Being Comfortable with who you are
How you feel about yourself, strengths, weaknesses (warts and all!) has a hefty influence on your happiness. Most of us are pretty tough on ourselves when we felt we’ve messed up or not been able to stick to something, perhaps you made a mistake at work, or it may be that you’ve been trying to be a bit more healthful, but then you had a rough day and managed to inhale a pie, a doughnut, heck make that 2 doughnuts in the blink of an eye. You go on to berate yourself for your mistake, or your perceived lack of self-control, or weakness or whatever you want to call it. This goes on to cause emotions like shame and fear, which in turn make us less able to improve and move forward. It’s not that you should ignore your mistakes or imperfections, quite the contrary. It’s the ability to acknowledge and accept them, that leads to opportunities to learn and grow.
And it’s as simple as being able to change the way you think and show yourself a bit of self-compassion. Your ability to accept, that like all people you have imperfections, plays a large part in your happiness (and health for that matter). It’s a shift away from the old school of thought of having high self-esteem (harmful to your happiness) and a shift towards self-acceptance (happiness boosting).
Self Esteem versus Self-Acceptance
Is our sense of value or worth. It hinges on how good we judge ourselves to be at things compared to others (i.e., performance in sport, work, school or relationships).
Given the measurement is based on comparison and judgement our sense of self-esteem will always be fragile. Not only that, but this pursuit of high self-esteem can lead us to overly focus on the positive aspects (performance) of ourselves and ignore or hide the areas we don’t feel good about. This can lead to anger or getting defensive when negative feedback is given (even if it’s constructive) as it’s a threat to our self-esteem. It also means we’re less likely to give things a go. This is going to make self-improvement difficult (if not impossible)!
Self-acceptance involves being aware of and acknowledging our whole selves, the good and not so good, without passing judgement. When we accept ourselves unconditionally, we understand there will be times we perform well, and times (sometimes despite our best efforts) we perform not so well. We’ll also make mistakes and sometimes fail, but we’ll recognise this is a normal part of life (it happens to all of us) and we’ll learn and grow from it, rather than dwell on it or beat ourselves up.
If you think about it in practise, has there been a time when you wanted to learn or do something, but from the outset, you tell yourself you’re not good enough, capable enough, or smart enough? So, you just won’t be able to do it. Did you not even try and give up before you’ve even begun? This sort of mindset is linked to self-esteem, and you can see how in life, that is going to really hold you back. Now think about approaching it from a self-acceptance perspective. You know it’s unlikely you’ll win the race, or come top of the class, and that you might struggle at times, but with perseverance and consistency, bit by bit, day by day, you will get that little bit better and stronger, the whole time benefiting from the growth and learning that comes from the experience
Self-acceptance leads to the following:
Better relationships with others
Positive body image
Better able to see other perspectives
Better at learning and growing
More likely to forgive and be kind
Helps us accept our limitations and mistakes and not dwell on them or beat themselves up
Helps us accept others limitations and mistakes
Taking caring of our health
So, the question is how do we develop self-acceptance?
The most practical way is through learning self-compassion. This is best explained if you think about a scenario where your best friend, or perhaps your child messes up or fails at something. How did you treat them, what did you say and how did you say it? Now think about yourself and messing up or failing in the same way as your friend or child, what did you say and how did you say it? Is there a difference? Most of us are a lot harsher on ourselves, undermining our ability to perform and making us overly fear failure, which in turn makes us less able to grow and improve.
Cultivating an inner voice that is like a kind and helpful friend can help us to feel happier, more confident, less stressed and better able to develop ourselves. It’s not about ignoring our mistakes but finding constructive ways to learn and move forward.
So next time you mess up or fail at something, think about what a kind neutral observer might say. Or try and apply the following;
-Kindness rather than judgement. Messing up, failing, struggling is all part of life. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Be the kind friend to yourself.
-Mindful awareness. Acknowledge your shortcomings, mistakes, struggles and the unpleasant emotions, but don’t get caught up in them or dwell on them
-Remember you’re not alone. We all make mistakes, sometimes fail and are perfectly imperfect! You won’t be the first to make this mistake and you won’t be the last.