“Embrace the glorious mess that you are!” – Elizabeth Gilbert
The concept of self-love and acceptance has become such a ubiquitous topic in the world of self-development that it’s almost cliché to those who come across it.
Most people would say, “Yes, yes… I know that I should love and accept myself”, much in the same manner that they know they should be eating their vegetables!
But do we actually know what it means to truly love and accept ourselves for all that we are, warts and all? I know, from first-hand experience, that the road to self-love is a potential minefield for the unwary. Having suffered from body-image issues in my teens and young adult years, I’m intimately familiar with the emotions and negative self-talk patterns that occur when we aren’t at peace with ourselves.
On the surface, everything seemed like it was going okay in my life. Very few could really tell that I was fundamentally dissatisfied with myself. I lived in a state of denial of my unrest and convinced myself that I could get through life with my shaky inner foundation and that there was no other better way of being.
But there’s definitely no escaping when it comes to facing your demons because life will constantly send you experiences and people that will mirror your weaknesses and wounds until you heal them. The lessons were tough and, at times, I felt like I was riding an emotional roller coaster. But it was the only way for me to receive the breakthroughs needed to realize that I had to drastically shift my paradigm.
While I’m still a work in progress, I can undoubtedly say that I’m in a stronger position than I used to be. Over the years of working as a coach and observing human behavior in my daily life, I’ve realized that I was not alone in my predicament. I could see that we’ve become a generation that’s starved of self-love.
Loving yourself and putting your interests first is now considered to be almost indulgent in a society where we’re conditioned to please others and get their approval – whether it’s by making more money, succeeding in our career or keeping our friends and family happy. Taking time to reflect on our wellbeing and what we need to feel nurtured and loved may feel unnatural and even induce guilt in us.
Even though it may seem like there’s a revolution of self-love going on, most of us don’t actually get it. We’re still running on the treadmill of modern society, trying to prove our worth through our external accomplishments. We long for common badges of success such as a hot body, fancy car or a PhD that others will admire with envy. These are merely quick fixes, based on a superficial yardstick for happiness.
Physical beauty, fame and fortune can never give us the inner peace that comes with believing that we’re lovable and worthy, no matter what we achieve in our life. We’re also incapable of expressing love, compassion, kindness and grace to others if we don’t possess it within ourselves. Self-love fuels you and gives you the solid support to withstand any storms of life, as well the capacity to enjoy its bounty.
I don’t care how stunning, smart or popular you are or how much you have in your bank account. The externals do not matter! What matters is the inner world that lies within you, beneath the façade that everyone sees. What do you really believe about yourself? Are you needy of others’ approval? Do you have access to the spiritually sourced joy and peace that comes with genuinely liking who you are?
You need to get real with yourself and be honest in your self-assessment. If you believe that your well of self-love is running dry, be kind to yourself and realize that with compassionate self-exploration, you can change things around you. For me, what really helped was working with a therapist to analyze how my family history and other elements I was exposed to in my younger years had shaped my self-concept.
In fact, psychologists have repeatedly proven that how we were raised by our family has a direct and lasting impact on our sense of personal worth. If you were brought up to believe that you’re special, regardless of your capabilities, you were raised in the school of unconditional love. But if you had to prove yourself to your family and adhere to a certain set of rules, you went to the school of conditional love.
Now if you were raised in the conditional love parenting camp, you might feel that you were dealt a bad hand in life. While you can’t change the past, you can certainly change how you feel about it. You can essentially re-parent yourself by examining and shifting old thought patterns. It will require time and patience to shift your belief systems but it’s well worth the effort!
Some of the most compelling information I’ve recently come across when it comes to accepting yourself is by well-known shame researcher, Brené Brown. The extensive work that she has done has given prominence to this epidemic and proven that we can show up in the world and be courageous, even if we feel vulnerable. We can live wholeheartedly once we accept our flaws, brokenness and imperfection.
In her seminal book, The Gifts of Imperfection, she says, “Belonging starts with self-acceptance. Your level of belonging, in fact, can never be greater than your level of self-acceptance, because believing that you’re enough is what gives you the courage to be authentic, vulnerable and imperfect.”
If you’re one of those people who aren’t sure if you’re your own BFF, you can use the checklist below to verify this. These 6 signs will tell you whether or not you love and accept yourself. If you find that there are some things that you don’t practice, you can easily begin cultivating those traits within yourself.
- You prioritize your needs: One of the fundamentals of self-love is having the ability to identify your needs and prioritizing them in your life. You’ll have a clear idea about what you need to function at your optimal level and to give your best in all areas of your life. This includes self-care rituals that fulfill your mental, emotional and physical needs, which include consuming nutritious food, getting sufficient sleep and exercise, and avoiding junk and harmful substances. Taking care of yourself enables you to be generous towards others, without feeling resentful, because you’ll be able to do it from a place of abundance.
- You don’t tolerate bad behavior from others: When you’re tuned into self-love mode, you won’t ever tolerate any form of mistreatment from others. Just as you would protect a loved one from being taken advantage of, you would be your own guardian in the face of unhealthy and toxic people. You’ll develop a knack for identifying people who aren’t good for you to be around, and you’re quick to build healthy boundaries or kick them to the curb. You value yourself enough to know that you deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, and you can clearly communicate what you will and will not accept from others.
- You’re okay with your imperfections and vulnerability: When you love yourself, you’re more likely to accept your imperfections and view them with understanding. When you make mistakes, you forgive yourself, while also learning from your experiences because you know that you’re a work-in-progress, always evolving and growing. You don’t pressure yourself to reach unreasonably high and demanding standards that stress you out and make you feel like you’re always lagging behind. You keep your inner critic in check and make it a point to speak to yourself kindly. You accept your vulnerability as a natural part of your humanness and you’re okay if you don’t always feel strong and that you have it all together.
- You aren’t into people-pleasing: When you feel whole within yourself, you release any emotional neediness and unhealthy attachments to people’s opinion of you. By being connected to your authentic self and genuinely accepting both your strengths and areas that need improvement, you don’t experience cravings for other people’s approval. If you do compromise or do favors for others, you do it because it feels right to you and you genuinely care about the person you’re doing it for, without having any expectations. If you get a compliment or words of praise, you accept it with grace and humility.
- Your capacity to love and accept others increase: As your self-love expands, you’ll find that your capacity to love others expands as well. You can’t give to others if you don’t have love within. To have healthy and functional relationships and friendships, you need a full tank of love brimming within you. Neither can you expect others to give you the love that you should be giving yourself. Any attempts to fill an inner void will inevitably breed dissatisfaction and insecurities. Self-love also causes us to be more accepting of people. We’ll find that we don’t get as irritated and bothered by their flaws because we’ve worked with our shadow, and therefore, we’re less likely to project our shadow onto people we meet.
- You invest in your growth and self-improvement: A person who loves themselves is an advocate for their dreams and believes in their capacity to fulfill their highest potential. That’s why they’re willing to do whatever it takes to reach their peak state and invest the resources required to become a better version of themselves. They see the value in the time, money and energy that they expend on endeavors that drive their progress and bring them closer towards a better future. When you have absolute faith in your abilities and vision, nothing can stop you from expressing and sharing your gifts with the world!
Self-love is a wholehearted and enduring sentiment that is fundamental to the core of your being. It comes from knowing that you were created in divine love and perfection. You were born whole and complete. All you have to do now is to realize that everything you need to blossom is already within you.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: Do you truly love and accept yourself? If not, what is stopping you from doing so?