The One Ingredient Necessary for Accepting Yourself

Face

Recently I was surfing an online forum, and I came across something that almost made me cry. Somebody had dug up an old, old post of mine and replied to it. Sometimes new users on a forum don’t look at the date on a old post, and they respond to it as if it were still relevant, so the post goes to the top of the first page in the list, even if it’s years old.

Those of you who read online forums have seen this happen many times, I’m sure, and so had I. But this one gave me an instant lump in the throat.

The post was called, “My Struggle.”

The desperate tone of the post stunned me. I couldn’t believe it was me.

In it, I had spilled my guts to everyone who would listen, over my dissatisfaction with myself and my life. I hated how I never finished anything, never got on a roll, never got good at what I wanted to be good at. I was not able to accept myself, because to accept myself meant that what I was doing (and failing to do) was fine. 

Of course I wasn’t fine with it. I knew I was squandering my time and my talents, and it was killing me. I didn’t feel like I could get anywhere until I loved myself, and I didn’t feel like I could love myself until I got somewhere.

People advised me to decide to accept who I was, right now, and then I’d be free to live the life I want. I tried to do that. In fact, I did it a lot. I would get so worked up with enthusiasm about myself that I felt unstoppable.  But enthusiasm fades.  After a few days, the same patterns emerged again, and I was back to square one.  This went on for years.

I’ve seen countless others describe the same problem. You can’t just decide to suddenly feel good about yourself. It won’t work.

I can see now the mistake people make in trying to love themselves, it’s exactly what I did. They confuse self-love with how they feel about themselves. They want the warm, comfortable feeling of being loved. They are focused on receiving love from themselves, rather than giving it.

If You Have Trouble Loving Yourself

Know this:

Love is action.

Self-love is not how you feel about yourself. It’s what you do for yourself. You can only love yourself by doing, not thinking. Execute feats of love, feats of respect, for your own benefit.

First of all, worship your body. There is nothing on this earth you will ever do that does not require its cooperation.  Be nice to it. Get it into great shape. Don’t poison it, don’t abuse it, don’t neglect it. An unwillingness to worship your body will undermine any attempt to love yourself. Love it with your actions, or it won’t love you back. If you are rude to it, it will hinder you, embarrass you, and even kill you.

Learn. Endow yourself with skills, languages, abilities and arts. Developing skills is the most immediate and liberating way to shoot your self-esteem through the roof. What qualities would make you love or admire someone else? Kindness, humor, thoughtfulness, ability? Cultivate and improve those qualities.

A lot of people seem to think indulging or gratifying yourself is the same as loving yourself. Magazines and commercials say “Love yourself,” or “You’re worth it,” and then tell you to buy something or eat chocolate cake. Finding some reward and indulging in it is not love. Often it’s just abuse. Comforting yourself is not loving yourself. Beware the draw of comfort; seeking comfort is often a response to fear, not love. Don’t appease yourself, revere yourself.

Do work you love. Even if you make less money. Even if you disappoint others. Working a job for which you have no passion is betraying yourself, for eight hours a day. Nobody can love themselves while they subject themselves to forty hours of uninspiring work every week. If it isn’t practical to leave your current line of work just yet, start planning your escape now. That’s love. Do not resign a third of your life to someone else’s purpose. Dignity is worth any pay cut. If you don’t like your job, you are only getting better at being resentful.

The Respect Habit

The quality of your actions matters. Do everything with care. Pick up and put down objects as if you respect them. Don’t just drop yourself into a seat, sit down with purpose. Respect everything you buy, borrow, give away or dispose of.

Respect your time. Spend your time on things that put you into a better situation in life, on things that make you more capable, rather than on things that make you feel good for the moment. You will love yourself for doing this.

Respect other people.

Respect their skills and their virtues. Their flaws too. Respect their thoughts. Let them finish what they are saying, don’t interrupt, don’t be dismissive. Try to understand what they’re getting at. Let them be who they are. I am convinced that people are exactly as judgmental about themselves as they are about others. Find the value in others, or you will never see it in yourself. Forget the ways in which you would like other people to be different. Forgive them, and forgive yourself. Forgive yourself every time you wake up, and every time you go to bed. Forgive yourself every time you screw up.

Respect the world around you. The spectacles, the scenes, the details. Respect buildings and the people who built them. Respect businesses and the people who run them. Respect the trees. Respect the tiny, yellow-flowered weed that vehemently persists in thrusting itself up through the cracks in the sidewalk. It invests all its energy in growing, and it absolutely insists on being itself.

