The pathway toward true happiness starts with the journey inward.
Often times in life, we seek external validation in order to feel a greater sense of self-worth. But, this leads us to disappointment, addictive tendencies, and unfulfillment. Beyond our ego’s need to feel special (at least in the eyes of others), one of the biggest hurdles in discovering inner joy stems from the negative habit of self-criticism.
While I totally believe in self-improvement and personal growth, I’ve learned that a big part of our happiness comes from learning self-acceptance and compassion. These two elements can help us overcome self-criticism, perfectionistic behaviors, and feelings of not being “good enough”.
Here are a few ways you can work on developing habits of self-acceptance in your life.
Learn To Accept That You Are Human
From airbrushed photos of models in magazines to picture-perfect images on social media, we’re bombarded with the idea that some people are “perfect”, which leads us to feel even more imperfect than ever. While our conscious mind knows that these images aren’t “real” (as we’re often aware of the prevalence of Photoshop), we still tend to delude ourselves into believing that other people are flawless.
Once we learn to accept the simple truth that we are human, we can start to accept our imperfections. While we might always feel the desire to improve ourselves or minimize our flaws (which is totally normal), by learning how to accept our humanness, we develop a greater sense of compassion for ourselves.
Love Yourself Exactly As You Are
Learning to love yourself exactly as you are right now can help to empower you by recognizing that you have overcome so many hurdles, you have accomplished so much, and you have evolved into a wiser, stronger, and smarter version of your previous self.
When you learn to love yourself (the way a close friend or a family member would), you start to generate a heightened sense of self-acceptance and appreciation for who you are. Think about how much you have done in your life, all the times that you overcame fears and struggles, and even the goals you have achieved. When you view yourself from this higher perspective, your capacity to love yourself expands.
Who you are today is a culmination of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors from your past. Keep this in mind, as it means that the decisions you make and the actions you take today directly affect the future version of yourself.
See Yourself Through The Eyes of Someone Else
So often we get caught up in our heads, fixated on our flaws, focused on our imperfections, and feeling this judgmental internal critic following us like a dark shadow. These negative mental habits perpetuate a cycle of self-criticism, which leads to unhappiness and a feeling of unworthiness.
The irony is, other people don’t even notice most of the things we’re obsessing in the first place. When we learn to shift our perspective by seeing ourselves through the eyes of someone else, we can start to appreciate all our incredible qualities and beautiful characteristics in a new light.
Imagine how your romantic partner or a loved one sees you. They look at you adoringly, appreciating the essence of who you are, seeing your unique beauty, and enjoying everything that makes you special and different. They aren’t fixated on your flaws, your shortcomings, or what’s wrong with you. They see you through the eyes of love.
Forgive Yourself For Your Belief Systems
One of my friends, Brennan Kahl (a certified Pilates instructor who does “energy work” for clients), recently gave me a tip to overcome fears and mental projections that hold us back. She said, “forgive yourself for your belief systems”.
Throughout our experiences in life, starting when we’re children, we develop belief systems. Some of these belief systems (that we possibly created even during childhood) are still operating in our subconscious minds today.
For example, if you struggle with finding and sustaining a harmonious romantic relationship, you might be holding onto the belief system that you are unworthy of love. This might stem from a traumatic experience when you were younger, that your ego developed as a way of coping with the pain, and to protect you from future pain.
That’s why we have to consciously become aware of belief systems we may have created that are holding us back or preventing us from living our best lives today. Once we learn how to forgive ourselves for these belief systems from our past, we can then dissolve their power over us in the present moment.
Focus On What You Love About Yourself
What we think about most, we create. If you focus on what’s wrong with yourself or your life, you create more of the same. Whereas, if you focus on positive thoughts, like what you love about yourself or your life, you amplify that.
One way to overcome self-criticism is to become mindful of your internal dialogue. When you notice yourself finding fault or fixated on a perceived flaw, stop, take a deep breath, and let the thought go. Then shift your attention back towards something you love about yourself. It could be something as simple as how you enjoy making people smile, or perhaps the way you look in a certain dress.
From embracing your internal qualities to your external characteristics, the more often that you focus on what you love about yourself, the more true self-confidence, self-acceptance, and compassion you develop.
For more self-help tips and techniques, check out the Personal Growth section on Inspirations & Celebrations.
[Photography by JM3]