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Accept and Value Yourself: 11 Ways to Embrace Who You Are

“You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” ~Brené Brown

I can’t remember exactly what it was she was trying to convince me I could do, but I had an argument to counter every bit of encouragement. There was no shortage to the ways I believed I wasn’t good enough.

She was trying to help me see myself the way she saw me—as someone smart, capable, and full of potential. I wasn’t buying it.

I’d been pretending for so long to be a better person than I really believed myself to be. I thought any positive thing another person said about me was just an indication that she was fooled by my illusion. If she could see who I really was, she’d change her mind about me.

I was tired of trying to convince her that I wasn’t actually as good as I’d been pretending to be. In desperation I finally asked the question I thought would end the conversation. Tears streamed down my face and the muscles in my chest squeezed so tightly that I could hardly choke out the words, “Do you have any idea how much I hate myself?”

“Yes,” she said, “I do.”

I was taken aback. I guess I’d expected my revelation to shock her. Apparently I hadn’t been hiding my self-loathing as well as I’d thought.

Part of me was relieved to know that maybe someone did actually see how much I was hurting. At the same time, I was terrified to discover that anyone could see more of me than I chose to reveal. I didn’t trust that she, or anyone else, could ever really understand.

Looking back, I think she did understand more than I originally gave her credit for. She may not have known exactly what I was feeling, but she knew what it was to hate oneself. She’d hated herself too.

While I was filled with self-loathing, my life was focused on keeping others from seeing who I really was. I didn’t like myself and couldn’t see how it was possible for anyone else to like me either. I hid while pretending to be someone I hoped was more loveable.

I chased after accomplishments to prove to myself and to others that I was worthy of love, but it was never enough. I couldn’t do or be all the things I thought were expected of me. There was always something more to prove.

For years I thought life would always be that way, but recently I was surprised to realize that I don’t hate myself anymore. Of course, there are still plenty of things about myself I wish were different, but my self-loathing is being replaced by acceptance.

I didn’t set out specifically to learn how to stop hating myself—I didn’t think that was possible. Instead, I was searching for direction in terms of a career. I was wondering how to make friends.

I read books and articles, listened to podcasts, and even worked with a life coach with the hope of making myself better. There wasn’t a particular experience or single idea that made the difference. What I found is an array of small practices and simple concepts that are helping me learn to embrace who I am.

The shift has been gradual enough that I didn’t notice how much I’d changed until I relived the memory of that old conversation. I’m no longer paralyzed by the belief that no matter what I do I’ll never be worthy of love. I’m slowly learning to trust and value myself for who I am, even as I acknowledge that there’s always room for growth.

1. Allowing myself to be a work in progress

I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself to always know what I’m doing and never make mistakes. I’ve missed opportunities to try something new because I was so afraid of looking silly. I’ve given up on things I want to do because I couldn’t do them as well as I thought I should.

Being a beginner is just plain uncomfortable, but we all have to start somewhere. I’m learning that my value doesn’t come from getting everything right the first time. Instead, it’s the mistakes and failures and trying again that help me learn and grow.

I can be proud of myself for being willing to practice again and again. It’s the baby steps, tiny changes, and consistent willingness to try again that develop the qualities I hope to embody.

2. Being curious about who I am

For much of my life, I defined myself by the ways I didn’t measure up to the person I thought others expected me to be. I didn’t know who I was—only who I was not.

I’ve started shifting my questions. Instead of wondering why I don’t care about what’s supposed to matter to me, I’m discovering what does matter to me. Instead of looking to others for clues about what I should think, I’m asking myself what I actually think.

I’m learning that being different from someone else doesn’t necessarily mean one of us is wrong. Recognizing that there’s more than one right way to be is freeing me to start exploring my own strengths, personality, values, and preferences.

3. Letting go of what I can’t control

I’ve fallen into the trap of believing that if I could just do and say all the right things, then people would like me. I’ve made it my responsibility to try to make sure the people around me are always happy. That’s a lot of pressure.

The thing is, I can’t control what others think of me or how they experience life. I can only be responsible for my own actions and intentions. I’m learning to focus more of my time and energy on living in a way that reflects my personal values instead of trying to control other people’s perceptions.

4. Doing things that scare me

A lot of things scare me. I’ve let my fear hold me back from many things I want to do. I’ve hated myself for being a coward.

I’m learning that bravery isn’t the absence of fear. Courage isn’t something a person either has or doesn’t. Fear doesn’t just go away if we wait long enough.