Love is picking up the dumbells the moment you start making excuses. Love is doing your scariest task first thing in the morning.

It’s not quitting early and treating yourself to a beer.  It’s not telling yourself it’s okay for your apartment to be a pigsty.

There is a choice in every moment, between acting out of love, or out of fear.  At any instant, you can stop and look at the moment, and it is clear which action is which.  You will make a habit out of choosing one or the other.

You won’t be able to have respect if you do not make a habit of recognizing value.  There is value in every person, object, place and moment, but you may miss it if you hold faults to be more important.

Find the endless value in the world around you, and it will be easy to find the endless value in yourself. Eventually you will no longer see a difference between the two.

Photo by DerrickT



Linda January 23, 2012 at 4:21 am

This morning i opened a book of quotes and landed on one about self acceptance and I tried to think of how I could turn that into something practical… and then I came across this blog and found the answer!
I think this is something we all struggle with at times, some more than others, and me included.
Love your honesty and your straightforward advice and will happily share with others.

Thanks.

Sally March 1, 2012 at 10:54 am

I know this blog posting is a few years old now, but it’s new to me. I read it a couple weeks ago; it was exactly what I needed to hear at the time. I especially liked the bit about how loving yourself is not the same thing as indulging yourself; loving and accepting yourself is really about the action you take to show that love. I have found your other blog postings to be insightful, relatable, and inspirational.

Thank you!
Sally

Christine May 1, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Hi, I have only just found your words. I have been struggling with low self-esteem since I was five and I am now 37.
Much of my self-awareness has come from my own searching and reasoning and justification and self-sabotage! I have seen countless therapists seeking the answer to a question I didn’t really want to ask, yet I still went through the motions of believing I was getting closer to finding the happiness I sought.
Over the arduous journey I have single handedly managed to stretch and abuse my body with binge eating, vomiting, over eating and general laziness because I was seeking that comfort you spoke of.
The void within me has been so deep, and the need for filling that void so strong, that I poured years and years of comfort behavior into myself believing that I would eventually feel that fullness and peace happy people must feel!
Now, nearly at 38 I have stumbled upon your words and my life long question has been met with an answer!
I thank you for your wisdom.
I now have a choice to make.
My fear now has a face……mine!

Dominic Brown May 13, 2012 at 2:48 am

I really enjoyed this writing. Really was food to my soul. Thank you!

Daniel May 15, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Thank you. You truly made me think different today.I actually googled this, cause i do feel like this everyday.I just can’t get along with me( if that makes sense at all).While i was reading your post i realised i’m doing the exact opposite of what i should do.As of now i am starting to treat myself better, this being the most important thing.I realised that if i take care of myself and my actions i will be feeling better about myself.Today i just got 15 yrs old and i felt like – and if you excuse my word – shit!But back on the subject, thank you for your inspiring words! You helped me so much!
Oh, and i’m sorry if i’m not speaking english perfectly,I’m from Romania, Europe! Oh, and i’m sorry for bumping a post from 09! :D xD

Da Young July 2, 2012 at 9:32 pm

I loved this. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom.

londonundrground July 8, 2012 at 5:50 pm

8 July 2012. Better late than never, right? I couldn’t finish reading your article, only snippets. I shouldn’t be on the computer this late. That was one of my goals – not to browse for hours on the internet when I should be doing the dishes and going to bed! Googled Attention Deficit and found your procrastination blog. (Procrastination is Not Laziness) Couldn’t finish reading that one either. But I want to say quickly, thank you. Thank you for writing your feelings down. I hope I get to finish reading the articles one day. Love the Einstien quote: “He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.”

-Albert Einstein
Thank you.

Jenn September 7, 2012 at 7:31 pm

Wow, I love your perspective on this and that you include relevant action rather then the general article that states all the problems you’ll have if you don’t love or accept yourself but no realistic ways to approach a solution.

Ruth September 10, 2012 at 2:08 pm

I had just heard Martin Bayne on Fresh Air say that he had an epiphany about turning compassion inward.

I thought “How the heck am I gonna do that?”. I’m going through a rough time and everything kinda sux right now and I’m stuck.

He also said that you can only love others to the degree you love yourself.

