The idea of perfection is endorsed all around us. Stunning models, celebrities, athletes all create a need for us to become flawless, like they appear, when in reality we are all imperfect. The media has created standards for us to live by, such as: the perfect weight, the trends we should wear, the relationships we should pursue, the face we should all have even if we are 70 years old (creeepy), the type of social life we must have, the definition of success…and so on.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
The media alone is not solely responsible for our need and longing for perfection. It is in fact our relationship with our caregivers (since infancy) that strongly decides how we deal with our imperfections and determines how susceptible we turn out to be to the media and society’s concept of flawlessness.
We grow believing that others’ approval is what determines our self worth. If we fit into the imposed criteria, then we are safe and we belong. We spend time and effort trying to fix our flaws believing if we could just repair what is wrong with us then things will fall into place and we will live happily ever after. We are oblivious to the fact that it is our own APPROVAL and ACCEPTANCE that will achieve our happiness and contentment.
Have you noticed how empowering and humbling it feels to be around or know people who have embraced their flaws. Those people who are well aware of their imperfections, but chose not to allow those defects to overshadow their lives. You might meet someone with a severe disability but carry themselves with so much confidence and joy like “Nick Vujicic a man with no limbs who teaches people how to get up and Jessica Cox became the first pilot with no arms, proving you don’t need ‘wings’ to fly” Murano, G. (2009, July 21).
Self-approval helps us strengthen individuality and build our self-confidence, which provides us with the freedom to work on our assets, develop what we can, and enjoy who we are in this world.
“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” Anna Quindlen
The truth is everyone has flaws and has failed at something at some point in time. We all have imperfections whether physical, emotional or intellectual. We assume people we look up to or envy are perfect. The only catch here is that some people learned how to embrace their flaws and made their defects invisible to the world, and others carry their flaws as burdens and show-stoppers.
This article tackles the major influences on our self-approval and some simple ways to embrace our flaws.
What Determines Our Self-Approval?
“No amount of self-improvement can make up for any lack of self-acceptance.” Robert Holden
Our self-approval begins with our parents or caretakers. As children, we absorb our parents’ insecurities and anxieties, causing our own collections of self-doubts (Manassis, K., 1996). For that reason, our caregivers’ positive attitude and confidence strengthens our self-assurance. For we often mirror similar lives to our parents (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2011). If our parents have certain negative self-perceptions and beliefs regarding their selves, we are more likely to develop very similar negative beliefs about ourselves and vice versa.
Children are not born with negative or positive self-perceptions; their self-belief is often a result of their early years spent with their parents. Even if the parents were very loving but had poor self-esteem, the children will ultimately adopt their parent’s negative sense of worth.
Furthermore, the type of reinforcement we get from our parents as kids was mostly built on how we behaved, and the sad truth is quite often our actions weren’t met with approval. Consequently, as we grow up we tend to identify ourselves with those undesirable behaviors, which inevitably cause our negative self-perceptions and self-disapproval. Since we had to depend a lot on our caregivers during our childhood we were in a way required to believe their negative judgment as valid. Unfortunately, some parents are more inclined to voice out their disapprovals of us than to praise our positive actions or assets.
Our parents may convey messages that we’re not pretty, clever, worthy or pleasant enough, etc… Consequently, many of us place conditions in order to accept ourselves. As a result, we consider many aspects of our self as defects, since we learned to suppress our negative feelings that we suffered from our disapproving and overly critical parents. This inclination to become self-critical is responsible for most of the problems and complications we create for ourselves as adults.
Nevertheless, we additionally get exposed to disapproval from our relatives, teachers, friends and schoolmates, who are all dealing with their own self-doubts. Some of them could not refrain from mocking our flaws whenever they got the chance, thus we grow up believing that we are defective.
“The courage to be is the courage to accept oneself, in spite of being unacceptable.” Paul Tillich
Self-acceptance is the declaration of our true support to exactly who we are with the exact strengths and weakness we currently hold. It is not about correcting anything in ourselves. When we accept we do not judge, we acknowledge our imperfections just the way we are. Our security and happiness does not depend on constantly changing ourselves.
