“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” – Thich Nhat Hahn
It took me approximately 26 years to realize that the key to my lasting joy and inner peace was completely loving and accepting myself.
My journey to self-acceptance was an arduous, challenging one, filled with many disappointments, heartbreaks, confusion and rejection, mostly of myself.
When I was younger, I longed to feel accepted and loved by some members of my family, who I believed did not like me because of the nature of my birth. At the time, I was considered a love child which was not accepted by my grandparents and aunts.
I always felt uncomfortable and somewhat unwanted when I was in their presence. As I grew older, I learnt more about the why behind what I felt.
In addition to this, my father later married someone else and had another family outside of my brother and I, which at the time reinforced the rejection and feelings of being an outsider.
Admittedly, my father made it his duty to be very present in our lives, despite us living apart and included us in his newly established life, by ensuring we spent time at his house with my brothers, sisters and stepmother.
Nevertheless, I continued to carry that feeling and belief of not being truly loved and accepted with me, well into my adult life.
As I grew older, this very powerful unconscious belief became extremely influential in my life, helping to shape the way I saw myself and ultimately how I showed up in my relationships. I always found myself instinctively seeking the approval of others and strongly desiring to feel included and loved.
Without a doubt, it affected my ability to stand up for myself, decisively make decisions, say no and easily let go of situations that no longer served me.
I was constantly, unconsciously seeking to please others, fearing that if I didn’t agree with them that they too would reject and dismiss me, similar when I was a child.
This choice, however, was a doubled edge sword. While at times, I avoided being rejected and not accepted because of my people pleasing, it didn’t stop the pain and anguish I suffered from not being myself and choosing what I truly wanted.
My fear of not being accepted, caused me to pursue a degree I didn’t want to do but did it anyway because I thought it would please my father. It led me to accept jobs I was not thrilled about but did so anyway because my family thought it was best for me. It also caused me to enter and stay in unhealthy and toxic relationships.
What you suppress eventually becomes the fuel that ignites a frustrated, depressed and unhappy life, and I was certainly unhappy.
I’d given so much importance and prestige to the opinions and beliefs of others, which at the time, was more important than the opinions and beliefs I held about myself.
My unhappiness, however, became the catalyst for my search for inner peace and contentment. This marked the beginning of my inward journey of healing and self-acceptance.
As mentioned earlier, the journey was by no means an easy one but with the newfound commitment to myself, overtime, I was eventually able to break free from this unserving pattern.
My healing has since allowed me to forgive my family members, forgive myself and has helped me more lovingly embrace all of me.
Every day, I am re-discovering more aspects of myself to love and accept. Admittedly, from time to time, I still stumble upon the occasions when I temporarily forget but use this mantra to help me remember, “I deeply and completely love and accept myself.”
I also use those opportunities to unearth any residual childhood wounds that may be lingering within me and take the time to show those aspects of me unconditional love.
Prior to my journey back to loving and accepting myself, I used to believe that if there were parts of me that needed to change, I couldn’t completely love and accept myself. I first needed to change those parts before I could consider complete self-acceptance.
However, thankfully, I now know better. Complete self-acceptance and self-love has nothing to do with the fact that there will always be aspects of ourselves we desire to change as we naturally evolve as beings.
Instead, deeply and completely loving and accepting yourself has to do with your personal choice to fully embrace and own all aspects of yourself unconditionally.
Rejecting and disowning parts of ourselves in no way serves or benefits us. In fact, it dis-empowers, debilitates and prevents us from living a happy and joyful life.
Based on my personal experience, I believe that learning to unconditionally love and accept oneself is one of the most important gifts we can give to ourselves and to others.
It is through this unconditional state, a person’s personal sovereignty, confidence, possibilities and ability to show up in the world is derived. It is also from this state that acceptance and love of others becomes possible.
As life would have it, I eventually learnt, the less I needed the acceptance of others and gave more attention to the acceptance of myself, the more other people accepted who I was.
No longer was I trying to impress or please anyone or needed to feel validated. Instead, I stood firmly in my authenticity and truth, which I believe, indirectly gave them permission to fully see and accept me as a result.
“Accept and love yourself unconditionally. You don’t need other people to approve of you, accept and love yourself just because.” - Unknown