Everyone struggles with self-love and acceptance some of the time. Even the most outwardly confident people can still have inner struggles when it comes to loving and accepting themselves. This struggle is an inevitable part of working to heal whatever wounds we may each carry, and paying attention to our self-growth in order to thrive.
Learning to truly accept who you are and genuinely loving yourself is critical to your wellbeing, and your ability to show up in life fully. Our self-worth is the driving force behind all of our interactions and experiences in life, and how we choose to navigate them. How we feel deep down about ourselves can impact our reactions, perceptions and behaviour towards everyone and everything in our lives.
If we are able to learn to love and accept ourselves for who we authentically are, without putting conditions on that, or feeling the need to change in order to feel worthy or valued, it means that we are more equipped to create a life that we find fulfilling. This in turn, helps us to thrive and give back without unnecessary pressures or limits on our shoulders.
If we are constantly comparing ourselves to others, judging our internal thoughts, and holding ourselves up to standards that we would not expect others to fulfil, we are likely to feel depleted, pressured, anxious and not good enough.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of external pressure (obvious and subliminal) in our world to hide or ‘fix’ any type of perceived imperfection or flaw we may have. But this is not sustainable, nor warranted, and will probably leave you fighting a constant internal battle of feeling pressured, pulled back, and potentially miserable.
Everyone has a beautiful, unique combination of things to offer the world, if they allow themselves the chance to tap into that. Try not to get distracted or led astray by outside factors that ultimately, will not make you happy if they aren’t aligned to who you are, and your true values.
Getting to a place of self-acceptance and love can take a lot of work, ongoing awareness and learning to be compassionate with yourself. But it can be so freeing to come to a place of being kind, gentle and accepting of yourself, and comfortable in your own skin.
Below are 7 things to think about for improving self-love and acceptance, so that you can thrive in life, rather than just get by;
You do not need to change, or reach certain ideals, to be loved, worthy or accepted
Throughout life we are often taught to place our self-worth and value on approval and love from others, or external conditions such as getting good grades at school, reaching certain milestones in our career, or owning a certain possession like a house, type of car or the latest smartphone.
Everyone just wants to be loved, that is a given. The problem arises when we feel we are not lovable or worthy just being ourselves, but that we need to change something about ourselves, or we need to accomplish specific things, in order to be loved, valued or worthy.
Often, we set ourselves goals and think once we have achieved them, then we will be happy, and everyone will place more value on us. Unfortunately, in a lot of circumstances, we reach that goal and still feel unfulfilled, and our relationship with the outside world and those in it goes unchanged. And that’s often because we don’t need to change our appearance, grades at school, job title, or bank balance, we need to change our inner dialogue, our perspective about who we are, and our definition of worthiness.
Reframe your thinking
When we’re so distracted by outside criteria being met, we usually don’t allow ourselves to have the headspace to look deeper and find out who we actually are without these external pressures, because we tend to be so focused on them so much of the time.
A helpful strategy is to take a step back and just ‘be’ for a while. Schedule in some time each day to sit and be still with your own thoughts rather than constantly ‘doing’ to see what comes up for you. Write your thoughts down if that is helpful for you, so that you can work through them and figure out if they are fact or whether you or others are putting unnecessary pressure on yourself. Try asking yourself – does this thought really change the essence of you are as a person, and what you deserve in life? Should it be the criteria by which you receive love, comfort and joy?
When we question our self-worth in this way, it’s hard to believe that our value solely depends on things such as a grade, a job title or clothing size. Is this how you value others? Do you love a friend because they got a promotion at work, or because they’re funny and make an effort to spend time with you? Would you love your mum because she’s a size 10 in clothing, or because she comforts you when you’re upset, cheered you on at the finish line at your school sports carnivals, and always knows how to rub your back and make you feel better when you’re sick? We should value ourselves in the same way that we value others.
Respect yourself and know you are worthy of joy
If you don’t already, it’s time to make a conscious choice to respect yourself as you do others, and honour your worth and your needs daily, despite what external criteria you may or may not have met.
