”You have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” – Louise Hay
Experiencing feelings of shame and worthlessness can have a huge impact on our lives. It can create anxieties and hold us back from pursuing opportunities, relationships, and happiness. Many of our worries stem from trying to meet unrealistic expectations. It might be the need to be perfect, to ‘achieve’ all the time, or to look a certain way. Cultivating self-acceptance is one of the most important and worthwhile things we can do for ourselves. Fortunately, self-acceptance is something we can nurture. Here are eight simple things that will help you to embrace every facet of yourself:
- Forgive yourself. Past regrets can prevent us from practicing self-acceptance. When you make a mistake or don’t succeed at something, instead of berating yourself, remember that you did your best with the information you had at the time. In fact, we are all doing the best with what we know and the resources we have. Recognizing that can help you be more accepting of yourself and of others, too.
- Celebrate your strengths and put them in writing. We are often much better collectors of our shortcomings than our strengths. Hone in on your strengths and remind yourself of them by keeping a list. Add to it each day and review it often. You’ll soon see that you are an amazing person with many remarkable, lovable qualities.
- Believe in yourself. You are capable of accomplishing great things. Believe that you can do anything because you can. You are a strong and powerful being, and you can deal with any challenge that comes your way.
- Perform acts of kindness. When you sacrifice something for someone in need, whether it be time, money, personal belongings, expertise, or whatever you have to give, it’s hard not to feel good about the wonderful person you are inside.
- Realize that acceptance is not Think of acceptance as letting go of the past and the things you cannot control. This allows you to focus your energies on that which you can control, which can be very empowering.
- Surround yourself with support. Distance yourself from negativity—anyone who puts you down and doesn’t support your journey to self-acceptance. Replace them with people who have generally positive personalities and are in your corner.
- Practice gratitude. When you wake up each morning, identify three things that you feel grateful for and appreciate about your life. These things can be based on the past, present, or future. No category or thing is too big or small to appreciate,
- Be a friend to yourself. When your little voice begins to say unkind things, ask, “Would I say these things to a friend?” If you wouldn’t, then don’t say them to yourself either.
Happiness and self-acceptance go hand in hand—your level of self-acceptance determines your level of happiness. Take time to appreciate yourself and to acknowledge your value. The rewards you reap will be well worth the effort.
By Andrew Walen, LCSW-C, LICSW, CEDS, Founder, Executive Director at The Body Image Therapy Center.