8 Power Moves from Self-Loathing to Self-Acceptance
I accept myself.
I accept myself.
I accept myself.
Do you remember when you were in sixth grade, and the teacher caught you talking and passing notes when you were supposed to be reading silently? As punishment, she required you to write 100 times, “I will not talk in class.” If you were a repeat offender, you probably developed a system where you wrote all the “I” down the sheet of paper, followed by the “will,” and so on. The assignment was meant to deter you from talking again in class when you were supposed to be reading. It rarely worked. Why? Because you never internalized the words as a complete sentence, a congruent thought, or as a commitment to change behavior.
It follows that reading or reciting, “I accept myself” over and over again is also a waste of time unless you are ready to internalize what it means to accept yourself and take action. Until you are ready to change the thoughts and behavior patterns of self-loathing, saying you accept yourself is empty regardless of how many times you say it. You need power moves to go from self-loathing to self-acceptance.
You may think self-loathing is too harsh of a word. After all, you don’t really hate yourself. Here are some ways that self-loathing manifests.
I’m not in a relationship because I’m undesirable. I’m not worthy of being loved.
I didn’t get the promotion because I’m not deserving of it.
My coworkers are so much smarter than I am.
I don’t have what it takes.
Why can’t I have a body like her/him?
It’s all my fault.
I am not enough.
Self-loathing is harsh. It’s brutal. If you think or behave in any of those ways, let me tell you, you’re being too hard on yourself. Lack of self-worth, undeserving, intellectually inferior, dissatisfaction with body image, blame or guilt for things not within your control – all of those reflect the overriding belief that you’re not enough, that you’re flawed and irreparably broken.
“You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.”
~ Amy Bloom
Let’s face it, nothing positive can come through you if that’s where you’re parked. I have a sense that if you’re there today, you’re seeking better for yourself. You’re seeking to get to the other half of Bloom’s quote – “And you are beautiful.” You want to move from self-loathing to self-acceptance and on to pure self-love.
We now know that self-loathing is all about self-limits, about you playing small. Self-acceptance is a power move. It takes courage backed up by action to move from a defenseless, powerless victimhood to a place of choice, personal agency and victory.
Here are eight actions you can take to make that move from self-loathing to self-acceptance:
#1 – Seek professional help.
Get help from a trained therapist or certified professional coach to uncover the root of those self-limiting beliefs. Where did they come from? For some, it may have started in early childhood. Studies show that “as children we’re able to accept ourselves only to the degree we feel accepted by our parents.” If our parents didn’t give or know how to show their acceptance, then it likely created long-standing feelings of ambivalence or self-loathing. It’s time to address those feelings. The past need not be your present or your future. You can create a new reality. Separate fact from fiction and move from dysfunctional to a healthy perception of self.
#2 – Center your values.
Often, we are judging ourselves harshly because we are trying to live up to others’ expectations and perceptions of who they think we are or should be. The best thing you can do for yourself is to get clear about your own values and create your own standards of beauty, excellence, and success. Live life on your own terms.
#3 – Give yourself the credit you are due.
We have a hard time congratulating ourselves for making progress toward a goal, completing an assignment, or being a really good friend. Find pleasure in the process and in small wins. Treat yourself how you’d treat a good friend. Congratulate yourself and celebrate your contributions.
“Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” ~ Louise L. Hay
#4 – Surround yourself with positive people.
There’s truth to the saying that we become like the people we spend the most time with. Who is in your inner circle? Perhaps you need to surround yourself with more people who are happy and content with themselves because happiness and positivity are contagious. These people are secure enough in themselves that they can be great supporters in your life.
#5 – Focus on serving others.
Licensed psychotherapist Emily Roberts found that by helping others in need, you “can build self-esteem and create a positive relationship with yourself.” Extending compassion toward others activates the reward centers in our brain and produces “feel good” hormones, which leads to a sense of purpose and self-worth.
#6 – Befriend the inner critic.
It’s hard to believe, but yes, working with your inner critic is a power move toward self-acceptance. Realize that your inner critic is just trying to keep you safe. It resides in the most primitive part of your brain, the amygdala, that recognizes threats and activates to ensure your survival. When the inner critic perceives a threat (e.g., trying new things, going for a promotion, or starting a new relationship), it sends you messages to keep you from moving forward. By befriending the inner critic and using the language that it knows, you can change how the inner critic works with you. For example, if you say, “Max (the name I’ve given to my inner critic), if I don’t do this now, I will regret it the rest of my life, and I can’t live with that.” That activates the inner critic to do what is needed to help you survive. You can say, “Max, what I need you to do is remind me that I’m fully capable of meeting this challenge. I am enough. Then, I’ll survive.” This might sound strange, but it works. Try it.
#7 – Stop ap0logizing.
Rachel Hollis, in Girl, Stop Apologizing, told women to embrace their unique desires and stop seeking approval from others. These are messages for everyone. Go after what you really want in life. Stop asking permission. Be okay with being different and stop being ashamed and guilty for wanting what you want. It’s your life. (See #2).
“When you stop living your life based on what others think of you real life begins. At that moment, you will finally see the door of self-acceptance opened.” ~ Shannon L. Alder
#8 – Forgive yourself.
You have flaws. We all do. You will mess up. We all mess up sometimes. Learning to forgive yourself is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. I’m not minimizing the pain that can come when you let yourself or others down. It’s real. But what benefit is it to lament ad nauseam over the wrongdoing? Face it head on. Give yourself some grace. From what I’ve read, you might try the following steps to self-forgiveness:
- Acknowledge your mistakes and accept appropriate responsibility.
- Come to terms with your feelings. If you’re sad, guilty, ashamed, or frustrated, sit with your feelings. Accept that your feelings are valid, but then don’t dwell on them.
- Express remorse, even if the harm was to yourself only.
- Forgive yourself, assess lessons learned and grow from the experience.
For more on steps to self-forgiveness, I recommend these two articles: How to Forgive Yourself: The Road to Acceptance by Blythe C. Landry and Taking the Steps to Forgive Yourself by Kendra Cherry.
May is Self-Discovery Month. Because I believe it’s critically important to our overall happiness and wellbeing to invest time in getting to know ourselves, accepting ourselves, and loving ourselves, I’ve created content to support you on your self-discovery and fulfillment journey.
- Blog: Check out Who are you? 21 Questions for Self-Discovery and look for the next article in the series coming soon.
- Podcast: Listen to “Learn to Love Yourself Unconditionally”
- YouTube: View my motivational quotes video, Self-Acceptance: Love Yourself Before a Single Change is Made, on my new YouTube channel. While there, I hope you’ll subscribe.
Also, I invite you to sign up for my newsletter at Your Aha! Life and join my private Facebook group, The Aha! Community. So many ways to connect and immerse yourself in positive personal development.