It is 1997, I am on holiday in Tenerife and at a big gala type dinner and I win a prize in the raffle.
I am called to the stage in front of around 300 people and the compere asks me my name. As I say it, I go red, feel flushed and hot.
For years I thought I was just embarrassed because I was standing up in front of all those people, but when I was writing my book, I realised it ran much deeper than that. I was embarrassed to be me.
I had always struggled with who I was, how I would talk to myself, what I believed about myself and it impacted on everything in my life. The success of my athletics career, what other things I turned my hand to and especially the relationships I experienced.
My level of self-acceptance was pretty close to zero. I may have seemed confident, but I tried all of the time to be something I believed people wanted me to be and felt awful if that didn’t work.
It proved that I was unacceptable.
It is an ongoing process to keep on top of it, as it is overcoming 40 years or so of programming and reinforcing certain thoughts and behaviours.
How do I know that my relationship has improved? Well on this episode I am going to talk about the signs that you have a good level of self-acceptance and on the flip side, if you don’t recognise these signs in yourself, it is likely that you too struggle as I did.
What is self-acceptance?
It is the process of recognising, embracing and affirming oneself, including your strengths and weaknesses and your individuality as well as the part you play in the bigger picture of life.
Cultivating a positive attitude towards you, being comfortable with who you are and being you as often as you possibly can.
There is an unconditional acceptance of your positives and negatives. That doesn’t mean you don’t work on those things that need working on, but you accept them as part of you so that you can see them in their true light, which in turn allows you to change them in the best way, as you truly know you.
Why is self-acceptance so crucial? Personally, it had a profound impact on how I feel on a daily basis, what I have achieved and what I believe I can achieve. My day-to-day demeanour, mood and levels of internal happiness.
It helps create more peace, less stress, higher confidence, less anxiety and depression. Give you a sense of freedom, increase self-worth, self-esteem and autonomy.
It can be challenging to achieve and may demand time, effort and patience but the positive benefits on your emotional, mental and physical wellbeing can be enlightening. And not to mention the benefits it can bring to your external relationships.
What are the signs?
If you are a self-accepting person, you feel comfortable being your authentic self. Not afraid to express your true thoughts, emotions and opinions without seeking validation or approval from others.
The significance of not seeking approval is that is something that you are born with. From birth you seek acceptance and connection and can continue to do this throughout your life if you don’t develop a good level of self-acceptance. In some cases, triggering difficult inner child experiences you get stuck with. Approval never brings you the inner peace that you yearn for, unless it is self-approval.
Self-Compassion and Self Love
With self-acceptance comes a compassion and kindness to yourself. You understand that making mistakes, experiencing setbacks, plans not working out as you would like are part of life, being human and treat yourself with patience, forgiveness and understanding. You are able to soothe yourself when emotions are high without criticism or blame.
Self-love means prioritising your emotional, mental and physical wellbeing. Fulfilling your wants and needs regularly, if not daily and allowing good things into your life.
Self-care is not selfish in a negative sense. There is a difference between positive and negative selfishness. Prioritising you helps in pursing goals and cultivating more meaningful relationships.
Positive Body Image
Now, this is something that was an achilles heel for me personally as my first memories of positive feedback from others was because of what I looked like. Especially when I was an international sprinter, as I would be complimented about my body.
For years I kept in shape just to seek validation and approval. Now, I just keep in shape for me, my own wellbeing and sense of self.
It can be difficult to avoid comparing yourself to others, particularly nowadays when scrolling through social media. In know that I would have struggled even more if it was around when I was younger.
Self-acceptance involves embracing your physical appearance and being comfortable in your own skin and working on things because it will make you feel better. Appreciate your body for what it is and what is good for you, not constantly comparing it to and striving for unrealistic standards. This is you; you are doing the best with what you have and that is good enough.
This is your ability to respond to stressful or unexpected situations as they arise. Bounce back when times have been difficult, setbacks with a sense of confidence and without things doing too much or any damage to you.
With self-acceptance, you acknowledge and accept your emotions, both positive and negative without judgement.
You Set Healthy Boundaries and are Confident in Your Decisions
Having boundaries in your life are essential and self-acceptance involves setting them for yourself. Saying no when you don’t want to do things and being comfortable doing so.
Understanding your own values and principles and living to them. Know what you want and need and prioritising your own wellbeing.
Need to make a life changing decision? No problem. As you trust in yourself, are sure of your choices. Self-acceptance breeds trust, intuition and confidence when it comes to making decisions. Taking a risk feels comfortable, as it reflects your confidence in your choices.
No approval seeking, validation of what you want to do as you know what aligns with your true self.
Do you often live in the past or the future?
If you do then you are not living in the present, and this is the only space the really matters. Self-acceptance often goes hand in hand with mindfulness and being fully present in the current moment. It involves acknowledging and accepting the present reality without dwelling on the past with regrets or worrying excessively about your future.
Pursuing Personal Growth and Accepting Your Purpose
Self-acceptance does not mean standing still, being complacent or stagnating. Personal growth and self-improvement are an ongoing process.
You are open to learning, trying new things and embracing opportunities for growth, without feeling the need to change who you are at the core. Not defining yourself by these things, but incorporating them and adding to you.
To truly and fully embrace who you are and your unique role in the world is an amazing space to find.
Discovering your purpose, by exploring what makes you feel most alive and connected to life and inspires the greatest joy within you.
Engaging in Authentic Relationships
With self-acceptance comes the ability to attract and foster authentic, healthy relationships. You surround yourself with people who not only accept you for who you are but are in that space or working on that space themselves. Others support your journey as you support theirs and encourage self-discovery, growth and success. You are happy for the success of others as they are yours.
You are Comfortable with Your Own Company
You don’t need the company of others to feel comfortable. You like to be in your own company and space and maybe even see it as a time to connect with yourself, reflect and grow.
You can spend a lot of time by yourself without feeling lonely. You may even relish your own time; it may give you a sense of inner peace. You aren’t trying to escape or avoid the company of others.
You Are Grateful
Gratitude is a great way to tap into the positives in your life and create a more positive outlook on life in general. Tapping into your authentic self and feel more alive and connected.
This is also part of my course on how to create a more positive life, making gratitude a daily habit. Helping to create an abundance mindset and moving away from a mindset of lack.
You can get 5 days of the course for free by downloading my 5 ways in 5 days to feel happier eBook by visiting my resources page – link is in the show notes.
Gratitude helps to unlock a world of fulfilment and contentment that transcends superficial things in life.
As I have mentioned several times so far, self-acceptance will have a huge bearing on your relationships. Not just your intimate ones, but with family, friends, work colleagues and just about anyone that you meet in your life.
It can dictate who comes in and out of your life and how successful, fulfilling and connected they are and whether they are a positive or negative thing for you to keep hold of or to let go of.
And with the most important relationship that you have – the one with yourself. I know it did this for me, so much so that the last time I spoke to a crowd of 150 people or so, I was telling them all about my previous experience in a presentation about how to attract a great relationship, without an ounce of embarrassment… and I know that by working on this for yourself you too can make all areas of your life, more of the way you want them to be.