So I googled and I found this post. Your blog is great.
And you’re totally right. Gotta love, gotta learn. Gotta do!

THANK YOU.

hayley September 29, 2012 at 4:59 am

Thank you

matt parkin October 17, 2012 at 5:48 am

well said …………… appreciation breeds love :)

kathy January 10, 2013 at 9:28 pm

Thank you so much for writing this, among other posts. I get inspired every time I read your words. I truly appreciate your writing and I sincerely hope you keep doing this.

Prudi January 11, 2013 at 1:39 am

Wow, Mr.You just said it well.

Love yourself- not pride yourself!

This thing start from within then it goes outside and then it spread….

Lisa January 21, 2013 at 10:40 pm

Well! What else can I say, but that I’m blown away!!!!!
I learnt from the time I became aware of anything (about 2 1/2 years old), that I was no good as a human being, from my control freak mother. Every single thing I said, & every single thing I did,was very sharply critised. Nothing about me was acceptable, & I was punished constantly.
I’ve always known that I wasn’t happy, & couldn’t understand where the difference lay between my misery & everybody else’s seeming happiness.
I’ve searched many sites, read many books, seen a few psychologists, you name it – probably spent a few thousand hours, searching.
Now I’m 66, and today, I FOUND YOU!!!!!!!!! WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE ????
What a blessing you are! Your whole article relates to me, & what I see
as my shortcomings, shortcomings that I hate, but that I’ve felt incapable somehow of correcting.
I’ll start practising, today, one paragraph at a time, & WOW, HERE COMES THE NEW SHACKLE-LESS ME!
Thankyou so very much for this article David. I’d hoped that I could find the answers while I’m still young enough to take full advantage of them. And thanks to you, I now have.
:) :) :)

jaco January 27, 2013 at 3:36 am

All I can say is …. thank you ….

Sarah February 14, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Hi/ Dear David.
This post is a breakthrough in my search for aid in healing and growing again. Your words are so meaningful to me and it’s nice thatthey don’t seem so recycled. It’s refreshing and more helpful to read something that isn’t rigid with guilt trips and bad reminders ie. “If you don’t do this you’ll suffer.” I’ve learnt a lot from this post about value and how to apply it. Thank you for sharing, I don’t feel hope usually, but there’s a spark now :)
I am currently and completely struggling to live in love, compassion and outside of my head. I’ve been racking the internet to find guidance and strong and helpful tools I can use to aid in finding the person who I remember, vaguely, I use to be; the person I truely am. I have just finished destroying my life and reflecting back back on it. I see a sickening and terrifying reality infront of me. Friends; close, beautiful loving friends are leaving, having had enough… the lonliness, inadequacy and obsession I had in my head, had openly manifested in my behaviour. Now i’m on the outside looking in, what a terrible person I’ve become. I can’t believe how much negativity I’ve created and poisoned myself and my closest friends around me with. I blamed those who were supposed to care about me but didn’t. Yet I was the one asserting inferiority and aggression and committing emotional and physical abuse. This is how I “coped” or “dealt” with feeling disrespected. Apparently a perfectly valid reaction to any “unjust” situation. People always see or saw the goodness in me and I believed that they were all out to get me or that i’m not worth anything. Or I would feel like a horrendous disappointment for not upholding the value they saw in me and go ahead and punish, punish, punish. Firstly myself and then my anguish in turn burdened others :/ I have done so many bad things and I’m trying to just damn stop and create a new history. Can it be done @ 25? I’ve made such a terrible image of myself my whole life. I wish I had never gone so far as to have given up on myself, it’s relentlessly painful. Thank you at least that I can find a start or an answer in your post

Ani February 27, 2013 at 8:33 pm

Thank you for this post. Your post really summarizes a lot of things about self-love and helps in overcoming another block in my journey of self-love. I’ve been exploring self-love for a long time and have found great progress with it. Great work.

David March 31, 2013 at 9:16 am

Hi David, Greetings from Brazil. Thank you very much for these words. They´ll help me a lot!

Joules April 11, 2013 at 10:41 pm

Absolutely!

Tom April 20, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Hi, I’d like to ask you what your thoughts are if not loving oneself is because of the following statement:

“If you are rude to it, it will hinder you, embarrass you, and even kill you”

What if this is the root cause and the fact someone has destroyed their body, their self-image and lost all respect for themselves and hinders them every day?