How often do you catch yourself thinking “I will be happy when …” or “I’ll be okay when . . .” or “I can be happier if I was….” Self-approval is being content, with no conditions. It’s not ignoring or blocking our imperfections; it is simply seeing them as unrelated to our fundamental worthiness.
According to writer Robert Holden in Happiness Now, our self-acceptance decides our happiness, “The more self-acceptance you have, the more happiness you’ll allow yourself to accept, receive and enjoy. In other words, you enjoy as much happiness as you believe you’re worthy of…”
The good news is that only you can determine the standards for your self-approval. You become free the second you choose to stop criticizing and placing so many criteria on yourself.
When we end the continuous self-evaluation and judgment only then can we understand ourselves and start treating ourselves with compassion and love regardless of those so acclaimed shortcomings.
Self-Improvement vs. Self-Acceptance
We can approve and value ourselves and still improve our life. Accepting ourselves does not mean we lose incentive to make positive changes and developments to our world. Self-approval only means we are in no way dependent on such changes to feel good about ourselves.
You do not have to fix anything to approve of yourself. The only fixing we need is adjusting the way we see ourselves. Therefore, any other changes we make are our own personal preferences and not criteria for higher self-esteem.
How can I become more self-accepting?
“If you think something is missing in your life, it is probably YOU…” Robert Holden
Determine if there is anything you can do for you flaw. It might be that you lose your temper quickly, or you are impatient. Accepting your flaws is not about being passive about a quality that’s damaging your life. You have to recognize whether the flaw is harmful in any way to you or others, and then act accordingly…
- Decide the actions to take
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr
If you have realized that a certain flaw be must addressed, then with all sincerity acknowledge whether you will do something about it or not. Only YOU know the true impact of that flaw on you and your surroundings; if you honestly believe that changing it will make a difference then that is amazing. Go For It!
But if it is something you cannot change…
- Look outside the box
Our weaknesses are often exaggerated in our mind. Think for a second what this flaw would look like through an outsider’s eyes. Likewise, how would you see the same flaw if someone else has it? Is it that horrible?
- Know that It is OK if not everyone likes you THE IMP is that YOU LIKE YOU
Having a few people who do not like you or accept you does not make you worthless or valueless. To like yourself does not make you selfish or narcissistic. Finding the light inside of you allows others to see it too. Why should others love you, tolerate you, be patient and compassionate with you if you can’t actually be like that with yourself?
“Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.” Brene Brown
Be kind to yourself. Despite all the imperfections you find in you, it is not fair to devalue your identity and who you are. That is cruel and inhumane. There is so much to be grateful about.
- Practice True Love
Love your “Curves and Edges… All your Perfect Imperfections” John Legend. Unconditional love exists and it should start within you!
- Be proud of your individuality and end the comparison
Your imperfections are what make you unique. What distinguish us from each other are our quirks, unique features, and eccentricities. This is what makes us all remarkable. Who would want to be in a world where we all look, behave, react, speak and love the same way?
- Focus on the strengths you already own
There must be at least ONE thing you could love and appreciate about yourself and your life.
- Stop giving a @#$% about others’ opinion of you
The only way to become you and give your best is when you stop caring about what others think. You give the right for others to decide who you want to be. It is your responsibility to tell them to F@#$ Off!
Keep in mind that it all depends on a personal decision you take at any second, a choice to be free of all judgment and cruelty you have endured primarily from your own self. Make a choice, live, love, and smile your alive J
Canadian Mental Health Association (2011) Children and self-esteem. Retrieved October 18, 2014, http://www.cmha.ca/bins/content_page.asp?cid=2-29-68
Children’s Self-Esteem and Parental Influence (Part One of Three) – Counselling Connect (Counselling Connect RSS)
Manassis, K. (1996) Keys to parenting your anxious child. Hauppague, New York: Barron’s Educational Series, Inc.
McKay, M., Fanning, P. (2000) Self-Esteem third edition, A proven program of cognitive techniques for assessing, improving and maintaining your self-esteem. Oakland, California: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
Murano, G. (2009, July 21). 8 of World’s Most Inspirational People. Retrieved October 25, 2014, from http://www.oddee.com/item_96763.aspx
The Path to Unconditional Self-Acceptance (Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness + Find a Therapist)