If you’re not used to trying to accept yourself as you are, without meeting certain criteria, this will be challenging, and will take a lot of effort to overcome. You may need to bring in outside help for this to happen in the form of a supportive loved one or a professional like a counsellor to help you challenge your thinking when you’re being unrealistic or harsh with yourself.
But once you really work on this, and commit to framing your thinking about yourself in a respectful and nurturing way, what initially takes conscious effort will become easier.
It’s also important to carve out space in your life to create and accept joy daily. When we solely rely on external criteria and people to provide us with joy and satisfaction, we are often disappointed when, or if, they fall short. Allow yourself to learn what will truly bring you joy and love yourself enough to create that, for yourself.
Prioritise your needs
Prioritise healing whatever might need to be healed for you. Know that your needs matter. Focus on yourself, and the person that you genuinely want to be, rather than the kind of person you think you should be according to others.
Your gut feelings are brilliant at giving you the messages that you need to take notice of and follow. Everyone is an individual, and what works for someone else will not necessarily work for you. Follow your inner voice when it comes to making choices and decisions that will enhance your life.
Rather than constantly comparing yourself and your life to others, try to concentrate on your own growth and remember, absolutely no one is perfect. No one has it all together and figured out- everyone is battling something.
Taking the time to sit down and define your needs is a great process to go through, to have more clarity about what it is that is really important to you. Over time, as we grow and experience new chapters in our lives, our needs tend to change. It is good to try to get into the habit of consciously evaluating your needs regularly, and if they are being met or not, and what changes you might need to implement to meet your needs.
Grab a pen and paper and ask yourself;
- What is not working for me right now?
- Why? What negative effect is it having on me?
- What are some small and realistic steps I can take to change this for the better?
- What small step will I take now to help this improve?
If you’re struggling finding the answers to these questions, sometimes it can help to talk through your challenges and potential solutions with a trusted loved one, counsellor or support service.
Keep asking yourself the question “Does this support the life I want?”
This question can help with figuring out what our true values are, and what will ultimately make us happy. Our choices and decisions around self-love and acceptance can be so much clearer when framing our thinking around this question.
From things like whether our self-talk is helping or hindering us, whether we are eating or drinking based on our emotions rather than our need for nourishment or enjoyment, whether we’re working so hard on earning that promotion because we want the image the title will give us, or because it will fulfil our actual interests and enrich our days spent doing work that has meaning for us, and whether spending time with particular people is having a positive or negative influence on us. This question can guide you to nurture the life that you want and care for your truest self more authentically.
Loving and accepting yourself takes work. We will stumble every now and then, but mistakes are learnings within themselves, if we choose to see them that way. Keeping this question in the back of your mind is almost like having a compass that guides and reminds you about what you want for yourself, and whether you are honouring that or hindering it in your everyday thinking, decisions and actions.
Keep your thoughts and self-talk in-check
Learn to provide yourself with the kindness, forgiveness, and patience you so freely give to others. And please remember, we have people in our lives that love us for who we are, see our value, and appreciate our worth.
We are often our own worst critic; we are harder on ourselves than we ever would be with others. Would you say half of the things you think about yourself about someone that you care about? Think about that the next time you start that negative self-talk, or set those unrealistic expectations for yourself. If you wouldn’t say it to your friend, or loved one, then why say it about yourself?
Think about how you react if someone gives you a compliment or acknowledges a job well done. Do you accept it, really take it on board and say thank you, or do you brush it off and not really even register what is being given to you? Accept that positive feedback!
Distance yourself from toxic people
If unfortunately, you have people in your life that do not treat you well, break down your self-esteem, or place unrealistic expectations on you in order to feel loved or worthy, please try to distance yourself from their influence, or break free of them completely if you are able to.
This can be easier said than done, but know that you aren’t alone and there are supports in place to help you if you need them. Seek the support of a trusted friend or loved one to help you through this distancing, and if you don’t have a loved one or friend to confide in, the following supports can help;
Lifeline 13 11 14
Beyondblue 1300 22 4636
National sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling 1800 737 732