“Our entire life … consists ultimately in accepting ourselves as we are.” – Jean Anouih
We live in a time where there is a media depiction for every situation imaginable that tells us what we “should” be making self-acceptance difficult. They show us the perfect feminine physique, the perfect parenting, the perfect meals, the perfect masculine role models etc. In addition to the messages sent to us by the media and through interactions with our culture, some of us grow up in families where we are instructed on how we should think, act, look and feel. We come to understand that if we don’t fit this ideal image of man, woman, mother, child, etc. we are not good enough, so we forever strive for this ideal. Even celebrities face this struggle, Caitlyn Jenner for example, lived her whole life unable to be authentic out of fear of not being accepted. Marilyn Monroe, lived her life trying to please others while never really learning how to love and accept herself.
While it can be motivating to have something to aspire to, it can also be a devastating blow to our confidence when we constantly compare ourselves to this idealized self and find that we don’t quite “measure up.” By learning how to practice self-acceptance, we can overcome the self-defeating thoughts and judgments that can keep us stuck in an endless loop of feeling like we will never be what we have been trained to believe we should be.
Here’s how to get started on the journey of self-acceptance:
1. Don’t Believe the Stereotypes
The media, families, and organizations push ideas of what is considered “normal” on us, like anything else, these are just ideas and concepts and variations can and do exist. Remember that just because a certain image is presented to you, it does not mean you have to buy into it. Maybe you are a man that doesn’t like sports or a woman that can’t cook, just because these stereotypical gender roles exist does not mean your value or worth are any less when you do not fit that role. Chances are, no one is judging you based on these things, but because the stereotypes are out there, you may use them as an excuse to judge yourself. You don’t have to believe it, it’s a choice. You have another choice also, the choice of self-acceptance.
2. Find Strength in Your Differences
So what if you are a woman that can’t make toast without starting a fire or a guy that can’t toss a football? I bet there are some other super unique and interesting qualities you do have, accept what you are not, and build upon your strengths. If you want to improve in areas you feel you lack, make the choice to do so without berating yourself for your shortcomings. Take a cooking class if you feel you want to improve your cooking skills. Be proactive in becoming what you want to be, but do so without judging yourself for what you are not, you’ll find the process much more enjoyable. You might also find that you’re perfectly happy with the things that make you different and you may find new ways to build upon them once you stop beating yourself up.
3. Show Yourself Compassion
We all make mistakes. No one can really say every choice they have made has resulted in a positive outcome, wouldn’t that be nice! When you find yourself berating yourself over an error in judgment, change it instead to compassion. Tell yourself what you would tell a child who is upset that they made a mistake. If you forget to mail something out by its deadline because you missed the information indicating the due date, instead of saying “I’m such an idiot, how could I have missed that! “Say “it’s ok that I missed that deadline, I did the best I could with the knowledge I had at that time.” While this may not change the outcome, neither will berating yourself and one will leave you feeling a sense of acceptance while the other will create additional suffering. Talk to yourself with kindness and remember all you have accomplished. Be kind to yourself and speak to you the way you would a friend.
4. Change Your Idea of Who You Are
If you think you are supposed to be superwoman and you feel that you have no special powers, you will always be upset about who you are. Think instead of all the ways you are powerful instead of all the ways you fall short and this can change your concept of self from one that lacks to one that is abundant with good qualities. Fake it till you make it!
5. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
Of all the road blocks on the path to self-acceptance comparing yourself to others is a seemingly insurmountable boulder. Did you ever notice that when you compare yourself to others you choose those that you perceive to be “better off than” you. Those who have more money, better looks, more success, better skills, etc. It’s a trap. A surefire way to resist accepting all that you are is to compare yourselves to others who you are not. You can’t be them, you are you, and you possess the unique set of life experiences and the knowledge and skills these experiences have developed. Why not compare yourself to those who are worse off than you? Or at least make an even comparison to level the field. We can only be who we are, and we can become the best us we can be. Comparing yourselves to those who you feel are “better” can only leave you feeling bad about who you are. Self-acceptance has no room for this behavior. So when you catch yourself making comparisons, quickly remember to compare to someone with “less than” you as well, and accept that there will always be people with more and less, but there will never be another you.