Experiencing feelings of shame and ‘not being good enough’ can have a huge impact on our lives. It can create worries and anxieties and hold us back from pursuing opportunities, relationships and happiness.
I truly believe cultivating self accepting, or an attitude of ‘I’m enough’ is one of the most important and worthwhile things we can do.
For women, many of our worries and shame are around trying to meet unrealistic expectations. I’m sure loads of you can relate to that. It might be a need to be perfect, to ‘achieve’ all the time, or to look a certain way. Body shame is the most common source of ‘not feeling good enough’ for women, says shame and vulnerability researcher Brene Brown.
For men it tends to be different, states Brene, where much of men’s shame is around being perceived as weak. Issues around not being confident, strong, successful or wealthy enough very often come up for men.
A first step in self acceptance is seeing ourselves as worthwhile and valuable despite our imperfections.
In her book, ‘Rising Strong’, (I highly recommend this book) Brene Brown talks about her research into ‘shame resilience’ and overcoming the negative feelings associated with failure. She notes that one of the most important things to recognise is that ”people are always doing their best with what they know and the resources that they have at the time”.
If you look back at a past failure or mistake that you made, instead of thinking to yourself ‘what an idiot!’; remember that you did your best. If you had of known better, you would have done better. Recognising that other people are doing their best can also help us to be more accepting of them, too.
One of my favourite quotes about self acceptance is this:
“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.”
~ Thích Nhất Hạnh
An interesting study found that those who are accepting of others are likely to be accepting of themselves too. This is interesting since if you feel judged or unaccepted by someone in your life, it’s likely that they are judgemental and unaccepting of themselves too!
Remember that this unaccepting attitude is about them, it’s not because there is something wrong with you. It comes back to the fact that accepting yourself is the most important thing.
A coach of mine once gave me the example of caring for a child or a sick relative. That child or relative isn’t able to earn money, win awards, they may not win beauty competitions, they very likely will make ‘mistakes’ at times. But we love and accept them anyway.
We love them for who they are, not what they do.
Often we’ll judge ourselves for not doing or achieving enough or for making mistakes. We forget that our worth doesn’t actually depend on what we do or don’t do. We’re worthwhile just for being the imperfect human-beings that we are.
I think nature has a huge amount to teach us about self acceptance.
I recently went for a walk in Kew Gardens which is a huge nature park in London. There, the leaves on the trees were bursting with golden and orange shades, ducks and birds roamed free and mushrooms sprouted happily in the leaf mould.
The gnarly branches of a tree don’t much care about what you think of them.
The mushrooms don’t fret about their irregular shape.
Birds don’t worry about the tunefulness of their singing.
Nature just expresses itself. It just is what it is, and it’s beautiful, in all its imperfections.
When we look at nature we’re able to see the beauty despite the imperfections.
And guess what? You’re a part of nature too! Can you recognise yourself as a part of nature and realise that you’re ok just as you are, and that you’re doing your best?
And, just like nature, you’re constantly evolving, learning, growing and getting better, all the time.
So there are a few on my thoughts on self acceptance. I’ll leave you with a final quote from Louise Hay:
”You have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”
I’d love for you to let me know in the comments where you are on your path to self acceptance and any tips or insights that you have.