I’d always wanted to waterski, but was afraid of looking silly or getting hurt. I did take a few tumbles while I was learning. To be honest, I still get nervous every time I get behind a boat, but now I’m also anticipating the fun of skimming across the water.

I want to have deep friendships, but inviting an acquaintance to get together for coffee or introducing myself to someone I admire online feels vulnerable. What if she doesn’t like me? What if I say the wrong thing? The thing is, I don’t always click with everyone I talk to, but through taking the risk to reach out I’ve met some wonderful friends.

Every time I do something that scares me, I build trust that I’m capable of doing more than I previously believed possible and that a failure isn’t the end. I’m learning to work with my fear instead of letting it define me.

5. Chatting with my inner critic

My inner critic can be incessant and quite mean. For the longest time I believed everything she said about me and accepted the way she talked to me.

Then I started paying attention to what I was actually saying about myself. What if some of the awful things I believed about myself weren’t actually true? How might my life be different if I talked to myself with encouragement instead of criticism?

One of my favorite ways to question the critical thoughts inside my head and translate them into more helpful language is to write out a dialogue with my inner critic in my journal. In these back and forth conversations, I can uncover what my inner critic is trying to accomplish by being so mean.

As counterintuitive as it seems, often she’s actually trying to protect me. She tells me I’m awkward and annoying in hopes that I’ll be careful to only say things that are sure to win approval…or even better, that I’ll stay home where there’s no risk of being rejected. She tries to discourage me from sharing my writing anywhere it might be criticized by warning me I’ll never measure up to all the other amazing writers out there.

When I take the time to understand the motivations beyond my inner critic’s harsh words, I can decide for myself which risks I’m willing to take instead of just believing I’m not good enough. I can also start shifting how I talk to myself by asking her to rephrase her concerns in a kinder way.

6. Asking myself what I think

I have a tendency to try to figure out what other people think before deciding what I’ll do or think or say. I’ve made a lot of decisions based on what I believe other people think I should do. When those decisions aren’t a good fit for me, I’m quick to assume it’s an indication that there’s something wrong with me.

I’m learning that I can consider other people’s opinions without denying my own. Disagreeing doesn’t have to mean I’m wrong. When I take the time to ask myself what I think, I get to know myself better, reinforce my trust in my own value, and choose a life that’s right for me.

7. Feeling all my emotions

I used to think certain emotions were wrong to feel. I didn’t believe I had a right to feel angry or sad or hurt. There was always someone who had it worse than me.

I tried to suppress my feelings, but they’d get stuck inside and lash out in unexpected ways. I hated myself for not being able to control how I felt.

But there is no quota on feelings. Feeling my emotions doesn’t take away from anyone else’s experience. On the contrary, it increases my compassion for others.

How I feel doesn’t make me good or bad, but it does give me information about what’s going on inside me. I’m getting curious about what is behind the emotions I’m feeling instead of criticizing myself for feeling them. It’s not my job to control how I feel, it’s my job to choose my response to those feelings.

8. Making space for fun and joy

I used to feel guilty when I took time for anything fun. I didn’t think I deserved it. Hard work and sacrifice were the only truly noble uses of time.

These days I intentionally make space in my schedule to do the things I really enjoy—sewing, experimenting with art supplies, walking in nature. Not only does having fun energize me, it also reminds me that I’m worthy of care. I’m learning so much about myself and how I can create more beauty and connection in this world.

9. Sharing vulnerably with another person

Self-hatred prompted me to hide from others. I tried to only show a version of myself that I thought would be accepted. I was terrified I’d be rejected and alone if people knew the truth about me.

It’s hard to let another person see my fears, disappointments, and hopes. I don’t want anyone to know I make mistakes. It’s painful enough to hate myself—I couldn’t bear the thought of other people hating me too.

But it’s actually when I’m willing to share my vulnerable parts with another person that I’m reminded I’m not alone. We all have struggles. I can choose to hide mine or give another person an opportunity to support me.

10. Asking others how they see me

I have a tendency to assume I know what others think of me…and I tend to assume it’s bad. Making these assumptions keeps me from knowing the truth about how others actually see me. It also denies the support and encouragement they try to give me.

One of the scariest exercises I’ve done is asking people close to me to share what our relationship means to them, what they see as my strengths, and what qualities they like about me. It feels so presumptuous to ask another person to say something nice about me. What if they think I’m arrogant? What if they can’t think of anything positive to say?

