Whatever our life circumstance, our levels of happiness and enjoyment of life are directly related to how we feel about ourselves. A person who seems successful but constantly judges and disapproves of himself on the inside is going to be miserable, however great his life may appear to others. Of all that we learn in life, learning to accept ourselves may be the most important.
Intend to Do Your Best
One of the most effective ways to cultivate self-acceptance is to always intend to do your best. Then, no matter what happens, you will know that you showed up and participated in the situation to the best of your ability. This advice is taken from “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz, who reminds us that our personal best will be different at different times in our lives. But if we do our best in any given moment, we can never truly fail.
Measuring ourselves against other’s accomplishments and talents is a long road to depression. In this age of social media and idealized images, it is so easy for us to see what people want us to see. If we have any self-esteem challenges, then we are likely to compare our worst to another person’s best. This will make us feel bad, no matter what we might have accomplished in our lives.
We never know what is going on under the surface. Basing our self-evaluation to how we measure up to what we see in others only undermines our health and self-esteem. Instead, recognize and honor that you are a unique person, with a special set of gifts and challenges. Release the need to be like anyone else, and nurture your individual talents and strengths.
Be Honest and Kind
It is important to be real. Everyone has moments of allowing unconscious negative patterns to run the show. Everyone makes mistakes, and having flaws is part of being human. But when we beat ourselves up for those flaws we are not serving anyone. Learn to speak to yourself with kindness and compassion.
Acknowledge your human frailty, but refrain from judging or punishing yourself. If you would not say something to a close friend, do not say it to yourself. Part of being healthy is learning to love all the parts of yourself, both the shadow and the light.
Play to Your Strengths
Along with being kind to yourself, it is important to focus on your gifts. Do not ignore the parts that could use some improvement, or get lost in fantasies about who you wish to be. Take action to develop your talents, care for your body and mind, and cultivate the beneficial things about you. As the old song goes, learn to “accentuate the positive.”
If you are not certain how to discover your gifts, make a list of all of the things that come naturally to you. Maybe you are a great cook, or know how to deeply listen to someone, or are passionate about preserving native forests. Write down all the things you have accomplished in your life, however small they might seem, as well as the ways you have helped other people. Somewhere on that list will be clues to help you discover and share your innate gifts.
Forgive and Make Amends
As mentioned above, we all do things in life that we later realize were unhealthy or hurtful. Learning self-acceptance includes forgiving yourself for the ways you have caused harm in other’s or your own life. If you realize that you are still doing something that is out of integrity, intend to make new choices. If you have hurt another person, extend an apology or find some way to rectify the situation, if possible (but let it be okay if you cannot “fix it”).
We can only be disappointed in ourselves if we get fixated on our expectations. Let go of what you thought you would accomplish in your life, and focus on where you want to go – from where you are right now. Intentions are vital, goals are important, but part of self-acceptance is recognizing that we are all evolving, all the time. Sometimes we can surprise ourselves with our beauty and valor, and sometimes we come up short – and it’s all okay.
If you are alive, you are “good enough.” Simply by virtue of being a living human, you are worthy of love, happiness, and acceptance. No one can teach us how to accept ourselves, and we cannot receive love from another until we learn to love ourselves. Our experience of life is greatly determined by our capacity to accept the full range of our beautiful, frail, complex, dynamic humanity.