for the first time. "You did a terrible job", "Why are you even here? You don't know anything", "Everyone else is laughing at you, they know you shouldn't be here", "Why don't you know any of this?" "Why are you not able to be like everyone else?"
WOW - I had no idea this was going on in my head all along. I actually remember feeling quite angry at this voice. How dare you speak to me this way? How dare you make me feel this way? So I had a little internal conversation with this voice. I told it that I had just been newly appointed. I had never really had to present before so it was understandable not to have all the information that everyone else was able to seamlessly provide. It was also OK to be nervous as presenting to an audience is daunting and uncomfortable. To be able to stand and present to my new team was actually quite brave, it showed guts and strength that I could build on. And ultimately, this was a learning exercise and I would get better at it in time. Also, by the end of the presentations, I couldn't remember much of anyone else's information they presented which told me that no one would remember mine in much detail either.
Instantly, I felt better. I felt relief coursing down me, relaxing all areas of my body and my mind was - quiet (for a change!). Was this what compassion felt like? I had just validated myself and provided myself with the reassurance I needed and I felt amazing! Warm and fuzzy.
Creating Space = Room to Accept Myself
Just this simple step - noticing my inner critic - allowed me to keep an eye on it. As time went on, the voice grew quieter and quieter. It left more room for peace, quiet and sound thinking. I had more space in my mind which gave me the freedom to be kinder to myself. So when I looked in the mirror and saw my big belly and my chubby arms, I could actively say - You know what, I look beautiful today. I could stop self negative judgement quicker when I would compare myself and my life to other's. I was able to accept where I was in my life - yes I didn't own a house and yes I didn't have a marriage or children yet but I have a strong career, I am surrounded by loved ones and I live quite a nice, quiet, simple, drama free life which is exactly where I want to be.
I began setting reminders on my phone to remind myself to validate and reassure myself, as I knew I would get caught up in the chatter at some point and get lost in my internal conversations (to the point where I would be plotting world apocalypse disasters). Somehow these reminders would direct me back to where I needed to be. To stop spiralling in my thoughts and say to myself - I did the right thing, everything is going to be OK.
Eventually, I was able to embrace my flaws. I can be controlling, I can be ill tempered and I can be critical. I now understand this about myself. Although these are not desirable traits by any means, I find that they are loveable. I am controlling because I have always had to be in control due to life circumstances. I can be ill tempered because - well who isn't and I am critical because I am a perfectionist, which is a side effect of anxiety. I now wholeheartedly accept these traits of mine because they protect me, they look out for me and have my best interests at heart. I don't always listen and I don't always act upon them but I can embrace and welcome them with open and unconditional arms because they are part of me and I cannot change that.
Accepting ourselves is a life long beautiful journey. This isn't something that you can flick a switch to, this isn't something you can learn instantly. Accepting ourselves will indeed make your life happier but work has to be done before you can get to this point. I can firmly say that I am not perfect at self acceptance yet. I still have those days where I am terribly hard on myself and I am not able to give my mind the space it needs to be able to reframe and switch to more positive notions. But, I would rather accept myself sometimes than never. It does allow me to be truly happy - even if it is just sometimes, for now.
If you do embark on a journey of self acceptance, please remember to be patient with yourself, to know that it will take time and reserve yourself plenty of compassion as it will not be an overnight change - but have faith that you will get there.
If you would like some advice on accepting yourself, please feel free to get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org I will be happy to help where I can.
Wishing you love and acceptance.