“I am me and I am okay.” – Virginia Satir
We all have favourite aspects of ourselves that we like, and others maybe not as much. So what do we do when the dislikes interfere with living to our fullest potential?
In the name of conformity, many of us may feel pressured to deny essential parts of ourselves. Some people have spent half a lifetime denying their sexual orientation; others struggle with their body type or ethnicity, and so on.
It’s as if we’re trapped by things that make us feel different in some way. Yet, how can we feel whole, if parts of us are not accepted? And how can others accept us fully if we can’t accept ourselves?
As children, the message to conform seemed very prevalent – from how to do our hair, or what we should wear, to who we could play with and so on.
Even as adults we have standards against which we feel pressured to conform to, including areas such as makeup, weight, how successful we are and the endless list that we go by to determine whether we’re ok – based on someone else’s standards – rather than feeling free to just be ourselves.
Thankfully, at 46, for the most part I play by my own rules (after what feels like a life time of appeasing others), and encourage my daughter to feel good about herself, too. Life is too short not to. And it’s an essential part of our ability to thrive.
According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “Self-acceptance is an important indicator of psychological and social well being.”
And how are we supposed to achieve our goals feeling stuck about who we are? It would seem like ‘one-step-forward, two-steps-back’ scenario, where we’re trying to move forward in our endeavours but not quite getting there, without utilizing our whole selves.
So how do we learn to accept ourselves more fully?
Like most change, once we realize we’re engaging in an unwanted behavior, the seed is planted and we can begin to challenge ourselves.
Some people naturally reach the point where they’ve had enough of denying essential parts of themselves and learn to fully embrace them. Hence, the term, “coming out of the closet,” commonly used for people embracing their sexuality as a gay person. However, the courage to just be ourselves – whatever that may be – doesn’t come so easily with everyone.
The following are some ways you can learn to embrace yourself more fully:
- Challenge what you find difficult to accept about yourself. Put yourself in situations that embrace, rather than deny those areas.
- Change self-criticism to self-compassion. Treat yourself like you would a best friend – with kindness and appreciation.
- Acknowledge your efforts and accomplishments (versus only focusing on the “should’s” “ought to’s” and “have to’s”).
- Ditch the scoreboard of “I’ll be good enough when I…” You’re good enough now – as you are. Self-acceptance is unconditional, much like love. And it’s tied to how you look at yourself, not to things you do.
- Surround yourself with positive and supportive people that approve of you for who you are (versus being critical or rejecting).
It’s our differences that make us special. Embrace them. Or as Dr. Steve Maraboli eloquently puts it, “Let today be the day…You stand strong in the truth of your beauty and journey through your day without attachment to the validation of others” ( Life, the Truth, and Being Free, 2009).