Years ago I based my feelings of self-worth on performance and how much I could achieve in school or in business. When I turned to professional writing, my internal rating system focused on the number of sales. But guess what? My need for external approval was a bottomless pit. I could never get enough.
Since then I worked on my personal development and have gradually gone from being self-critical to self-accepting. Many of us look outside ourselves to gain a sense of our own value, through:
Unfortunately, we can lose favour with the people we are trying to impress, our performance may suffer or our looks fade. And even sizeable assets can take a beating on the stock market.
The only true source of approval is found within. The more we accept ourselves, the more easily we will believe praise when it comes from external sources. Self-acceptance means acknowledging our positive qualities as well as our little "quirks," paying attention to our feelings and allowing ourselves to be different. When we truly know and appreciate ourselves, we trust our own judgment and create a life that is meaningful to us. The questionnaire below will help you determine your OWN level of self-acceptance.
How Self-Accepting Are YOU?
Now add up all your points as shown below:
Although you make sure that you honour your commitments to others, you are often self-critical and overly demanding of yourself. You are quick to blame yourself when things go wrong. Learn to be more tolerant of your own mistakes and pay less attention to what others may think. You do manage to find time for what's important in your life, which gives you a feeling of satisfaction.
You know who you are and what you need to be happy and usually are willing to take the time to do something that will fulfill you. You are always trying to improve yourself and surround yourself with supportive friends or family. You see your strengths but may need to learn to work with your weaknesses. For example, you may have a short attention span and work best in spurts. By recognizing this and giving yourself frequent breaks, you will be more productive.
Congratulations! You have a deeply developed sense of self and are self-nurturing. You respect your own feelings as well as those of others and have no qualms about turning to friends or family when you are in need of comfort. You are patient with yourself. If you feel a resistance to doing something, you get to the root of your feelings instead of forcing yourself to go ahead. You lead a healthy, well-balanced life.
Improve your level of self-acceptance
There are a number of ways to do this. Several are listed below:
Acknowledge and follow your Life Values
Determine your most cherished values and define how you can achieve them in your current life (e.g. autonomy, creativity, fitness, communication, learning, personal growth, love and affection). By taking even the smallest step towards your inner values and goals, you grow in self-acceptance. (Email Thelma@u-unlimited.ca to obtain the Life Values exercise.)
Search for the gold
We all seem to know our weaknesses or flaws but rarely consider our strengths. Find ten things you admire about yourself, relating to your personality or abilities - e.g. resourceful, articulate, good with children, can make people laugh, sensitive to others' feelings. Write these down and consult the list whenever you feel "down" on yourself.
In our image-conscious society, many of us are obsessed with appearance. An exercise that can help you to accept your physical self: when you look at yourself in the mirror, instead of focusing on what's wrong (large nose, frizzy hair), find three positive things to say about your appearance. For example you have good skin, white teeth or nicely developed calves. If you have a poor self-image, you will at first find this a challenge. Put your observations on paper and watch the list grow!
Remember that someone meeting you for the first time sees the WHOLE person and he or she is unlikely to be focused on your flaws. Also you cannot realize the effect of your dazzling smile or the warmth in your eyes.
Change your self-talk
Pay close attention to your thoughts - observe whenever you are being harsh or critical of yourself. In particular avoid generalizations, e.g. after making a mistake you say to yourself, "I can never get anything right." Replace self-criticism with kindness: ask yourself if you're tired or stressed and what you can do to feel better.
Allow yourself to fail
It's OK to rate your performance in various activities but NOT to base your feelings of self-worth on how well or badly you do. You are an imperfect but lovable human being who needs encouragement, not self-condemnation, to keep going. Give yourself points for effort! Then determine what went wrong and how you can do better next time.
Surround yourself with supportive friends or mentors
Beware those who do not respect you or your values and discourage you from doing what makes you happy. If family members fall into this category, you need to cultivate friends who accept you as you are and give the support you need.
Valuing and honouring your true self will increase your self-confidence. When you are confident in who you are and what you can do, you are more likely to take the steps you need to achieve a fulfilling life.