Self-acceptance: do you see yourself realistically?

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Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

To live your best life, you need to be honest about yourself. Realistic self-assessment promotes knowledge of your strengths, as well as areas that need further attention. See yourself realistically to promote self-acceptance, and work on increasing your self-esteem.

Healthy self-acceptance

Healthy self-acceptance means you know and understand both the positive and negative aspects of yourself. You’re aware and proud of your own strengths, without being overconfident. You’re also realistic enough to recognise what you can and can’t do at this stage of life, and what skills you need to move to the next level. 

But you don’t pass judgment on yourself, or see yourself as inferior. You accept you have some habits that need changing, and that some of your reactions may be holding you back. However, you’re willing to improve in those areas and become a more fully rounded person. 

However, keep in mind that identifying your strengths is different to merely repeating unrealistic positive affirmations to yourself. Unless these are phrased carefully, they’re of little use in helping to raise your self-esteem.     

Realistic self-assessment

To see yourself realistically, you need to do a realistic self-assessment. This both pinpoints your strengths, and also highlights missing skills.

If something’s stopping you from moving forward with your life, you need to know. Then you can work to overcome any gaps in your skills, whether in the practical, emotional, social or intellectual spheres. See a self-assessment of where you are now as a helpful tool. It merely provides interesting information for your future self-development.

Neutral information, not criticism

However you may be tempted to use any shortfall to criticise yourself. You may see yourself as lacking or stupid because you don’t have some skills in one or more areas. However, choosing to be self-critical is the opposite of accepting yourself. And it’s rarely helpful in allowing you to see yourself realistically. 

For example, you hate speaking in public. But at work, you have to give talks to various groups.

Now, you can choose to see your lack of public speaking skills in one of two ways. Which of the following approaches will help more in seeing yourself realistically? 

1 Self-critical approach

Firstly, you tell yourself you should be good at this. The fact that you’re not proves how useless you are. 

Next, you imagine yourself in front of a group. You see yourself blushing and stuttering. Everyone thinks you look stupid and can’t cope.

You lie awake at night flooded with dread. You can’t bear to feel nervous. Something terrible might happen.

Avoiding the issue

In the end you refuse to do the talks, and your boss is really annoyed. You feel down and brood for weeks. You get dropped from a new training course, which will make it harder to get that promotion. You end up seeing yourself as hopeless and incompetent. 

2 Non-judgmental approach

Alternatively, you could choose to be non-judgmental about your dislike of public speaking. After all, you know lots of people dread public speaking. So you accept that your difficulties are normal.

Although you don’t want to learn the skills, it’s sensible to do so. You may as face the challenge, instead of avoiding the whole issue. You know it will be better in the long run to tackle your fears head-on.  

So instead of worrying about the issue, you do some problem-solving. This leads you to a public speaking course at a local community centre.

You face the challenge

For the first few sessions you’re intensely nervous. But you tell yourself these are just feelings. They don’t mean anything except that you’re nervous. They’re no reflection on how competent or good a person you are. Anyway, everyone’s in the same boat, and trying to encourage each other.

Finally, you deliver your first talk – a little shakily. But you get by. Actually, you don’t do too badly. You know you’ll get better with more practice. You’re proud you faced the challenge and performed OK.

Accepting what you can do

And you accept yourself for what you can do at this stage. Good enough is good enough for the moment. At least you now know you can speak in front of others, even if you are nervous.

You gather your courage, and give your talks at work. You’re nervous, and blush and shake a bit at the start. But no-one seems to notice or care. Each time you speak in front of a group, you gain a little more confidence. 

Your boss is pleased and offers you a training course. Now, you see yourself as competent and able to overcome difficulties.  

Promote self-acceptance 

So which approach is kinder and leads to greater self-acceptance? 

Certainly not the first.

In that version, you expect yourself to be good at everything, regardless of whether you’ve had a chance to learn the skills needed. It’s an unrealistic and harsh standard to hold yourself to. You’ll never see yourself realistically if you unfairly criticise everything you do.  

All humans have areas in which they struggle

And you’re no different. Why then do you believe you should be perfect in everything?

Accepting that you lack some skills is healthy. Then you can do something about them. If you don’t believe you need to learn a skill, you’ll never start.

So self-acceptance is the first step to making changes. But viewing yourself without judgment is also key.

Using a realistic self-assessment is a great way to find out what’s going OK, and what’s not. Just don’t look at the results and immediately start finding fault with yourself. 

No negative self-talk

Be aware of the urge to use negative self-talk against yourself. 

Take out the emotion. Ban yourself from making critical comments about any aspect of yourself.

Instead, act like a detached observer. Stay neutral, and simply take note of how you’re going in a range of different areas. No comments like, “How stupid! As if you don’t know that!”

Refuse to judge yourself.

State facts

Simply state facts. You’re working out where you’d like to be, and what you need to get there.

That’s all.

There’s no shame in not knowing something, or doing something badly. So in the above example, you can think:

“I get nervous when I have to speak in public. I want to talk effectively without feeling panicked.”

End of story.

No predicting what others will think of you. No telling yourself you’re hopeless or stupid. No self-criticism or putting yourself down at all.

You can choose to stop negative self-talk, and work on self-acceptance instead.

Work on self-acceptance

You can choose to stop criticising yourself.

Whenever you criticise yourself, you increase emotional distress. You feel guilty or bad about yourself and your future.

So it’s harder to think clearly, and therefore harder to find solutions.

Self-criticism stifles change

If you don’t believe in yourself, you don’t believe you can change.

You won’t risk trying something new, because you’re not sure of what to do, or how to do it. So you’ll avoid the discomfort and fear of uncertainty.

Then over time, your determination to change fades. Finally, you conclude it’s all useless, and give up.

Be kind to yourself

Being kind to yourself means accepting yourself as you are. You have lots of positive qualities. You’re a worthy person with skills and abilities.

And you may also need to change in some areas. Everyone does. That’s life. 

So use your self-assessment in a positive way. Accept it as a summary of yourself at present.

But you’re not going to stay like this for the rest of your life. Even if you don’t embark on deliberate change, you will gradually shift what you do or think. 

Why not make sure you change and end up where you most want to be?  

Everyone needs to change

Everyone has their own mix of contrasting qualities and skills; some positive, others not so helpful. No-one is born with perfect abilities or personal qualities. No-one has everything worked out.

We’re all learning and refining skills and behaviours. But generally it’s pretty hit-and-miss.

We don’t notice all those small decisions that form our character. We don’t think of what we learn from our surroundings.

Most of the time we just hope for the best. But that wastes a lot of time and energy. 

Choose to be more effective

Healthy self-acceptance requires you to know yourself thoroughly; then you can see yourself realistically. 

Doing a self-assessment can make the process of self-acceptance and change more intentional. It’s a more effective self-development tool than just hoping it’ll all be OK.

So commit to doing a realistic self-assessment of your skills and qualities today. 

Start by identifying your positives first by reading the next article in the series.

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