Starting my own business, showing up for that and sharing my experience as an empath has been a monumental shift in my ability to accept myself. It’s been a tremendous leap forward in terms of personal courage.
I’ve gotten to really work on feeling like I’m not enough and comparing myself to other people, or indeed, what I think they have that I don’t. I’m by no means perfect and still get insecure, but I’ve gotten much better at dealing with it.
I spent most of my life feeling super insecure and unsure about who I really was. I felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere, nobody understood me and that I wasn’t good enough – this is exactly what growing up with a narcissistic parent will do.
True acceptance is at the heart of self-love.
And self-love is at the heart of a healthy, happy life with healthy boundaries. It has taken its time but I’ve grown into a person who knows and accepts herself, and is confident in her own worth.
For me, self-acceptance means being aware of and appreciating the things that are good about me. I always strive to remember my gratitude so that I can be at peace with my current situation (no matter how far away it is from where I’d like it to be) and I strive to not take my future potential too seriously.
Plans are worthless, but planning is essential, right?
My methods of increasing my self-awareness have varied over the years – from dance to meditation to bodywork to art etc. – but the one that’s always been essential in accessing those patterns of thought that reside just beneath my conscious mind has been journaling.
1. Declutter what doesn’t reflect the true you
Take a look around: does everything in your life reflect what you love about yourself?
If it doesn’t, change it. I know this is very Marie Kondo-y but it’s important. How you take ownership of your physical space is a big part of how you take care of yourself.
It took me a long time to understand that shaping your environment with intent is so important to how you’re going to feel on a daily basis. This goes for your home or living space, the clothes you wear, and the words you let into your life.
If you want to fill your home with plants and crystals, do it. If you want your home to be cosy, make it as cosy as you can. When you look around you should feel nothing but love – the love that you put into building your life will reflect back to you. And when your life and your space reflects you, you’ll also love the person you become.
- What represents you?
- How can you bring more of those things into your life/space?
- What can you do to take this even deeper?
- Does your job/hobbies/friends/partners reflect who you really want to be?
2. Be okay with the stuff you can’t change
You can’t change the past and you can’t change things you have no power over. You have control over two things in life: how you react to what happens and what meaning you derive from it.
Yes, you can influence your future through the thoughts and beliefs that guide your actions, but you can’t control it. Even when you do everything in your power, sometimes it just doesn’t work out like you’d hoped.
You adapt and improve as you go, always doing the best you can with the information you have in that moment. Hindsight may be 20/20 but passing judgement on yourself for the past isn’t helping you move forward.
Love yourself as you are.
That includes your body – yes, even if it isn’t “perfect” right now. What you look like is less important than what you do with your life, how you treat others.
If you don’t fit into patriarchal beauty standards, fuck that. Believing that you need to look younger, thinner but curvier in the right places, more smooth-skinned with perfect hair and makeup every day is just the patriarchy’s programming telling you that there can only be one winner. That pitting women against each other so that one can become the prized broodmare is the only purpose a woman should serve in her life.
Forget that. It’s a waste of your time and talent.
Instead, do what you love and chase whatever piques your curiosity. Be like Alice in Wonderland and follow that white rabbit even though there are a bunch of expectations for you to the contrary.
I mean, did you ever hear Alice complain she was bored? Hell no.
She took her fate into her own hands and went on adventure. Sure, it had ups and downs and it wasn’t all fun, but the personal transformation of a journey like that is worth it.
Remember: discomfort is the price of admission to a life worth living.
What you can’t change you can’t change, and there’s no point in crying over it. Instead, look at what you can do and what action you can take to make things better. I promise; you won’t regret it.
3. Life is a social construction anyway
If we get really technical, what we call reality is actually a hallucination. Because your brain sits inside a black box and can’t see or hear what’s going on around you.
So, at any given time what you perceive is your brain’s best, most educated guess based on the input of sensory information it receives from your body.
We’re literally all just hallucinating every moment of our life.
And when two of us have very similar hallucinations and are able to agree on something, we call that reality. We call that truth.
And when a lot of us get together and agree on these truths on a large scale, those are called social constructs. A social construct is something that exists not in objective reality, but as a result of human interaction.
It exists because we humans agree that it exists.
Social constructs emerge from the shared experience of a group of people, a society or civilisation. This shared knowledge is the basis for communication, cooperation, productivity, peaceful coexistence and quality of life.
Nations, societies and laws are all social constructs. They exist because we believe and agree that they exist.
Money and the concept of currency exists because enough people have agreed to give it value.
Social norms and roles are social constructs – think of the power we give a judge, and how in some cultures you shaking hands is the respectful thing to do when you meet a person whereas in other cultures you touch your palms together and bow as a greeting with no physical contact.
Social constructs vary based on the society and events that give birth to them. They change over time, too. Women didn’t used to have the right to vote, to own property or have bank accounts in their own names.
“I am not who you think I am;– Charles Cooley
I am not who I think I am;
I am who I think you think I am”
When you don’t fit into the dominant culture you’re surrounded by, it’s because your gender, skin colour, religion, personality, or whathaveyou, is stacked against you and you receive messages every day that you’re different, that who you are is wrong and not good enough.
But what if, in your imperfection, you’re actually perfect?
And instead, it’s the social construct around you that need adjusting? We’re constantly adjusting our social constructs as things change and attitudes transform anyway – slavery was abolished and countries have shaken off oppressors to gain independence.
