The largest aspect to self acceptance, in my opinion, is the mental and emotional approach one takes in day to day life.
How do you think of yourself?
How would you describe yourself, your flaws and your strengths?
It’s likely that this makes you a bit uncomfortable. As humans we tend to be either modest (and sometimes utterly self depreciating), or we are egocentric and vain. There is a balance to these drastic ideas that can be achieved through practicing the art of self acceptance.
The general idea of self acceptance is that you can view yourself from an objective point of view, and be okay with what you see. The beauty of this concept is that it allows one to fully embrace their self in their current state, be able to strive to improve as a person, and to not let gap between where they are and where they would like to be discourage them from trying or being happy where they are. This idea goes hand in hand with body acceptance, though the mental approach to life and others is more so the focus of this piece.
Once one has been able to achieve the first part, they are able to have a better perspective on those around themselves.
One study conducted by a student at the University of Minnesota actually found that “a failure to love the self is accompanied by a basic hostility toward others…[due to the] suppression of the individual’s… ‘real’ self.”
In other words, those who were not okay with who they are tend to project those feelings of self hatred onto others. Sounds like a pretty miserable way to live, right?
So, how can you prevent yourself from a lifetime of this attitude?
Embrace yourself in your current state
This tends to be the most challenging part for people.
I’ve found it requires a conscious effort to speak with more compassion and kindness to myself, similar to the way that I would speak to a loved one or close friend.
The challenge this poses varies from person to person; one simple method to ease yourself into doing this is to write Self-Compassionate Letters to yourself. This idea comes from doctor and self-compassion advocate, Kristin Neff, who currently teaches at the University of Texas in Austin. Dr. Neff suggests to self-address a note which focuses on one insecurity you have and to “[express] compassion, understanding, and acceptance for the part of yourself that you dislike”. Read more Here
Self-compassion letters have also been shown to benefit participants in multiple studies. Not only does self-compassion improve the quality of life for those who chose to embrace it, it also has been found to increase the desire to better oneself.
Another study conducted by Students from the University of California in Berkley, Juliana G. Breines and Serena Chen, found that “taking an accepting approach to personal failure may make [one] more motivated to improve themselves”.
Which brings me to my next point.
Strive to improve as a person
Anyone who has taken a general psychology course has likely been educated on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. However, one noteworthy analysis published in the Journal of Health and Human Services Administration revealed a 6th level which Maslow admitted to finding later on in his life. The take away authors Lloyd Greene and George Burke found was that “people who move beyond self-actualization are, without a single exception, involved in a cause outside of their skin…’ … The concept of selflessness or the ability to look outside oneself is a critical characteristic of the highest level of human development”
Essentially, this is the intelligent and scholarly backed way to say that those who have come to know themselves as people are capable of selflessness and helping others. I truly feel that those who have learned how to care for themselves are the only ones which can fully care for others in a healthy way; With that, I believe that helping other people is the largest goal one should strive for when it comes to self improvement.
If you’ve taken the time to read these words, then I believe you are likely a person who is willing to take on the challenge of embracing self acceptance; and therefore, are more than capable of not only mastering the art, but also learning the healthy way to improve as a person.
I believe that humans do not sincerely wish to stay stagnant in any regard of their life. However, that does not mean I haven’t met many people who have made the choice to remain where they are comfortable, instead of choosing to push themselves further, physically or mentally.
There are thousands upon thousands of results when searching “Goal setting” on Google, therefore, I don’t find it necessary to get too deep into the benefits of doing so. In my experience, goal setting has been a mental practice in which I keep a huge goal in mind so that I may fixate on it; but I’ve learned in time that the best way to achieve my larger goals is to take baby steps, and to be able to celebrate the milestones while still pushing forward to the overall “big” goal.
For example, one of my biggest goals I have is to reach a healthy BMI. This has been quite the process for me. I used to become deterred because I simply was not at that final weight, but I’ve learned to take pride in every few pounds lost, because they each are a testament to my dedication and effort – and with each little milestone, I come closer to the main goal.
Sometimes goals can even be so overwhelming that one simply shuts down mentally. I feel that improving ones mental outlook on the people around them can pose quite the challenge. It requires honesty with ones self and an ability to refrain from instant judgement. It is an effort which much be repeated so it is eventually learned and then becomes a natural part of life.
For example, say you’re walking into the grocery store. You’ve had a long morning, you’re really not feeling the day. But instead of remaining upset, down and determined that the rest of the afternoon will follow the same trend, part of you has new thought.
Just because I am having a bad day, doesn’t mean I have to pass that on. Wouldn’t it be lovely if I could make other peoples days a little bit brighter?
So you smile as people pass by. You notice a man with a stylish outfit on and compliment him on it. You see a woman with a fabulous smile and tell her how lovely it is. You encounter an employee who is happy to help you out, and you express your gratitude for their work well done.
You start to verbalize the kind things you think to strangers. Yes, to people you will likely never see again or who will not likely benefit your life in any real way. Though, you start to realize that’s not true. To have given them a genuine compliment and have let them know that another person see’s the good in them – that makes them feel good and in turn, the fact that you are positively contributing to the world will likely make you feel good as well.
This is one scenario which has taken me time to become comfortable with, to approach a stranger just to tell them something which I feel is true. But the more I do it, the more I enjoy it. The more it makes me happy to see good in the world and to be sure that the good knows it is appreciated. This mindset actually contributes to me looking for the good around me, so that it can be recognized.
The consistent mental effort has allowed this to become a natural part of myself – and I believe that’s all it takes to achieve any emotional goal.
Do not get discouraged
It’s very easy to be able to feel as though because you are not where you’d like to be, that you are not good enough in your current state.
As I mentioned before, I used to wonder what the point of going to the gym 5 times a week, doing hours of cardio and cutting calories really was if it I still had so far to go. It can be incredibly frustrating and daunting, especially when you are making the effort to improve and see little to no immediate results. However, over the course of two years, I am feeling and seeing the efforts pay off. It is because I was able to enjoy the present moment that I even stuck with this entire endeavor.
I used to think that people would just find me “weird” and “strange” for approaching them just to speak a genuine kind word – but then I thought, What makes this so weird? Social expectations? How silly. I want to do this and it is beneficial to others, so I will.