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Welcome to the second installment in a 3-part series exploring the phrase “To Thine Own Self Be True.” If you did not see part 1 about knowing yourself, you can access it by clicking here. We looked at how important it is to know yourself in order to be true to yourself. This week we will delve into accepting yourself, which is the next step in being true to yourself.
As we will discover, you cannot truly accept yourself unless and until you know yourself. So if you haven’t read last week’s article, please do that first by clicking here, before you read this one. It will make more sense that way. I also encourage you to work through the steps and write things down in your journey toward self-discovery. You might try picking up a blank book or journal like one of these from Amazon. Try this Sacred Oak Tree leather blank book or if you are concerned with privacy, check out this Celtic style diary with a lock.
Once you’ve done some self-research and discovered your personality type, identified your strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, written down your goals and dreams and clarified your core values, you are ready for the next step in being true to yourself — acceptance.
Self–acceptance is defined as the act or state of accepting oneself: the act or state of understanding and recognizing one’s own abilities and limitations. We all know that none of us is perfect. Frailties and character flaws are part of our humanity. We have all made mistakes and made bad choices in life. The key to self-acceptance is not just knowing these things about ourselves but unconditionally accepting them, without judgment. Read that last sentence again. That is a pretty tall order if we’re doing it right.
To accept yourself unconditionally and without judgment is not an easy step to take. The opposite seems to come to us more naturally. It seems easier to put all kinds of conditions on our thoughts and behaviors than to accept them. Judging ourselves even to the point of self-loathing is more common than self-acceptance. This is exactly why it is so important!
Self-acceptance isn’t about fixing all our issues. With self-acceptance, we’re just affirming who we are, without judgment, with whatever strengths and weaknesses we may have. Here are some steps to help you through the process.
3 Steps Toward Self-Acceptance
Live in today’s reality
In order to truly accept yourself, you must live in the reality of today. Self-acceptance is about the present, not regretting the past or dreaming of the future. As we’ve said, everyone has made mistakes in the past. It is important to learn how to deal with those mistakes if we have any hope of self-acceptance.
Mistakes and failures can be valuable experiences if you allow them to be. You may be thinking, “you don’t know what I’ve done,” or “you have no idea what kind of person I’ve been, the things I’ve done to people.” It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or what kind of person you were or are. There is always hope for change and growth. Growth begins with awareness. That’s the knowing yourself part.
Here is a simple but not easy formula to apply to your past mistakes and failures. Look at it, learn from it, then let it go.
Look at it:
Ignoring your mistakes is like sweeping dirt under the rug and believing it is cleaned up. Over time, the dirt under the rug builds up and will always find a way to trip you up. Ignoring mistakes works the same way. It’s important to take a closer look at the mistakes you made in order to learn from them.
Learn from it:
You have to look at the problem before you can learn from it. Once you’ve taken a closer look, you can begin to understand how and why it happened. This is a critical piece because if you have no understanding, you can’t learn from it. There are lessons to be learned from every experience if you are open to it. When it comes to failure, learning from it is part of the process to eventual success.
Let it Go:
Once you’ve taken a good, hard look at mistakes and failures, then evaluated it to the point of learning lessons from it, it’s time to let it go. If you continue to hold on to your mistakes and failures from the past, you will be doomed to live there. Letting go is crucial to your journey toward self-acceptance.
There is another way people don’t live in the reality of today. Many people are dreaming of the future, in a way that keeps them unable to accept themselves. So many times we think, “I’ll be okay when I get married,” or “As soon as I get that new job I’ll be acceptable.”
This kind of thinking keeps us locked in a pattern of viewing ourselves as not worthy or acceptable the way we are. Self-acceptance is just as it sounds–accepting ourselves right now, in the midst of our frailties. It’s about being okay with who you are in the here and now.
Some people are stuck in the past while others are dreaming of the perfect future. Neither is living in today’s reality. Choose today to be present, to live in the reality of this day.
Oftentimes, those who struggle with self-acceptance, are harboring guilt or shame. This could be from something you’ve done or even things that were done to you. As you continue to hold on to shame you are allowing your past to determine your future. You must be willing to forgive yourself and others in order to move forward.
Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness or have asked for it. This definition needs to be applied to ourselves as much as to others.
You must be willing to see that judging yourself, usually more harshly than anyone else would, can keep you locked in a perpetually negative space.
Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses. That’s why it becomes important to go through the previous steps of looking at it, learning from it and letting it go. In letting it go, you are letting go of its power over you. You are choosing freedom!
If you struggle with self-acceptance, loving yourself may be the furthest thing from your mind right now. It might be hard for you to even imagine the possibility, however, I believe it is possible. If you will make a commitment to working through these steps, you will find that it is possible to love yourself. You can’t jump from living in the past, weighed down by guilt from your mistakes to suddenly loving yourself. It is a process, a journey. We are all works in progress. I like that phrase, “works in progress,” because it’s about moving forward, making progress. Every little step along the way toward self-acceptance counts.
Acceptance and love go hand in hand. They might even be two sides to the same coin. Think of it this way: without acceptance, there is no love and without love, there is no acceptance. So in order to accept yourself, you must learn to love yourself. And in order to love yourself, you must accept yourself.
One of the keys that may help in this endeavor is your perspective on humanity. When you understand that you are part of humanity at large, you can see that we are all in this together. We all have struggles, failures, victories, and success. We are all doing the best we can with what we have. There are times when you need to look in the mirror or give yourself a kick in the butt. But there are times when you just need to cut yourself some slack and give yourself credit.
Begin to love yourself today. It is a choice you have to make. One incredible way you can love yourself is through self-care. Do some meditation or quiet reading, go to the gym and get those endorphins working for you, make healthy eating choices and receive the benefits. Make self-care a priority this week so you can move forward in your journey.
Make a pact with yourself that you will no longer be judgmental or self-loathing but from this day forward you will choose to love yourself.
In part 1 of this series, we learned about knowing yourself. This week is about accepting yourself. Check out next week’s article to learn more about expressing yourself. And in the meantime, I would love to hear from you. Please comment or message me with your comments and let me know how you will take action toward accepting yourself this week.