And yet, in taking that risk, I get a glimpse of myself from another perspective. Sometimes I get stuck filtering my view of myself through all the ways I believe I’m not good enough. I need someone else to point out the parts of myself I just can’t see.

11. Compiling evidence

I still often default to focusing on the ways I don’t measure up. Sometimes I need a reminder of the best parts of who I am. I’m continually working to develop a habit of noticing the qualities I value instead of just looking for things to criticize.

I journal most days and I reserve the last three lines of the page for a set of small lists. I look back over the previous day and list what I am grateful for, evidence that I am loved, and ways that I am good enough. Each day these lists help me practice looking for my worth instead of just all the ways I fall short.

When I’m feeling low, it’s hard to remember the good things about myself. I keep a small notebook where I record compliments and positive comments others make about me, as well as the things I’m learning to value about myself. I turn back to this notebook when my opinion of myself could use a boost.

We don’t have to wallow in self-hatred, but leaping straight to self-love can feel impossible. Instead, we can make small shifts and adopt simple practices to help us learn to accept and value who we are right now, even as we continue to change and grow.

Will you join me? Choose one idea or practice to try this week. Remember, you’re allowed to be a work in progress!

I’d love to hear how it goes. What are your biggest obstacles to self-acceptance? What has helped you learn to appreciate who you are instead of beating yourself up for something you’re not? Let me know in the comments!

About Johanna Schram

Johanna Schram is learning to value wrestling with the questions over having all the answers. She’s sifting through the internal and external expectations of who she is supposed to be to discover who she really is, what she values, and what she has to give. Join her at joRuth and deepen your self-knowledge with her free guides.

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  • katie weinberg

    I can relate to all of this! Thank you so much for posting.

  • Nancy M. Forbes

    Nice way to simplify it to workable chunks! Thanks

  • Thanks, Katie! I’m glad this resonated with you. Do you have an idea or practice that’s helped you learn to appreciate who you are?

  • Thanks so much, Nancy! It really is so helpful to break things down into small steps instead of trying to do everything at once, isn’t it? I’m curious, is there a particular piece that resonated most with you?

  • Amanda

    Thank you for this piece! I am at a time in my life which you describe – I am actively working on not hating myself anymore, and it’s been a couple of years but I am finally feeling like it’s not that bad anymore. Sure, I have things to work on and I have to get out of my comfort zone more to do all the things that I wanna do, but all in all it’s all become so much better. Today I had one of those days where I question my own judgment, wondering if there’s still self-hatred that makes me do the things I do and whether I’ve actually come anywhere at all. And then your text popped into my e-mail as from above. Thank you so much for the inspiring words and tips, and I hope we both and everyone else reading this will keep striving for more understanding and acceptance of ourselves.
    🙂

  • katie weinberg

    I am still in the process of learning how to do this, but I have found that reminding myself that no one has it all figured out has helped me! If I feel out of my comfort zone or scared, I tell myself that others probably do too and they are fine. 🙂

  • Nancy M. Forbes

    The whole thing resonated as I recently published a book, The Serenity Mindset, which touches on many of those same points. I learned these lessons myself when going through a difficult time in my life. Being a normally strong person, I was at a loss for which way to turn until I learned how important it was to still my mind for clarity and self-appreciation. 🙂

  • Melena Kiriaki

    Johanna,
    Thank you for posting this piece. I want you to know that every part of this article has identified so strongly with me and how I feel. I will work to embrace the tools you have offered. Thank you for being a resource of awakening for me, I truly appreciate it.

  • Yes! That is such a good point…and one I have to remind myself of often. It’s so easy to start thinking we’re the only one struggling, but the reality is that no one has it all figured out. Thanks for sharing what helps you. 🙂

  • Congrats on the book! It sounds wonderful. Thanks for sharing what you learned when going through tough times and helping the rest of us feel less alone.

  • Charles Cohen

    Great post!!

  • I’m so glad this came at a helpful time for you! I can totally relate to having days when I wonder whether I’ve actually made any progress at all. I think learning to understand and accept ourselves is a lifelong process. Yay that you are working to appreciate yourself for who you are. Are there any ideas or practices that have been particularly helpful for you? Thanks so much for your kind comment, Amanda!

  • Thanks, Charles! Are there any points that particularly resonated with you or any that you would add?

  • Charles Cohen

    It was the whole flow. Not sure how to explain that part better. The items generally alternated between “this part of you is okay, is human” and “here is something you can try yourself.”

