Doesn’t it make sense that if the relationship you have with yourself is the most important, you should spend time focused on it, nurturing it and embracing it? Most of us do the opposite. We put ourselves down, we judge everything we do or say, and our inner voice is often our own worst critic. We seek to quell our self-loathing and negative self-love by looking to others for approval. We bend over backwards to please them, even swearing to change for them! But is that really the way we should go about changing our opinion of ourselves? I think not!
As I said earlier, you are a part of everything that goes in your life! That means your relationship with yourself affects everything that goes on in your life. All relationships have their challenges. The relationship with yourself is no exception. It can even be scary! But if you want to make your life the best it can be, you must have a positive relationship with yourself.
So what’s the key to doing that? Self-acceptance - the unconditional “I accept myself for who I am, with all my faults and quirks” kind.
“You've got to be able to look at the mirror and smile at yourself. If you can't do that, you've got work to do. You have to learn to get along with yourself, to like yourself, to be proud of yourself. You've got to learn to celebrate yourself. You need to be able to love yourself before you can ever appreciate anyone else who does. You're worth it. Put the work in to have the best relationship with yourself that's possible.” ~ Akiroq Brost
Now, we’re not talking about stoking the ego or saying what’s bad about you is really good. No! It is about finding compassion within yourself to accept and love who you are – all of you. It isn’t about not wanting to change; it’s more about the reason to change. Instead of changing to please others, if you love and accept yourself, you willingly transform to become your best self!
"Accept everything about yourself--I mean everything. You are you and that is the beginning and the end--no apologies, no regrets." ~ Clark Moustakas
We all know the negative ramifications of being down on ourselves. Let’s look instead at the good stuff – the positive effects of loving and accepting yourself.
If you constantly complain about yourself, your situation or other things around you, how can you possibly be happy? If you constantly try to change yourself so that others will like you, you have tethered your own happiness to someone else’s opinion. How does that serve you? It doesn’t.
If you lack self-acceptance and self-love, you may try to “buy happiness” through excessive materialism, excessive stimulation or excessive approval-seeking behaviors. All these things feed into our negative self-image. But when all is said and done, you’ve overspent and made yourself unhealthier and miserable. Then, you begin the cycle of self-loathing and seeking happiness outside yourself all over again.
If you want happiness, you need to let go the negative self-talk, of trying to fit a mold that isn’t you. You need to become your authentic self. Become who you really are! When you can accept the whole of yourself, your happiness will increase exponentially.
“Your skin is your skin. Your legs are your legs. Your hair is your hair. Your smile is your smile. Your past is your past. You can waste your life hating these things, but you may as well learn to accept them. Both routes are difficult and full of pain, but with acceptance, you will be happy one day, while with hatred, you never will.” ~ Vironika Tugaleva
Self-acceptance is the key to good relationships
Many of us put our relationships with other people ahead of our relationship with ourselves. We expect them to accept and love us. Heck, we demand it through our actions and our thoughts. We bend over backwards to please others, even going so far as trying to change who we are into something others want us to be. And we expect the same of them!
But isn’t this backwards? How can you possibly expect others around you to accept you if you don’t accept yourself first? How can anyone know you if you are constantly trying to fit an image someone else has of you rather than the image of who you truly are?
Sure, it can be downright scary to show our real selves to the world. To expose who we are. But it’s an essential step if we want to have healthy, solid relationships with everyone around us – not just our families or significant others, but our co-workers, our neighbors and even strangers we come across every day.
If you want to strengthen your relationships, first be compassionate with yourself! Forgive yourself. Accept yourself. If you engage in all relationships from a position of self-acceptance and self-love, you’ll find it much easier to maneuver the relationship maze and have unconditional love for everyone who crosses your path! You’ll also feel more confident and loving. Most importantly, it becomes your new normal. And others will respond to that in kind.
Because one believes in oneself, one doesn't try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn't need others' approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.” ~ Lao Tzu
Being constantly down on yourself is stressful and a drain on your energy. What impact do you think that has on your health? Negative energy affects your body and your mind at a cellular level. This ultimately manifests itself in illness – temporary or chronic.
Many people in the scientific and spiritual community say “you are what you think”. From a physical and mental health standpoint, they are right! If you have a poor attitude about yourself and constantly talk to yourself in a negative way, you are feeding the bad energy and making yourself sick. Feed it positive words - and believe them. It can literally turn an illness on its head and improve your health in ways you cannot imagine. Forgive your body for being ill, love it, and see what happens!
"There is much documented proof that the mind and body are connected, so acceptance of your body is not only essential for your emotional well-being, it is essential for your physical health as well. Denying your body complete acceptance can lead to illness, whereas practicing acceptance can heal disease." ~ Andrew Adler
This all sounds good, you say, but how do I do it? Here are some tips that may help:
- Express gratitude. Get into the habit of expressing gratitude for yourself and everything about you. Say thank you and mean it! Do this several times a day, especially when you first wake up and before you go to sleep. Say it lovingly, forcefully and whole-heartedly. Try it for a week and notice a difference.
- Go inward. Meditate. Spend time in quiet contemplation getting in touch with your true self on a daily basis. No judgement, just a quiet awareness of your body and mind. Find inner peace with yourself and self-acceptance becomes easier.
- Change your inner talk. Be aware of what you say to yourself. Keep a journal. Every time you say something negative about yourself, put a tick mark in it. Or, write down words you use to describe yourself. At the end of the day notice the patterns. Then, make a commitment to yourself to have a few less tick marks the next day. Or rework one negative word about yourself into a positive one. Do this daily. Self-awareness goes a long way towards self-acceptance.
- Do the mirror exercise. Stand in front of the mirror naked and listen to what your mind says to you. After you’ve let your mind vent a moment or two about what it sees, stop. Close your eyes, re-center yourself, then relook at the mirror, open your arms and say “I Love You”! Say this at least 5 times to start and increase it over time. It will feel very uncomfortable. But you know the saying – “fake it till you make it”. If you do it consistently, you and more importantly your mind, will believe it!