The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change
~ Carl Rogers
The lifelong pursuit of a healthy self-esteem is subject to the fluctuating levels of how we mark our own value in the world. Mistakes as the result of simply being human can lead to self recrimination about our value and lack of worthiness. Our achievements and accomplishments, what we have or own, as well as our genetic signature can all cause a surge or plummet in how we feel about ourselves. The prevalent societal obsession with becoming famous, being skinny, youthfulness, and wealth as the markers of success all become part of the comparative study in not measuring up.
Self-acceptance is the result of realizing thoughts and feelings create our reality and once achieved remain stable over time. An inability to accept oneself is based on two core beliefs: I am not good enough or I am too much. Both result in feeling inferior and thus holding back from showing your true self or living in authenticity.
A year ago, my alter ego was securely closeted against judgment, ridicule, and other biases I was convinced would be held against me. I made excuses and devalued a big part of who I am out of fear of being exposed. As I was getting on the ferry to head over to Vinalhaven earlier this summer, a woman asked me what I was doing out on the island. I told her I was going out to work for a couple of days. When she asked me what I did for work, I didn’t hesitate in answering: I’m a medium. It had nothing to do with my education, my physical appearance, my professional successes or failures but instead it was a simple statement of who I really am. We chatted for a good part of the trip over about the typical things strangers discuss in transit. As we parted I thought, there’s no reason for me to hide this anymore. Some people paint, or sing, or are natural athletes and some of us are highly sensitive to energy and spirit. None are more or less than another.
One way to cultivate self-acceptance is to celebrate your strengths. Write them down or try to come up with one a day. It can be as simple as: I am a kind person. If you’re still stumbling to identify what you deem as a strong quality in yourself, make a list of hardships you’ve overcome, goals you’ve accomplished, people you’ve touched or helped.
Consider the people around you. Are they helping to bolster and support you or are they negative, condescending, or in some way reinforcing your own negative self talk? Are these the people you want in your support system? As you step away from toxicity and negativity, it becomes easier to quiet your own inner critic. Would you ever talk to a dear friend or loved one the way you berate yourself?
Accepting where you are in your life now may involve grieving the loss of unrealized dreams, forgiving yourself, and understanding that acceptance isn’t resignation. Buddha names the mind’s 3 poisons as greed, hatred, and delusion. Wanting more “stuff”, being angry or hating someone else, and not accepting things as they are but as we wish they would be, stifles our growth and keeps us stuck in the repetitive cycle of comparison and vacillating self-esteem.
For a quick quiz to see where you rate with your own self-acceptance: http://www.oprah.com/spirit/How-Self-Acceptance-Can-Crack-Open-Your-Life. There is also a 10 day plan by Robert Holden with step-by-step skills to learn this precious art of self-acceptance. It’s time.
“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
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