What is Self-Acceptance?
We see a lot of Self-acceptance quotes on the internet nowadays. Maybe we too have posted it on our social media. Well, the straightforward question would be, what actually is self-acceptance? Does it refer to just accepting everything in our life and settling for whatever that is happening? Does it mean that we just give up on improving or changing?
Certainly, there are a lot of people who apparently “accept” themselves “as they are”.
How many times have we heard people say:
“I’m just the way I am”
“I’m born this way”
“I can’t change, I have been doing this for so many years”
“This is how it has been in our family for generations”
“This is how everybody is, so am I”
Or nowadays people have apparently become smart at labeling, so they would label themselves as a particular “Personality Type” by taking some online personality test.
Is this what it really means to accept one’s self?
Let’s dive a bit deeper into understanding true Self-Acceptance.
We are first going to discuss a few important concepts of self-awareness be able to understand and implement self-acceptance to a higher level into our lives. Then we will briefly go through its effect on several areas of our life and then finally HOW to exactly work towards attaining self-acceptance and harmony with ourselves.
Let’s do it!
Our Tendency to Model Others
We naturally have this tendency to model fellow human beings whom we spend most of our time with. When we were little kids, we all used to copy and model other people and that is how we learned to talk, act and behave in certain ways.
Modeling is a really powerful tendency that we all possess. Interestingly, most of the time we are modeling people un-consciously, without us being aware of it. That is why in Islamic teachings and in the area of personal development, the influential effects of the people we choose to spend our time with, is highly emphasized.
It is important that we become consciously aware of the process of influence upon us and who we are consciously or unconsciously trying to model. This can sculpt our life for better or for worse, all depending upon who we choose to model.
Those who surround themselves with empowering and positive people are more likely to develop similar character virtues and habits which in turn, will lead them towards similar results of the people they chose to model. Same goes for the opposite as well. If we focus or spend our time and attention towards negative people, we will get results accordingly.
“A good friend and a bad friend are like a perfume-seller and a blacksmith: The perfume-seller might give you some perfume as a gift, or you might buy some from him, or at least you might smell its fragrance. As for the blacksmith, he might singe your clothes, and at the very least you will breathe in the fumes of the furnace.”
Having said that, let’s not forget that every single one of us is a unique individual who is second to none on this entire planet. There are certain aspects of our own self which are totally unique to us.
The problem arises when people try to model and copy others to the extent that they lose their own unique identity and their own unique way of contributing to the world. Many of us forcefully push ourselves to fit into the society and be just like everyone else, and in doing so, we suffocating the true expression of our own unique existence.
The thing is, we don’t have to lose ourselves to be a loved, respected and to become a successful and fulfilled human being. In fact, it is quite the opposite. The most loved and respected people in the world are those who manifested their true expression, rather than trying to please the society.
We must remember that there are unique and natural characteristics that Allah has designed within our own self which makes us stand out.
Unrealistic Expectations of An Ideal Life
Many of us don’t like certain things about ourselves. The Reason? Because we have set our bars to unrealistic expectations. After being conditioned for years by the society and media, we have unconsciously developed an unrealistic internal image of an ideal, picture-perfect life.
It is failing to meet these expectations that result in frustration, depression, and an unfulfilled life that is void of inner peace.
In this age of glamour and internet media, excessive yet SELECTIVE exposure and partial insights into the lives of some celebrated people we call “Celebrities”, have caused us to forget the fact that we humans are NOT PERFECT! Neither is this world a perfect place.
The things that are shown on the TV or the internet, are mostly NOT REAL!
And even if some of it is real (for those of us who like to watch “vlogs”), it is very important to realize that the portion of life that is shown in a 5-10 minute vlog is an extremely small percentage of their real life.
We don’t know what goes on when the camera is turned off. Those vloggers or celebrities only show the highlights of their lives, yet many of us unconsciously develop expectations of an ideally perfect life. Then we unconsciously start to compare our lives with theirs and we all know what that feels like.
The Demons of “SUPPOSE TOs”
With the burdens of “SUPPOSE TOs” of the society upon us, we have subconsciously set certain prerequisites for almost everything in life, even for happiness, confidence, self-worth, and fulfillment.
“You are supposed to do this”
“You are supposed to be like this”
“You are supposed to act like this”
“You are supposed to say this”
“You are supposed to get an A+ grade.”
