I don’t know a single person in my life who has not struggled with finding a place of peace with at least some part of their physical self or their personality. Whether it is their emotional issues, or the way their butt looks in jeans, there’s always something to be overly critical about.
Part of the human experience is pairing navigation of the outside world with navigation of our own being. Finding our way through the chaos and the unknowns that make up everything outside of ourselves is tough enough on it’s own. It requires a lot of strength to accept the things we cannot control or change.
It’s inherently more difficult, however, to learn to be more accepting and loving of the only thing we DO have control over. Our selves.
Here are a few tools to use when you are struggling with being your own worst enemy, and need to embrace some radical self acceptance so you can be your own best friend.
1. Recognizing & Changing Negative Self-Talk
We are all guilty of this – and it is probably the most common way we keep ourselves trapped in a cycle of self-hate. Next time you’re feeling down about yourself and hear your thoughts turning towards the negative, it’s time to take immediate action.
Turn an “I can’t do this” into an “I’m learning how to do this so it will take me some time, and I won’t give up!”
Or an “I completely screwed this up” into an “I made the choices I made because they were right for me at the time with the knowledge I had. I have learned new things since then, and I see the ways I can do it differently in the future.”
A great way to get into this habit, is to think of how you would comfort a friend who was talking about themselves that way, and give YOURSELF the same kindness and love you would show them! Sometimes writing down all the negative thoughts on one paper, and then re-writing the same thoughts with a more positive spin on another can help to you really see the difference, and make the course adjustment faster.
2. Honesty > Denial
When I was in therapy last (earlier this year), my therapist gave me a homework assignment one night that asked me to name my 5 favourite qualities about myself. Number one was honesty. I sent the assignment back to her and in our next session she talked with me about that specific quality at great length, and she challenged me on it too!
She asked me what percentage of the time was I being honest with others. I said 95 percent of the time – and the other 5 percent is either because I don’t want to hurt someone who is already hurting, or because I could be damaged by sharing that honesty at that time.
Then she asked me what percentage of the time I was being honest with myself and I said 100 percent of the time.
As it turns out, I was 100 percent wrong.
Through further discussion, I realized that I was doing the same thing with myself that I was doing with other people – PROTECTING them (and myself) from what I considered to be potentially painful truth, even if sharing the truth would have been better for everyone in the long run. I was, in fact, in denial about my own ability to be honest 100 percent of the time.
Denying the truth hurts everyone more, eventually. I think we all know that is a fact. Do yourself a favour and be honest 100 percent of the time, and that includes being honest with yourself. Deliver the truth with kindness and love, and then you can be the one person you always trust!
3. To Forgive Is Devine…
I’ve talked about the importance of forgiveness of the self and of others in previous articles as well. That should indicate just how important it really is to our mental and emotional well-being!
Carrying around the burden of guilt and shame for extended periods of time is a part of the cycle of self-sabotage, and it can lead into acting out those same behaviours we feel guilty and ashamed about again. The longer you let them stay in your heart, the more likely the cycle will repeat itself.
The one thing that helps me remember to forgive myself for my mistakes is to make sure I learn the lesson that goes with it.
For example, I have struggled with managing my weight since my daughter was born. This year I started the ketogenic diet in February and was doing very well for about three months. Then, I experienced an emotional event that distracted me from continuing my progress and I stopped the diet completely.
Instead of beating myself up about it, I gave myself some time to focus on my emotional well being and then went back to consider why I always give up on my diet first when I’m feeling bad about other things. I figured out that I am an emotional eater; foods that are bad for me (carbs and sugar) are the things I crave when I’m sad.
I’ve forgiven myself for that – because I simply didn’t know that about myself at the time. And now that I do, I can start over again from a more prepared place.
My mom always says “You don’t know until you do.” – and when you remember that, you can forgive yourself (and anyone else for that matter) for anything.
4. Celebrate You!
Even those of us who struggle with self-acceptance have moments where we are really “feeling ourselves” from time to time.
Those are the moments we must embrace to the utmost of our capabilities!
Take time to think about all the things you already LOVE about being you. Maybe you’re exceptionally funny, or a great listener.. Maybe you have a beautiful singing voice, or a bangin’ body! No matter what the things are that you like about yourself, think about them every day.
In the morning when you first wake up is a good time to give yourself some love. I started leaving myself love notes in places where I know I will see them the next day to give me a little boost.
Seeing a post-it on my fridge that says “Hey Becca, you’re a kind, beautiful and honest person and the world is lucky to have you” makes me smile. It’s actually even more meaningful and rewarding when you talk to yourself that way!
5. A Little Patience
There is good reason why self acceptance is one of the hardest things to learn! Especially for those of us with empathic, altruistic hearts. Because the self is a very complex and multi-faceted being, AND the only thing in this world we can control, it makes sense that we will not always know exactly what to do right away!
You wouldn’t get behind the wheel of a car for the first time and expect to know exactly how to drive it safely right away, would you?
Give yourself time. New skills require practice to become habit.
And, as people we are always changing and growing (or we should be anyway), so we will constantly need to make adjustments as we take on new knowledge.
The journey to self acceptance never ends – it’s something we will always need to work at every day!
You WILL catch yourself in patterns of negative self-talk, and not being honest with yourself,, forgiving yourself, or celebrating yourself. And all of that is okay! Just remember that “You don’t know until you do.”
And only then, can you do something about it.