Since change is the only constant, the only question that remains is, which side of history were you on?
4. Who said you have to settle?
And this can be the year that you learn to not settle. For anything.
You can learn about boundaries. Learn that it’s okay to say ‘no’. Learn to put your energy and how you want to feel above all else.
Holding on to things – jobs, people, your financial situation, your plans – because you’re afraid there won’t anything better if you let it go is very common. But there is always something better, as long as you don’t let yourself settle for that which doesn’t make you truly happy.
Every time you refuse to settle – no matter how scary it is to walk away from it – you honour your own true worth.
Over time this leads to a deep self-love and sense of self-acceptance. Not to mention bigger, better things for you!
When it comes to crafting your life, be brutally honest with yourself. If you’re crying on the job and feeling like if you don’t do this, if you don’t pay your dues here, you’ll never find a way in, believe yourself. Find a better way.
“If you aren’t having fun, you’re fired.”– Pentti Malaska, my grandfather, futurist & founder of the Finland Futures Research Centre
5. Do what you love
Most of us don’t do what we really love because we’re afraid of being judged for it. Or because we’re afraid to fail at something we don’t know how to do.
If you’re a metalhead but you can’t sit still any time you hear Celtic music, embrace it! Go sign up for Irish dancing classes, learn to play the bodhran or learn Irish. Let your love of whatever you love be free!
When you accept what you love you’ll find others who love the same things you do.
So, what do you really love to do? And are you doing it as much as you’d like to?
6. Speaking up is a skill you can learn
When it’s new to you, start small. Offer your opinion on little things, speak up about the small stuff.
If you find it scary and worry about inconveniencing other people with your thoughts and needs – don’t. Your silence is what will ensure that you lose the people who are important to you and miss out on opportunities that would mean the world to you.
The more you speak up, the more you’ll learn to love and accept the person behind that voice. You.
All of my failures can be traced to my silence. Every. Single. One.
I’ve overpaid for things because I didn’t want to appear unreasonable, so I didn’t negotiate. I didn’t want to demotivate people working with me so I just didn’t bring it up. I hurt people’s feelings because I held to my silence.
I failed to protect. Filed to lead. Failed to make art. Failed to love. Failed to speak up.
In between ‘failure’ and ‘success’ are all the painful things that make us so much more complex and beautiful. And after you lose out on a Big Dream because you kept our mouth shut, after you took a piece of someone’s heart because you took the easy (silent) way out, speaking up stops looking like a big, heroic act and just becomes more practical.
Practical as in voicing your truth becomes a practice in your life. Voicing the truth isn’t the easier thing to do by any measure, but the lightness it brings with it is irreplaceable. Because every time you hold on to your silence, you add more weight to burden you carry.
The more you voice the truth, the easier it becomes.
When you use your voice every day you also get access to more courage, to compassionate humour, to an increased level of connection with those you love.
Your voice is a muscle which you need to rise to the occasion of your life. It’s called speaking up because inherent to it is the action of standing up.
The road to mediocrity is easy and the rewards trivial.
7. Never put yourself down
You are your own toughest critic.
Especially if you’re always striving for “perfect”. When you have a need to be or appear as perfect, that’s an obstacle you put between the perfect version of you and you right now.
Acceptance means loving who you are; the good, the bad, the ugly truth.
Everyone makes mistakes and everyone is bad at something, so don’t put yourself down for that. You can always learn and improve, but you should be aiming for progress instead of perfect.
And admit to yourself when you’re feeling worried, when you’re wrong or feeling confused.
Admit it when you need help and ask for it.
Putting yourself down because you aren’t a good cook isn’t going to make you a better cook. It’s only going to make you avoid even learning how to cook. If you’re best signature dish is a cup-o-noodles, embrace that! And if you want to get better at cooking, think about what you can add to your cup-a-noodles to turn it into a gourmet cup-a-noodles instead.
8. Life is the ebb and flow of things
And it’s easier to love and accept yourself when things are good. When the shit hits the fan, it’s easier to remember all the bad stuff about yourself, all the things you did wrong.
But there are times when you’ll grow and times when you’ll stagnate. Times when life will knock you to your knees and make you question every part of your identity.
The hard times are your chance to grow, your chance to change and evolve, and I encourage you to embrace them. Rise to the occasion and learn from the experience.
Cultivate the words “I forgive you” and “I’m sorry” in your life and in your inner dialogue.
And know that the challenging times will pass, you just have to ride it out. So, be patient with yourself and don’t demand too much too soon.
9. Get comfortable with not knowing
Negotiation specialist Chris Voss said there are the known knowns, the things we do know, and the unknown unknowns, those things that we don’t know that we know but that can turn everything on its head once we know them.
Find in yourself that willingness to be okay with not knowing.
Accept that there are the things you do know, the things you know you don’t know and the things you don’t know that you don’t know.
And find out what, in any particular situation, you’re comfortable with not knowing.
Not knowing how that movie ends. Not knowing what someone in the cheap seats said about you. Not knowing if you’ll fail or succeed at a new thing. Not knowing where life will take you.
Life is lived in this moment.
And there are a lot of things that will still change or that are simply unimportant.
Where in your life are you asking questions that you can’t (or won’t) really answer? Can you let it go? Be okay with not knowing?
If you struggle with accepting yourself exactly as you are, where you are today, sign up to my emails below and get the best advice your mother never gave you.