“You are supposed to get that degree.”
“You are supposed to get that kind of a job.”
“You are Not supposed to do/act/be/say that”
Haven’t we heard (or said) such statements our entire life?
We unconsciously carry this burden on our shoulders to meet these unquestioned criteria of life to be able to become happy, to fit in, to be accepted, and attain some level of satisfaction.
We rarely ask the counter question;
“According to WHOM are we supposed to do that, or be like that?!”
Such unquestioned and unscrutinized internal beliefs that we have adopted from external sources (friends, relatives, society/societal norms, peers, media etc.) has resulted in us being unsatisfied and unhappy with ourselves and our lives.
When we closely pay attention, we will notice that most people are always trying to become something or someone. Constantly trying to change certain natural characteristics of themselves with the belief that it will bring them happiness, respect, love and acceptance in the society.
Believe it or not, it’s deep rooted with in most of us unless we consciously choose to work on resolving these unconscious patterns of thinking.
At some point, we’ve all seen someone ahead of us and wished we were like them, haven’t we?
Maybe it is related to our professional life, finances, family life or status.
Maybe it is the small routine things like the clothing we wear, or our body-image, or how we sound, and the constant worry of how will people perceive us or what will they think of us.
May it is the constant concern of fitting into the society and be accepted like everyone else.
Remember, Allah has set only ONE criterion and standard for us:
“Indeed, the most noble/honorable of you in the Sight of Allah
(is the one who) is the most Righteous of you.”
It doesn’t matter if you have a few bucks in your pocket or a few million.
It doesn’t matter if you drive an expensive car or ride a bicycle.
It doesn’t matter if you own a big luxurious house or live in a small rented apartment.
It doesn’t matter how many degrees or certifications you have.
If you are mindful of Allah and His creation and live a righteous life, you will be one of the most Honoured people in the Sight of the Creator and Owner of the Universe!
And whoever is honorable in the sight of Allah, Allah puts the respect and love for that person in the hearts of other people and the rest of His creation.
What is Self-Love?
In the constant chase of trying to fulfil the criteria of the society and our self-adopted internal beliefs, we start to lose connection with our own self.
We start to become Ungrounded.
We deprive our self of Self-Love.
Most people don’t even know what self-love or self-esteem is as they have never truly experienced it.
Let’s be honest, when was the last time we looked at our self in the mirror and felt the emotion of love and respect as we feel when we see someone who’s beloved to us?
On the other end of the spectrum is narcissism which results in self-obsession and arrogance. We don’t want that either, do we?
Self-love and self-respect doesn’t mean “Selfishness”.
There’s a healthy balance of everything in life, and healthy self-love develops when we truly and deeply accept our self as the creation of Allah. When we accept our characteristics along with our imperfections as well.
This is the beauty of the “Nature” that Allah has created. The perfection and beauty of Allah’s creations in this world lie in its imperfection. We will rarely find a perfectly straight line in nature. In fact, what makes the nature so awe-inspiring it its abstractness and imperfection.
On the other hand, if we look at the perfectly and symmetrically built man-made constructions, we may apparently be amazed by the first look, but isn’t it true that it doesn’t touch us to the core of our heart and soul as Nature does?
Characteristics of Self-Love
When someone truly loves and respects themselves in a healthy and natural way, they will protect themselves from falling into any negative behavior that might be harmful to their mental and spiritual harmony.
Self-loving, and self-respecting people with also have dignity for themselves, so they would avoid wasting their time and energy on useless activities while being more focused on productivity and contribution towards other people and the society.
Since self-loving people have such a high sense of “Richness” inside their hearts, they have less of the selfish desires of wanting more material things or wanting recognition or attention. They are internally fulfilled and content. Instead, they are more focused on helping and contributing towards others.
It is important to remember that to be able to truly love other people and contribute towards the society, we must first learn to love our self. There is no other way around. You cannot give from an empty cup. You’ll be able to give love to others more when you have love inside your own self. If you don’t respect others, that could mean you don’t have enough respect for your own self.
Psychological studies tell us that people who are grumpy, rude, bitter or angry, are actually unconsciously angry and frustrated with their own self.
People who constantly focus on weaknesses of other people actually have weaknesses and problems within themselves which they are unconscious frustrated about, and hence they project it onto other people.
People who don’t have inner harmony within themselves, so they have a hard time having harmony with other humans.
