We, as human beings, tend to engage in negative self-talk, we frequently put ourselves down, feel critical of ourselves, feel that we are not good enough and very often fear that other people will ‘find us out’. Our reactions are so often automatic, that we don’t even question them.
During one of my coaching sessions, my amazing coach asked me:“What would your life look like, if you shamelessly and fully accepted yourself?”
As soon as I heard this inquiry, I felt discomfort and I thought to myself: "I can't accept myself as I am. I don't think I am good enough yet. There are still so many things I still need to improve on".
But when I am not good enough yet, when will I be good enough?
The next few days I spent thinking about this inquiry and trying to reflect why am I feeling so uneasy about it. But the only thing that I got out of it, was even more discomfort.
I decided to break down the inquiry and take a bit more analytic approach to my reflection and spend more time thinking about the meaning of the words shameless and accept.
Definition of shameless
If you describe someone as shameless, you mean that they should be ashamed of their behavior, which is unacceptable to other people.
Collins dictionary defines ‘shameless’ as negative, unacceptable, something we should be ashamed of.
This is hardly what my coach meant when she was talking about shameless acceptance. But this is exactly what contributed to my discomfort.
Definition of accept
If you accept an unpleasant fact or situation, you get used to it or recognize that it is necessary or cannot be changed.
Collins dictionary defined ‘accept’ as something to get used to, something that is necessary or cannot be changed. I pride myself on taking the time to reflect and putting emphasis on self-improvement, as well as recognizing the value of continuous learning and growth. So if I accept myself for who I am, how is it going to help me grow? This will go totally against my core values and who I am.
Looking at the meaning of the words helped me understand why I felt so uncomfortable with this inquiry. Negative association with the language used, resulted in negative emotions.
That got me thinking.....
Why does shamelessly accepting myself has to be something I should be ashamed of? I am who I am, should I be ashamed of that? What if shameless in this context actually meant accepting myself ‘unconditionally’?
What would happen if accepted myself as I am. Accepting the things I love about myself, my unique strengths and abilities, as well as the things that I don’t like about myself, things that I judge about myself. At the end of the day, they are all part of me.
And when I accept myself as I am, this doesn’t mean accepting my negative qualities and giving up on changing them. It is the first step on the road to improvement and empowerment.
However, self-acceptance doesn’t depend on such improvements, it is unconditional. According to therapist Russell Grieger (2013): “unconditional self-acceptance is understanding that you are separate from your actions and your qualities. You accept that you have made mistakes and that you have flaws, but you do not let them define you.”
Unconditional self-acceptance is an expression of who I am and who I am becoming. Improving myself then becomes solely a matter of personal preference, not a prerequisite for self-acceptance.
What does unconditional Self-Acceptance mean to me?
Embracing who I am, my entire being, my flaws as well as successes and accomplishments
Accepting my strengths, abilities, skills, habits, knowing that no one is perfect and accepting any failings I may have
Accepting my circumstances and stop dwelling on past mistakes
Being less judgmental about myself
Truly accepting the unique Me as a wonderful work-in-progress person, the imperfect but authentic self
When I accept myself fully, I can recognize that I am a multifaceted human being.
This process requires self-awareness and self-compassion. It begins by learning to sit quietly by myself and looking within. Paying attention to my thought patterns and keep challenging myself when I become negative and judgmental.
What would my life look like, if I shamelessly and fully accepted myself?
I would be:
Living according to my core values
More balanced and happy - balance is not something I will find, it is something I have to create
Courageous to continue to take risks and go after my dreams
Able to endure life’s unpredictability with confidence
Less fearful of failure
Confident– realizing that my perceived negative qualities don’t define me and my worth
Making decisions for myself without needing the approval of others
Practicing self-compassion – giving myself the same kindness and care as I would always give a good friend.
Free to be myself - show up more authentically without worrying about others judging me.
More authentic and effective leader and a coach, who has genuine interest in others, trusts them and accepts them for who they are
There are times when we get caught up in trying to impress and please others. Saying things that they want to hear, acting they way they want us to act. By accepting and staying true to ourselves, we will stand more of a chance to be happy, effective and make a positive impact on those around us.
“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” ― Brené Brown
Today, I am making a conscious decision and setting an intention for myself to practice self-acceptance on a daily basis using the following 10 practices:
Celebrating who I am
Practicing gratitude and using gratitude journal
Understanding that me and everyone else will make mistakes
Practice mindfulness to become more aware of my thoughts, observing them without identifying with them
Paying attention to my thoughts and re-framing negative thoughts
Identifying what is within my control and what I cannot control
Striving to let go of the past and looking forward to the future
Practicing self-compassion. “Would I say the same to my best friend that I am saying to myself right now”?
Stop comparing myself to others – validation comes from within
Encouraging others to accept themselves and stay true to who they are
To accept myself, means stepping into my own power and no longer needing to look externally for validation. It means believing that I am good enough, exactly the way I am.
Self-acceptance is not a goal, but it is a daily practice and with practice we will become better at it.
Working with a coach is a highly effective way of building your self-acceptance. My journey of self-acceptance started with an amazing coach and so can yours.
Thanks for reading, and I wish you nothing but the best on your journey to self-acceptance!