Sarah April 22, 2013 at 9:25 am

I want to read these words every day until they become involuntary thought. Keep on, sir.

http://mhelgarrido.blogspot.com May 13, 2013 at 4:32 am

It’s appropriate time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I’ve
read this post and if I could I desire to suggest you some interesting things or tips.
Perhaps you can write next articles referring to this article.
I wish to read more things about it!

Jaq May 14, 2013 at 1:59 am

I remember learning quite young that lots of people in my life paid lip service to love. It was entirely different when love was backed up by action. Thank you for your post, it brings to life what I feel I’ve known all along and now just realising.

Jaq May 14, 2013 at 1:59 am

I remember learning quite young that lots of people in my life paid lip service to love. It was entirely different when love was backed up by action. It is no different when applied to self.

Thank you for your post, it brings to life what I feel I’ve known all along and now just realising.

Galina May 16, 2013 at 10:14 am

That is amazingly beautiful! Pure magic! THANK YOU!

Lauren May 25, 2013 at 3:13 am

This is exactly what I needed to hear after 4 mobths of not being sure if I’d ever return to what I had. Start of the year I was on ‘fire’ and really happy with where I was at. It was because I was doing things and injecting that self-love into my blood. Getting a lil distracted, which does happen to me quickly turned into being completely confused n allowing self-doubt back into my life. To think I knew the code to staying happy to completely losing all trust in my ability to ‘get back’ there was a scary feeling.. I’ve just come across this post and can’t thank you enough.. because it really has just given me thos no. to unlock the code again :) best wishes to everyone on their journey!

James July 8, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Hello I’m very interested in reading the article you spoke about in the beginning and the comment you got for it, can you please send me the link… Thank you…

Alex July 21, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Hey, just wanted to let you know that this is the best article I have read in a while. It moved me to tears. Thank you.

jessica July 31, 2013 at 4:18 pm

hello, im only 21 and to be honest ive not had a great start in life. recently ive allowed life’s stresses and anxiety hit me more then once. i seeked help on how to love myself and to cancel any negative thought or comment i make about me. your post was the 1st one that popped up and i can now see why! your advice deserves recognition and gratitude from others as you are actually helping people for free. you have now become my inspiration and your words have now formed a place in my heart. I have become a shy but angry person through selfish and hurtful actions from others but starting from now i am going to brush away the dirt and start to live my life the way i should. people worry too much about the smallest yet simplest things. at the end of the day we all end up the same way. we all have life in common and caring for yourself as well as others helps to enjoy the ride and enjoy the memories created along the way. life is for living not hiding. thank you because you have opened my eyes, heart and soul. im now a new person! x

Anna van Niekerk September 27, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Your words speak unbelievably clearly to me. I periodically reread this article just to find my footing again. Thank you.

Anabelle October 6, 2013 at 10:11 am

This is amazing and very inspiring post. Thank you for spreading the good energy around the virtual world. I wish you all the best in life! :)

Renee November 3, 2013 at 1:12 am

So very grateful for this post. It is exactly what I needed tonight. I’m so relieved to know I’m not the only one who has struggled in this exact manner. Specifically the dissatisfaction and squandering of time and talents. The ‘guide to self-love’ given was not only on-point, but user-friendly. So relevant, applicable. Now to encounter an “aha moment” regarding what to do with my life………

Vivian November 29, 2013 at 7:02 pm

Loved this, and is exactly what I need to read. Offered a perspective for me – that self love isn’t just thinking it but acting on it. Thank you!

Scott December 4, 2013 at 11:55 am

What an epiphany. Exactly what I needed to read just now. Thank you so much.

Mike December 18, 2013 at 1:00 pm

I like to disseminate understanding that I’ve accrued with the season
to help enhance group functionality.

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chaithanya January 5, 2014 at 7:04 am

After reading this page. I could just say only word to you. Thank you.

David Cain January 5, 2014 at 11:02 am

That’s two!

d January 29, 2014 at 10:02 am

I have read every post on this site about loving and accepting yourself.

It makes me truly sad that there are so many that responded to this post who have gone through a part of perhaps their whole life not feeling good about themselves.
I know that I once felt like that because I had no spiritual upbringing as a child, and didn’t realize that their was a higher power that loved me or had my back.