WE ONLY GIVE OUTSIDE, WHAT WE HAVE INSIDE.
Let’s begin to truly see ourselves as Allah’s creation and a part of Nature.
Your beauty lies in your imperfections, that’s what makes us human after all, and not robots.
Well, you might be asking…
Does Self-Acceptance mean that we don’t have to change at all?
So what about such notions as:
“I’m born this way, I can’t change”
“How can I change, this is how I’m brought up, this is how it is done in our family”
“The reality can’t be changed, I’m like this”
Nope, this is not self-acceptance, it’s Self-Deception.
This is totally the wrong use of the term “self-acceptance” that we use or witness much of the time. We have already discussed the mindset through which we must approach self-acceptance.
In fact, there must definitely be certain characteristics, traits or habits that might be holding us back. Those obviously need to be worked upon and changed/improved. We must keep growing. And we can only grow forward when we acknowledge our imperfections and work upon them.
You really have to question with complete honestly whether the characteristics you’re disliking about yourself, is it really causing you or someone else any true harm.
If the answer is ‘no’, then accept it and embrace it as a part of yourself, especially the things which are out of your control. We don’t have to beat ourselves up or hate ourselves because of the things we don’t have direct control over.
Among the things that we cannot control is our past. We can’t do anything to change that, so it’s pointless to keep blaming our self or to perceive our self in a disempowering way which shatters our self-esteem.
It is also useless to blame someone else. That is will only leave us feeling powerless and victimized. Such mindset will severely hinder our personal growth.
Let it go! What you have is your present, and what you do with your present, is your choice!
Cherish your NOW.
How Do Self-Acceptance Impact Different Areas of Our Life?
Now having discussed the concept of self-acceptance, let us look into a few of the many impacts of self-acceptance in several areas of our life:
When we aren’t comfortable with our self, we won’t value who we are. Without fully accepting ourselves, we become our own destructive critics.
The constant critic in our head always finds a way to show us how inadequate we are, how incompetent we are, how others are better than us in so many ways. It always shows us what we don’t have, shattering our confidence and our sense of certainty.
This unconscious critic is so subtle that often we don’t even realize how it is directing our behaviors, decisions and hence our lives.
When we start to love, respect and accept ourselves, we stop comparing ourselves with other people. We become “WHOLE”, calm and tranquil inside. We begin to care less about the temporary superficial things. Our anxiety starts to fade away, and a sense of stability and grounded energy ensues upon us.
If you want to know more on how to strategically free yourself from social anxiety, check this in-depth guide:
How to Get Rid of Social Anxiety? – 7 STEPS!
As we discussed, those who cannot love themselves, cannot truly love others.
Also, those who don’t have a deep understanding of themselves and who are disconnected from their inner soul, cannot truly understand and connect with others.
Once we establish harmony with our own self, we start to see our strengths and what good lies within us. We no longer feel insecure of other people or their success. That makes us more open, appreciative, understanding, positive, genuine and transparent with the people in our lives. You can imagine how this will nourish our relationships on so many levels.
When you are in harmony with yourself, people can unconsciously sense that positive, assured and confident energy in you. When you respect and value yourself, you will be respected and valued by others as well, but again you must not be focused on people’s approval. That will come naturally over time.
Also, knowing yourself and being content with how Allah has created and blessed you is the fundamental step towards a building a strong spiritual connection with our Creator and Sustainer.
As the saying goes,
“Allah first introduces you to yourself, before introducing you to Himself”.
Being truly happy and content with our self and what we have right now proves our absolute gratitude towards Allah. Be ONE with Allah’s decision.
“If you are grateful, I will surely increase you/give you more…”
Many of us are directed towards a particular field of work just because we believe that it may get us respect and acceptance from other people.
Once you are at peace with yourself, you stop seeking others’ approval to determine your self-worth. You set your own worth, which is not based on your designation or the material achievements that you possess.
This enables us to think clearly, be honest with our self, and find our true passions and unique abilities.
A good question to ask yourself right now be:
(Consider for a moment) What if the things/field/direction you are pursuing right now will NOT bring you any significance in the society or status or acceptance. Will you still do it?
If the answer is “NO”, then you might have to consider re-evaluating the direction you are headed and listen to your true calling.
