If you read enough personal development blogs and listen to enough people you will quite often come across some great advice. One such piece of advice that crops up regularly is that you should learn to love yourself.
You can’t learn to love yourself. It isn’t a skill that you can work on with a definite outcome. You don’t set aside 3 hours a day to practice it like you would a musical instrument. It just doesn’t work that way. You can’t suddenly decide to love another person so how on earth can you flip a switch and love yourself after x amount of years of self-loathing. You can’t.
Of course not everyone has self-loathing issues but few people genuinely like themselves either. We all have our flaws and minor quirks that we don’t like or that we feel other people don’t like in us. I am insecure with how I look. I know rationally that there is nothing wrong with me, but that doesn’t stop me noticing every single facial flaw. One day I might wake up, look in the mirror and decide my nose is too big. Another day I might look at my teeth and wish I had that perfect Hollywood smile.
As someone who regularly weight trains, I (as with most other serious gym goers) have mild body dysmorphia, where I see myself as a lot smaller than I probably look to other people. In my case, it is totally harmless but it is still an annoyance and it affects my self-esteem.
So why is acceptance key?
When you accept something, you give it room to exist. Think of any problems you may have had where felt like you didn’t know what to do. The default reaction is to worry and stress over it to the point where you’re on the verge of going insane. Accepting the problem for what it is can only help you solve it in the long run. By accepting it, the problem loses its power and you regain control.
With regards to our own self-image, acceptance is the Holy Grail. You can’t learn to love yourself but you can learn to detach how you look from who you are inside. You can also learn to detach your own personal feelings from your perception of other people’s feelings towards you.
If you have insecurities regarding how you look or how you feel inside, then focus on them. Give them room to breathe. Allow these insecurities to become part of you. I am not saying that you shouldn’t try to improve on something. If you think you are overweight then by all means try to become healthier and lose some body fat if you want to. If it is something mental like a lack of belief or you feel you aren’t up to scratch in a certain area, embrace that feeling and let it exist. At the same time, work on improving yourself and reduce these negative thoughts.
By accepting who you are and your life up to this point, you allow yourself to move forwards a lot smoother. One of my favourite sayings ‘it is what it is,’ sums up my thoughts on life in general. It is true, things are what they are.
How do I start accepting myself?
Well this is the difficult part. Whether you choose to let something go or to hold it tightly is something only you can decide. Some people base their identity on the bad things that happen to them and the thought of letting those feelings go is too much to handle.
I believe the key to accepting yourself is to focus on your biggest insecurities and go over them one by one. Recognise them and put a positive spin on to it. Here is a small list of my own insecurities and how I can learn to accept them.
- I don’t like my nose – Okay it isn’t small but I know loads of people with noses bigger than mine and I don’t really pay attention to it. Surgery aside, I can’t change it so I will ignore it.
- I currently feel that I am too fat – I know I don’t have a 6 pack right now but everyone tells me I am in shape and I have nothing to worry about.
- I am not happy with my guitar playing – Playing and getting better with a musical instrument is a never ending goal. No matter how good someone is, there is always someone better. I have been playing 14 years and I KNOW I can play well. I just have to relax and be proud of what I have achieved so far.
- I think my humour is too dry for most people – Of course not everyone will enjoy my jokes and my style of wit but that doesn’t mean anything is wrong with my personality. I know loads of people that like my humour so focus on them and not those I don’t click with.
It isn’t that hard in theory, just needs a bit of practice to get going. Every time you doubt yourself or you experience stress, take a step back and tell yourself that it doesn’t really matter. That it is what it is. If you can change it, then great but if you can’t then it isn’t worth wasting the energy. Accept it and move on.
Remember you don’t have to love yourself. That is unrealistic. You don’t even have to like yourself that much but that isn’t the point. All you have to do is accept yourself and that is something you can start doing today.