Contributor: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC, President at Eating Disorder Hope
Self-acceptance is an act of bravery. It can be difficult to give up illusions of grandeur that we would like to believe about ourselves now or hope to attain in the future. If we have a low self-esteem to begin with, it can be quite tempting to create an illusion of an ideal self and embark upon an endless quest to become this perfect person.
The problem is the pursuit of perfection is exhausting, frustrating and unrealistic. Yet many of us cling to our ideal self-illusion in the hopes that we will one day become this. Or we pretend to be something we are not in an attempt to impress others with our false self.
Hiding Our Faults and Bottling It Up
The hiding of faults (real and imagined), deficiencies, inadequacies, etc. is tempting to all of us. We all want to greet the world with an “I’ve got it all together” persona. We may feel empowered by hiding what we wish were different about ourselves and emphasizing what we are proud of.
That is human nature and not a real problem, until we start to reject parts of ourselves. The more we deny or reject aspects of ourselves, the more unacceptable we feel.
When rejecting oneself, a sense of isolation and despair follows. It can become unbearable to be in one’s skin and we become vulnerable to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addictions, etc.
Seeing Children As Inspiration
As I observe babies, toddlers and small children, it is glorious to watch these little beings embrace their unique selves, and feel utterly comfortable in their bodies and activities. What happens between those wonderful “I am great just the way I am” early years and early adolescence, that causes us to begin to reject aspects of ourselves?
Even more importantly, why would we change our normal state of self-acceptance, and authenticity, for one of engaging in an artificial self-design to win approval of others? When does how others perceive us become more important, than how we perceive ourselves?
Causes of Our Changing Self-Perception
Certainly, some of the causes include:
- Feedback we get along the way from others that causes this internal shift. We may observe and conclude that we have more power, influence and popularity if we live up to the ideal standards of our peer group, family or society. Yet then conclude we don’t make the cut.
- We may compare ourselves to others and find that we don’t measure up to another’s looks, accomplishments, athletic ability, etc. and decide we are unworthy.
- We may set unrealistic goals for ourselves, fail to attain these and decide we are just not very successful or able to perform at “acceptable” levels.
Coming to Accept Ourselves
Coming to accept ourselves “as is” requires bravery because it requires an unabashed true accounting of our strengths and weaknesses and then concluding that we are good enough, no matter what.
This is the way we hope to love our own children and families, we want to give them unconditional positive regard as we intuitively know that this will help them to believe in themselves and flourish.
Offering the same acceptance to ourselves can be challenging. For me, it is quite a narcissistic injury to give up the dream of this idealized self and instead, accept who and what I am today. Yet, it also frees me to relax, not be so strained and enjoy life in the moment.
This is not a throwing in of the towel toward achieving goals, not by any stretch, as it is when I feel the freedom and energy in self acceptance that I am able to pursue my dreams. But, there is a caveat: It is that I know I am good now, as is.
I will greatly enjoy these realized goals and ambitions, when and if they happen, but I will not have any greater self love or acceptance. Simply put: my worth is not contingent on my appearance, achievements or approval from others.
The Satisfaction and Comfort of Self Acceptance
Self-acceptance feels like a warm quilt around your soul. It is the sense that all is well within my being and that I can live with and accept my ups and downs in life without wavering in the love, respect and compassion I provide to myself.
It is an appreciation of my unique gifts and talents and recognizing the value of who I am simply as a human being created by God, in his image.
Be brave! I encourage you to radically accept yourself, too, and get on with the business of being who and what you were created to be in this life. We need you, all of you, just as you are.
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on November 11th, 2014
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com