Define your Purpose of being sent on this earth with absolute clarity. Identify your unique gifts. Follow your true calling, not what others say you should do. Let me tell you, this might take time. It is not an overnight process, rather it’s a journey. But if you’re resilient and persistent enough, you will find the answers, and not just the answers, but also a higher level of existence. An extraordinary level of existence, many people only dream of.
P.S. This will require some COURAGE to be totally honest with yourself, make important decisions, and take the necessary actions to start living at your best.
HOW TO ACCEPT YOURSELF?
(5 Practical Steps to Develop Self-Acceptance)
1) A Simple Belief That Will Get You Started!
A simple yet one of the most important things we need to do is to develop this belief that
“It’s okay not to be perfect!”
It is okay to make mistakes. We are designed to make mistakes. This is how we learn and grow. If we never made mistakes, we would never learn.
No one is perfect no matter how perfect they apparently seem on the outside.
Allah acknowledges this nature of human beings and He doesn’t expect us to be absolutely perfect.
“Every son of Adam makes mistakes, and the best of those who make mistakes, are those who repent (and reform).”
– Muhammad (PBUH)
This will rid you of the burden of unrealistic expectations that you might be carrying on your shoulders. Let them go. Perfection is Not the requirement of a successful life.
In fact, most of the extraordinarily successful people in the world throughout history have failed and made more mistakes than an average person. Those same failures, mistakes, and weaknesses became the gateway to their extraordinary success. Why? Because they learned and grew way more than an average person would.
Take your imperfections as an asset and turn it into an opportunity to grow and become the best version of yourself.
It is important that we direct our weaknesses towards the journey of growth so that eventually those same weaknesses turn into our best strengths.
Change your perception and your life will change!
Have a curious, experimental attitude of a child. In our early childhood, we weren’t afraid to try new things or make mistakes. We weren’t concerned about if we would look stupid or what people will think of us if we made mistakes.
Bring out your inner playful child and have a curious attitude towards life.
2) Do This Exercise Right Now
Grab a pen and a paper. Make a heading:
MY STRENGTHS AS *your name (e.g. Hamza, Ayesha)*
List down all your strengths and the things you’re good at.
Start with basic things which we usually overlook, for example;
I am honest with people
I am gentle and kind
I can initiate conversations easily
I wake up early in the morning
I take care of my health
I have a regular habit of reading etc.
Take at least 5 minutes to reflect and write.
Keep in mind to not judge your strengths based on comparison with other people. Your own approval is enough.
If you keep comparing yourself, you’ll always find someone better than you. Even if you reach the top, you’ll still find someone who is ahead of you in some way, shape or form.
We tend to value the blessing of other people more than our own blessing. Even if the blessing that we have is more suitable for us than what we consider to be better.
After you are done making a list of your strengths, make another list with the heading:
MY ACHIEVEMENTS AS *your name*
Write down all the big and small achievements you’ve ever had in your life.
Again, remember, DON’T judge your achievements based on the opinions of other people. It doesn’t matter if others praise you for it or not. Not every achievement is public. It can be your own personal feats and victories against the hardships and challenges you’ve ever persevered in your life.
Overcoming life-challenges are one of the biggest achievements, aren’t they!
You can include a good empowering habit that you might have developed or a negative, unhealthy habit that you left. It can be the books that you have finished or the courses you have taken.
Maybe you successfully helped someone out in something. Maybe you made a small positive difference in somebody’s life. Maybe you made a small positive change in your own life.
Count them all in.
Reading this detailed 4700+ words article till the end is an achievement in itself, isn’t it 😉 Count that in too!
Whenever you catch yourself indulging in self-doubt or feeling low about yourself, pause and evaluate what you are actually thinking. Shake yourself up physically to break the state. Replace those disempowering voices or emotions with positive self-talk and affirmations.
Start saying statements of possibility to yourself (“I can”, “It’s possible”);
e.g. I can do such and such, it is possible.
I can develop that skill.
I can learn to be more confident or productive or disciplined.
I can develop those positive character traits within me etc.
I can find a solution to that problem.
Also, add some statements of taking self-charge (“I choose to”);
I choose to be happy and fulfilled regardless of anything.
I choose to be free.
I choose to be calm and relaxed.
I choose to think and live in an empowering way.
I choose to cleanse myself and my life of anything negative and harbor uplifting thoughts and actions.
You can use these examples and make your own statements. The key is to say these statements with strength and certainty. Say it out loud. Don’t just think about it inside your head.