    So, the message I got was, “It is okay to accept who you are, and here are some ways you can try to do that.” And, imo, you presented it in a low pressure way. “This may work for you, and if not, that is fine. Here are some other things to explore.”

  • I love your summary! Thanks for your kind words, Charles.

  • Charles Cohen

    My pleasure.
    (If you are looking at me on Facebook, most of my posts are hidden to just friends. So if you want to see more that Robots and AI, feel free to send me a friend request. Just be prepared for posts about Ariel and knitting…)

  • lees argh

    “I chased after accomplishments to prove to myself and to others that I was worthy of love, but it was never enough. I couldn’t do or be all the things I thought were expected of me. There was always something more to prove.” – Something I really needed to read, and wish some of my loved ones could also read and understand. Thank you so much ♥

  • lees argh

    “I chased after accomplishments to prove to myself and to others that I was worthy of love, but it was never enough. I couldn’t do or be all the things I thought were expected of me. There was always something more to prove.” – Something I really needed to read, and wish some of my loved ones could also read and understand. Thank you so much for this wonderful words of wisdom ♥

  • Thanks, Melena! I’m so glad you found these tools helpful. I’d love to hear how things go for you as grow in appreciation for yourself as who you are. Which tool will you try first?

  • I’m so glad I could meet you where you are today. It’s so hard to be constantly trying to prove our worth, isn’t it? Thanks so much for being here!

  • lees argh

    It sure is, and as you said so eloquently, it’s not actually possible to do so. Learning to accept who am I right now is part of my ongoing mission (: Words such as yours help so much – thank you for sharing your journey with us!

  • Emma

    I’m sat on the other side of the world feeling that someone else understands the pain and struggle of silent self loathing. I have hated everything about myself for a long time. Last year I became very depressed. I truly believed that I was a fraud. If anyone knew the real me they would be horrified. I was tired of pretending, tired of the effort in being who I thought I was supposed to be, tired of trying to be worthy enough to be loved. i was exhausted from the struggle and planned to end my life.Thankfully I got some help and have been seeing a psychologist weekly. She has taught me so much and I am learning to like myself. Thank you for writing this article it will become part of my learning and part of the hope I have for the future.

  • Thank you for your bravery and honesty in sharing this piece. It’s clear from the comments already how much this resonates with so many people. I’m just another adding to that chorus! So many of us are paralysed by that horrid feeling inside, the inability to express it and the fear of what will happen if we do. Your story, and your advice, is so heartening. To know we are not alone, and that in spite of the worst, we can survive, by learning from the stories of others – like yours here – is one of the most vital gifts we can give each other.

  • Oh, Emma. Thank you for sharing a piece of your story. It’s so painful and exhausting to do all that pretending and still never feel like enough. I’m very glad that you got help and are learning a different way of being with yourself and I’m absolutely honored to be a little part of that. Is there an idea or practice that has been most helpful for you on your journey?

  • Thank you for helping me remember that I’m not the only one, Aliya! It’s such a gift to discover that we’re not alone. I’m glad my story connected with you. Is there an idea of practice that you find particularly helpful in working with that horrid feeling inside—whether something that’s worked for you or something you’d like to try?

  • DB Hoster

    This helps me so much. I’m really glad you pointed out a couple things that have impeded my self esteem which I can hopefully change. I too am guilty of focusing on all the things I am NOT, and not even considering who I AM. I too always have felt like others were overlooking parts of me when they would give me genuine compliments and assumed they were naive about me. Yet I have always behaved like a decent, compassionate human being. I’m ready to start trying to focus on (and appreciate) who I am more. Thanks for the kind “push”.

  • I’ve always found journalling to be worthwhile and notice the difference if I stray away from that good habit. Letting go of control is another practice that resonates, as does an acceptance of the fact that none of us are perfect, that perfection is an aspiration rather than a goal to agonise over, and that it’s okay, in fact human, to fall and stumble along the way.

    As Leonard Cohen said so beautifully: “Forget your perfect offering, there’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

    A lot of your other approaches though, they are either new or daunting to me – which to my mind, means they’re all the more worth trying 🙂

  • Thanks for sharing some of your practices, Aliya! I’m right there with you on the journaling. It’s been so helpful to me and I can tell when I haven’t been doing it consistently. Letting go of control is a tough one for me. It’s good to remember that I am allowed to be human. 🙂 I hope you find some of the other practices helpful. I’d love to hear how trying them goes for you!

