More people than ever are looking outside themselves for approval today. Social media companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat understand this and use it to manipulate their users with things such as “likes”, to help them temporarily feel validated and accepted. While these companies say they are in business to help people stay connected, in reality, everything they do is with the goal of increasing their bottom lines. They manipulate us, and societies around the world, to make their owners richer.
With all this manipulation comes algorithm driven biases and misinformation, which not only help to make us feel worse individually as we compare ourselves with the ideal images of others on the platform, but also divide us as a people. We can see this in the way people treat other people with slightly different beliefs. Instead of being comfortable enough to discuss what they feel about a certain area of life, they attack.
This is one of the biggest reasons self-acceptance is so important, so we can learn to become less reliant on the personal validation these companies pretend to give us and be happy with who we are here in the real world. It’s also why we’re going to talk about self-acceptance today.
What is Self-Acceptance?
According to researchers in clinical psychology, accepting yourself is the first significant step towards making significant personal changes. They go on to say that, to accept oneself, a person needs to “accept their inner qualities, strengths, and imperfections”. They also suggest that a person needs to resist the urge to criticize themselves, which is, of course, something all of us do.
Let’s face it. While most people have no problem accepting the good parts of their lives, many people have a hard time accepting their flaws and failures. But self-acceptance is accepting yourself for what you are, regardless of your weaknesses and is a fundamental aspect of our ability to love ourselves.
Self-acceptance can be hard to find, and it can be especially difficult to accept yourself if you are constantly comparing yourself to others. This can be amplified when you spend a lot of your time scrolling through social media sites.
Think about the people around you. How often do you find someone saying, “I accept myself and who I am”?
It’s because many people simply don’t understand what it means to accept themselves.
Often people confuse self-acceptance with happiness, but they also misunderstand what happiness means. They confuse happiness with people who are one hundred percent happy with themselves.
But this is the opposite of self-acceptance.
Because accepting yourself involves realistically understanding yourself as a person, warts and all. Instead of accepting aspects of your life that aren’t all that flattering, you may be ignoring them or using them to beat yourself up.
Again, this can often be a result of looking outside yourself for validation.
Rather than condemning yourself, you can allow yourself to stop obsessing about your faults or what people think of you. This allows you to take the action steps necessary to make the changes that will help you actually feel happier.
What Self-Acceptance Is Not
Sometimes people confuse self-acceptance with staying where you are without advancing oneself or improving. But accepting yourself doesn’t mean you have to be happy with where your life Is presently or not trying to improve at all.
Even radical self-acceptance doesn’t mean being content with where you find yourself. Instead, it is the process of completely accepting yourself, exactly as you are in this moment of time.
Again, this includes accepting all your warts and imperfections. It also means after admitting your shortcomings, moving forward with a plan for self-improvement.
Of course, accepting who you are, right now, is a good first step. This allows you to focus on your good qualities to feel better about yourself. It also helps you rid yourself of feelings of guilt and can help remove a lingering lack of self-esteem.
But again, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything about your life. You are not resigning yourself to your fate.
Instead, you understand that it is only by recognizing your flaws and mistakes can you correct them. By allowing yourself to become aware of your weaknesses, you can learn how to overcome them.
And all of this comes from self-acceptance.
Learning to Accept Yourself
While self-acceptance can help you learn to love yourself, accepting yourself isn’t about being in love with yourself. It doesn’t mean that you’re constantly saying, “I’m wonderful.”
Instead, it is you have learned accept the way you look and the way you behave. It also means that you admit that others might not like you because you’re slightly different from everyone else and being okay with it.
Let’s take a look at a couple of things you can do to be more self-accepting now, and in the future.
1. Become more self-compassionate.
One of the things I learned while working with my clients is many people find themselves going through a cycle of berating themselves up and wishing they could be different. They would continue to mentally whack themselves over their self-perceived faults and limitations as they compared themselves with others.
Of course, this type of thinking can be very stressful and highly detrimental and is amplified by social media.
But let’s say you had a young niece or nephew who was struggling with who they were and being able to accept themselves. What would you tell them?
I’m sure you would tell them about all their good qualities and the things you appreciate about them, right?
Of course you would!
When you find yourself putting yourself down, think about what you would do for your young niece or nephew. Now, imagine this older you, talking to your younger you and, instead of constantly comparing yourself to others, telling this younger self to appreciate the qualities you already possess and reminding them that, with practice, they can learn new skills and strategies.
Show yourself the same caring and compassion you would show your young niece or nephew.
What’s important here is to remember to be gentle with yourself when you make a mistake or go astray. Avoid beating yourself up. Instead, show yourself compassion and understanding. Use your mistakes as motivation to increase your self-awareness and then take the action necessary to improve in that area.
2. Look for things you love about yourself
Oftentimes people struggle to love themselves. For one reason or another they believe that loving themselves makes them selfish, shallow, and self-indulgent. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Recognizing that you are worthy of being loved is not selfish, shallow, or self-indulgent. In fact, it’s one of the best ways you can add value to the world.
You see, it’s only when you love yourself that you can genuinely give love to others. You can accomplish this by learning to treat yourself with the same respect and kindness that you would treat your best friend.
But loving yourself is not something that you can do overnight. This is especially true if you have also struggled with self-compassion.
A good strategy to overcome a lack or self-love is to write down things about yourself that you do love.
To do this, ask yourself, “What about me do I love?”
If you find the answer coming back to you is something like, “Nothing”, or “I don’t know if there is anything about me that I could love” then ask a different question.
Ask, “What about me could I love?”
Asking these questions can help you build up an appreciation and understanding of who you are and why you’re in the world. As you build this knowledge base, you will find it much easier to learn to love yourself.
You Make the World Better by Learning to Accept Yourself
Self-acceptance isn’t something that you can achieve instantly. In fact, for most of us, it’s a lifelong endeavor. But no matter how hard it seems to be right now, it’s important to learn how to love and accept yourself even if you don’t always feel comfortable doing so right now.
Keep in mind that it’s not a matter of feeling happy with who you are and what you have. Instead, it’s a matter of accepting yourself as you are, with all your faults and imperfections, without feeling bad about them.
When you do that, paradoxically, you become happier, because when you accept who you are, it helps set the tone for long-term self-improvement and growth. This, in turn, leads to what we all strive for, becoming the best person we can possibly be.