Additionally, when you look at yourself in the mirror at the start of every day, look yourself in the eye and say some empowering affirmations about yourself.
“I am (your name)”
“I am (state good qualities about yourself e.g. compassionate, loving, kind, honest, respectful, passionate, ambitious, driven, self-confident etc.)”
“Allah is my Creator, Sustainer, and Protector. I am Allah’s creation.”
Say this with a sense of appreciation and gratitude towards how Allah has created you.
If you are going through some challenges, then include:
“I can do this, I can overcome this. If Allah has put this challenge in front of me, it means Allah has made me able to overcome it.”
Say it with confidence, say it with faith! Don’t be shy to yourself, at first you may find it awkward and cringy but do it anyway! That’s the whole point. You have to break this barrier that is keeping you from connecting and accepting yourself, and keeping you from being content. You have to learn to be one with yourself.
4) Take Steps to Become Comfortable in Your Own Skin:
I remember the first time on my own personal journey when I really started to let go and become absolutely comfortable in my own skin, was when I joined a morning exercise group in a park nearby for a few weeks. They made us do all sorts of stupid and funny looking exercises.
That broke our social stiffness and ego.
We would laugh as we felt weird doing it and other people who walk by us laughed too as they saw us being weird and funny. By the end of the day, everyone had a laugh, it was a win-win!
During those days I realized how important it is for us to let go of the burden of our social image and just be our own self. Be natural, loose and free. To enjoy our time and become carefree of what the world thinks.
But, thinking and talking about it won’t help by itself. You have to get into action and get physically involved.
Here are a few tips to give you an idea. Again, you can be creative and come up with you own.
- Exercise in a public place. Go for a run/jog on the road or a nearby park. Ideally, join some workout group or have a workout partner.
(Women can go to a women’s park or join a women’s workout group or gym)
Additionally, you can try new parks and places every few days to keep on expanding your boundaries.
- Get a friend, go out and try something adventurous or funny (it must be SAFE though. Don’t do something that might cause you or someone else any harm.)
- Get involved in some public welfare work where you can get the opportunity to help out and get involved with the public, in a public environment.
- Start a conversation with a stranger while you’re in a public place or in a waiting area. Engage with them. This might seem a little awkward at first if you don’t usually do it, but as you keep on initiating conversations, you’ll find yourself getting more comfortable to the point where you don’t even have to think about it. You’ll start doing it instinctively.
5) Do Acts of Self-less Contribution:
It’s funny that many times, the reason why we find it difficult to accept and be comfortable with ourselves is that we are focusing too much on ourselves. We sometimes tend to overthink about our own self.
Sometimes, to be able to achieve something, we might first have to let it go.
Sounds strange, isn’t it?
Those who run after money and cling on to their possessions are the ones to tend to feel the most deficient and insecure.
Those who crave for respect, attention, and appreciation, are the ones who get it the least.
Similarly, those who focus too much on what they getting, what’s in it for them or what their social image is, tend to get disconnected with themselves the most.
It is very important to remember that our purpose of existence revolves around contribution in some way or form. We must keep on reminding ourselves that.
Those who live selfish lives, live miserably even after gaining all the material wealth and fame.
Contribution along with a deep relation with our Creator is what gives us an ultimate sense of fulfillment and self-worth.
Knowing that somebody is getting benefitted from our existence and that God is making us a way, a bridge to something good happening in this world is a feeling words cannot do justice to.
Find a way to contribute and give back in whatever way you can. Don’t consider any good deed insignificant. If the intentions are sincere, no good deed is small or insignificant in sight of Allah.
We need to rid ourselves of this “Approval-Seeking” thinking pattern once and for all. When we were kids we used to make maximum efforts to be appreciated and approved by elders, and this is natural for a kid but not for an adult.
As grown-ups, our value and our worth is our choice. It is our choice to accept ourselves unconditionally. It just takes a will to really accept our imperfections and develop a healthy working relationship with our own self so that we keep growing on this journey to never-ending self-improvement, and that we invest our efforts and concerns towards improving our character and personality rather than feeling low or doubtful about our self.
Accept yourself. Forgive yourself. Acknowledge yourself. Value yourself. Embrace yourself. Respect yourself. Be compassionate towards yourself, yet, be Self-Less, be generous, be altruistic, be the giving hand and you’ll see the beauty of Allah’s creation within you!
Until next time.