I can tell you I wasted a lot of time with my negative thoughts, limiting beliefs how not being good enough, and it truly was a waste! Please hear this… even the author of this post says that he doesn’t believe in Jesus being the son of God, but somehow he believes in God?
I promise you that you have it all wrong. You don’t have to sit with your unhappy personal situation, because you don’t accept or love yourself. Generally people like that have such low self esteem, that their eyes are clouded from the truth.
You want to love and accept yourself? The ONLY way is to allow your higher power into your life so that you will feel unconditional love and know that you are worth every precious moment that you spend on this earth.
When the bible talks about accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and to admit your sins…sin really means (in the original Aramaic version of the Bible) miss the mark. so if you have missed the mark somewhere in your life, and cannot find peace and love for yourself, I urge you to go to this website and just read. You will find that there is a love waiting for you that will help you rise above all the negative thoughts that you hold for yourself.

Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our sin- (missing the mark) . Through Him we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our life.

He Died in Our Place
“God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” 5

He Rose From the Dead
“Christ died for our sins…He was buried…He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures…He appeared to Peter, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred…” 6

He Is the Only Way to God
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.'” 7

This diagram illustrates that God has bridged the gulf which separates us from Him by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross in our place to pay the penalty for our sins.

God loves you and wants you to be whole. He designed you in a way that there is a void in your life that can only be filled up by God.
Please go to this site and you will see and discover the difference in living a unconditional loved life, rather than the one you have now.

http://www.cru.org/how-to-know-god/would-you-like-to-know-god-personally/index.htm

Erna February 10, 2014 at 3:01 am

Hi David,

Amazing post and old one. But good ones are everlasting. One thing I wanted to mention never mix self love with high standards or perfectionism as ” It’s not telling yourself it’s okay for your apartment to be a pigsty.” Yes it can be pigsty sometimes, accepting means you are flawed perfectly and you can be everything in good or bad days. Somedays doing what you like, somedays just sitting on your sofa and chilling and let yourself be. So is this comfort with fear in it? I don’t think so. As perfection for striving everything to be good or wrapped “self loving” also can be defense from your fear. I believe everything starts from your self image, what you think about yourself, not feeling. Self love in action comes along in this way ;)

Julia Lagoutte February 26, 2014 at 5:03 pm

Hi David, thanks for this amazing post. All your stuff inspires me and is incredibly full of wisdom.
However, I am not sure about the idea that you should never do a job you don’t love. I feel this could be quite an elitist point of view. Many many jobs in the world that need doing are not going to be loved. An example could be a cleaner, a fast food worker, a bouncer… I’m not saying noone could love these jobs, but they are probably not the passion and inspiration of the people who have them.
I think this view can devalue ordinary jobs and engender a fairly elitist notion of what work is. I also think it allows an exploitative atmosphere in academia and the arts world whereby work is seen as reward in itself and workers are undervalued and underpaid. Even if you love being a lecturer – it’s still work.
This article explains it really really well: http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2014/01/do_what_you_love_love_what_you_do_an_omnipresent_mantra_that_s_bad_for_work.html

thanks! all the peace and love, and thank you again for such a wonderful blog.

David Cain February 26, 2014 at 5:39 pm

Hi Julia. I’m glad you liked it. I’ve read the article you mention and I actually had a lot to say about it, as well as the concept of doing work you love:

http://www.raptitude.com/2014/01/6-should-be-common-sense-realities-about-doing-what-you-love-for-a-living/

Drago April 6, 2014 at 1:29 pm

Wow,this hits home…You have been very precise and open about life and love and us.Peace to you.

Cascade May 7, 2014 at 7:38 am

I kept reading this for like 2 weeks straight, every day. Sometimes multiple times a day. I wanted it to be hardwired in my brain, intuitively. And eventually, it did.

My life has been an endless “why” for many years, the years just going on without much value to them, with the same patterns going on and on and on..

And finally.. this.. miraculously too, when I reached my ultimate point of despair, I come across this, and it’s like I’ve finally seen the light for the first time.

This is what I’ve been missing.

Lee June 7, 2014 at 12:27 am

This post resonates with me quite well. I’ve had the same thoughts lately as well and even came to the same conclusion. My actions define who I am and what I will become. I’m rather young (only 23!) but there’s something wrong. I don’t accept myself as I am now, I’ve been lying to myself about who I am and what I wanted to become for years. Finding and creating an identity is difficult but I’m willing to go through the hardship to gain a genuine one. Who I am and what I will become is difficult to say at the moment but hopefully I can make the transition as well as you did!

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