  • Thanks, DB! I’m so glad you found this helpful. It’s so much easier to see what’s wrong than what’s right, isn’t it? I think we all have areas we’d like to improve, but we also all have positive qualities. It can be helpful to shift from wondering why we’re not better to asking how we can make the most of who we are today. I hope you find some of these practices and ideas helpful as you work on appreciating who you are. Let me know how it goes!

  • ProfessorRabbitShaver

    This is great and all but I’m black and it sucks being black. i’ll never be able to get away from it or change my skin. I will never and have never received the same opportunities as my non-black peers. Being black means you have to live on your knees no matter how hard you work. Our family structures and families suck and are full of non supportive people that want to drain your lifeforce like vampires. For the past 10 years I’ve gone through some VERY traumatic things:

    -My son was taken from me by his crazy mother he’s 8 now. I havent seen him since he was 3.
    -A studio in Canada stole my game idea which my team and I spent two years straight working on. Said studio is now making millions and the game is being called revolutionary.
    -My book project has been delayed by two years because the writer I hired screwed me over and wasn’t meeting deadline then just left the project. (I could’ve f#cking killed him when he told me he was leaving the project while drunk) I’m now “fixing this problem sailing right into year six.
    -I Just found out yesterday that my work (out of hundreds of artists) didn’t make it into the Expose art book. (I waited 5 months for the results)
    -The peers I use to work with are all doing better, owning firms, game studios, getting big contracts while I work for barely 38k a year doing sh!tty design and living like a peasant.
    -When I tried to do these things it always falls flat or someone say no to my art submissions

    I’m 35 now and too much time has gone by and I’m still at square 1. I’ve failed and at this point I’m just ready to go. Personally I give it 5 more years (40) I know when and how I’m going to do it. Most of you will say “Well a lot changes in 5 years” well, I spent over 10 having the same crap happen. The only thing different were the people doing it. I no longer know what to do. I’m sitting here now at work not doing anything because I do what’s good enough or enought to get me by because I’m just tired of everything. (And yes I went though my honeymoon stage then reality hit) I’m wasting my time, talent, and life. I feel trapped. i just want to f#cking go!!

  • Stephanie Koob

    First I want to say, It absolutely sucks that you’ve been through a string of events that you put such hard work and dedication into and have not yet been rewarded for your work. I can completely understand you feeling drained and done. I feel the amount of pressure you’re under from what you write. It would be a shame to walk away from all of your work all these years but maybe there’s a way to step aside from it for a while? If you’re at this breaking point, it might be necessary. Do you have any other interests? I’m 43 and just starting the process of a career change. I don’t even know what career yet. I’m taking aptitude and interest tests. This at least has given my brain a refocus and lifted my spirits when I started identifying other areas that I might be good at AND enjoy. Another career is always an option, and you’re at the perfect age to take on a different life. It also doesn’t mean you have to give up on what you’ve been doing completely. Take the O*NET on mynextmove.org/explore/ip assessment if you’re interested. Maybe something interesting will arise.

  • Point 1 resonated with me, I can tend to feel like I should always be at a certain point in my life by now.

    I guess this is a feeling many people have, it’s important to have faith in the universe and to enjoy the journey and not the end goal.

    Thanks again for your thought provoking post, I know it will help many people out there!

  • Fabi

    Well l had to go to your website and read more especially about getting out and the need to belong to a community to be able to write that l think a daily reminder l am a work in progress is what works best for me. Thank you

  • LaTrice Dowe

    Excellent article. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, Johanna.

  • ProfessorRabbitShaver

    I just need something to do to kill the time until I’m 40. Plus, i love how author YOga Pants of this article has responded to EVERYONE else except the the person that has a REAL problem. Guess mommy and daddy’s trust fund didn’t teach her anything about that.

  • ProfessorRabbitShaver

    Plus, art is the only thing I can do. I hate people and kids so I’ll never work with either. I also hate the stale office scene with a bunch of fake people I hate.

  • GeoOh

    This article was very gently written and I was pleased to read it. I’m going to try and write down compliments that people give to me. I think the reason I’m so unhappy is because I’m not good at anything. I try different things but end up giving up. I embarrassed myself at a July 4th picnic playing crochet. Jeesh. All you have to do is hit the ball with a mallet. It’s frustrating. I hope your suggestion works. Thank you.

  • Julie Poveromo

    It is so nice to know that others are going through the same struggle as me – your article resonated with me on so many levels! Thank you for sharing it 🙂

  • Daiyah Sayed

    This was beautiful.
    Keep on inspiring us with your amazing words