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The Key to Happiness: Accept Yourself & Stop Seeking Approval

Happy Woman with Dandelions

“Acceptance is not submission; it is acknowledgment of the facts of a situation, then deciding what you’re going to do about it.” ~Kathleen Casey Thiesen

I think many of us get caught in a vicious cycle of thinking that leads us to believe we can only be happy if we gain acceptance from others. We think to ourselves, “The only way I can ever love myself is if others do.”

This leads us down a path of self-deprecation and hopelessness. We end up making decisions purely for the sake of gaining approval and acceptance, when really we should make decisions that reflect our authentic self and life goals and aspirations.

This was me just one short year ago. I was in school full time and I was working so hard that I was pushing myself to the brink of destruction.

I’m a cancer survivor, and since I got sick at fourteen, my health has never quite been the same.

I pushed and pushed through school because it made others happy. I ignored the important task of taking care of my mind, body, and spirit because I felt that there was no time in my life for any of these things.

Acceptance and love from others was paramount in my mind, and love and acceptance from myself took a back seat. However, this sort of thinking is a slippery slope. Eventually, I got the wake up call I needed.

When I was seventeen I developed a chronic and relentless case of insomnia and was prescribed Xanax. I was severely physically dependent on this medication until I was twenty-one. It distorted the way I perceived the world in ways I am only just now beginning to understand.

When I turned twenty-one in September, I finally could see the forest for the trees and saw that my life was falling apart.

I sought treatment for my substance abuse issues and suddenly I began to experience moments of clarity that helped me understand what I had been doing wrong for so many years.

Ever since my cancer treatments I have been chronically ill. It has made walking a traditional path in life very difficult. But I never really wanted to walk a traditional path; I only did so because I was caught in the trap of seeking approval from others.

I spent many years having a pity party for myself and wondering why I was such a good person who had to endure such a bad thing. I spent thousands of dollars on medical treatments hoping that I could one day be the person I was before I got sick.

This led to a deep depression when I was at the crux of much of my substance abuse issues. It wasn’t until I went to treatment that I realized that accepting my situation didn’t mean I was giving up; it meant I was granting myself the right to have some peace in my life.

I finally surrendered to the fact that there were aspects of my life I just couldn’t change, and trying would only further the insanity. I finally realized it was time to move on.

So, once again, I need to stress that accepting your situation does not have to mean you become complacent. In fact, for me, it was quite the opposite.

For the first time I met myself where I was and loved and nurtured myself in a way I never had known how to before.

Stemming from this self-love and acceptance something magical happened. For the first time I stopped looking at myself as a broken, sick person with no future, and I saw positivity, power, and abundance in my life.

I started focusing on what I would like to cultivate in my life and what sort of path I could walk given my circumstances. I started making lists of things that I had wanted to do but had put off because I believed I would never be well enough.

As my confidence grew, I started to envision a positive and wonderful future for myself. I had always wanted to move to Berkeley ever since I was sixteen, and so I set out to do that. I had always wanted to sell on eBay but was too fearful of failure to try it.

For the first time I decided to take a risk and so I started to do that too. I had wanted to take a break from school and so I granted myself permission to do that as well. The end result? I now have a successful eBay store and just moved into a cute little apartment in Berkeley.

I took some time off from school to gain clarity and will be returning next semester. However, I will only go at the pace that is reasonable for me, and I will no longer compare my path to the path of others or do things a certain way purely for approval and acceptance.

I will do what I can while still leaving plenty of time to care for myself in this deep and powerful way that has led me to my current situation. These are the kinds of changes that you can make in just a few short months, and all you need is a little self-love and self-acceptance.

So what have I learned this year that perhaps can be helpful to you? First and foremost, I have learned that we should never compare our path to the path of others. Our focus should be on walking the path that is the most reasonable for us while still having time to genuinely love and take care of ourselves.

Further, I learned that sometimes the biggest risks in life reap the greatest rewards.

Lastly, I have learned that cultivating a deep sense of happiness and well-being from within will ultimately provide us with the strength to manifest what we want in our lives.

When you focus on the internal, rather than trying to directly influence the external aspects of your life, inevitably the external aspects of your life also change for the better. It all starts with you.

Girl with dandelions image via Shutterstock

About Steph Dittrich

Stephanie is a college student with an entrepreneurial spirit who has learned to thank her struggles for what they have taught her. She has learned that even the toughest situations are an opportunity to adapt and grow. You can contact her at sdittrich @ live . com.

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  • Stephanie, thanks for sharing your journey. I think you are right, self-acceptance and love is the key to it all.

  • Karina

    I so needed to read this today. I am quitting my miserable jon in two weeks because it has been slowly eating away at my health. I can no longer be here for the sake of my well-being. The whole time I stayed was because my dad would be proud of me keeping a job this long even though it is soul sucking to say the least. I’ve finally come to the realization that he should be proud of me no matter what as I’ve turned out to be a pretty good daughter to him.Time to stop looking for other’s approval and finally start investing in my own happiness accoring to me!

    Thank you for the inspiring post and glad you’ve taken a step into the life you deserve to live! 🙂

  • SheisFabulousMagazine.com

    So happy to hear you found a way to go easy on yourself and meet yourself exactly where you are. Makes me think of a quote by Louise Hay: “I am in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing”

  • Caleb Cox

    great post!

  • Lapis

    Ah, how long it took me to “get” that acceptance is not submission, I am a fighter (a good and bad thing at times) and felt that I was giving up, well, this is the furthest from my truth today. Like forgiveness, it does not mean that you have given up, submitted, condoned, but rather, you have decided to accept the person including yourself, the place, the thing, the challenge for whatever it is now and to look for the seeds of opportunity in any given situation to make what you really want and need to become reality, that is taking responsibility for yourself, not to be confused with blaming, that is not responsibility that only is a waste of energy and a distraction for doing what you need to do. Thanks for the post.

  • Talya Price

    Accepting yourself is the first step to self love. Society forcing us to hate ourselves and look externally for validation. We have to look internally. Thank you for this post.

  • heatherms2k

    Great post! In the past 2-years I have been on the journey to discovering my “true” self and have accepted many things about myself I have hidden away for very long. I have not shouted many of these things from the rooftops, but I have accepted them within myself, which I believe is the most important thing to do. I have been very lucky that I have an extremely supportive husband that loves me for me (and has for 21-years) who I have become more open and honest with because I have accepted these things about myself. I often feel like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders when I accept things within myself and move forward. I still struggle with trying to please others, but it is a work in progress, each time a new lesson is learned. Thank you for sharing your story and so glad you have been able to find your path!

  • Makayla

    I love the last line! I’m so stuck in trying to be this image that I have created.. I forget to enjoy life the way it is. Accepting who I am and what I cannot change would make me alot happier.. although theres always that voice telling me “I gave up”. No, its acceptance. I admire your strength.

  • This is really great Steph!

    You’re totally right, accepting ourselves is the key to self-care. Accept ourselves wholly; Both the good and the bad.

    When we don’t know ourselves, we tend to look outside for validation forgetting that we need to define our own worth.

    Thanks for this great article 🙂

  • I think a lot of us, including me, spend too much time thinking about what we are “supposed” to do rather than what is good for us. That’s not to say that selfishness is all good, but I also don’t think it’s all bad. Fear of judgment, criticism, even abandonment, can really rob you of your ability to be the authentic you. I guess if we can’t be ourselves and get our needs met without fear of emotional retaliation maybe it’s time to reconsider what we are doing and for whom.

  • Being true to yourself is not a selfish act, but instead it’s selfless. It is the only way that you can truly be there for the people you love. Denying ourselves has negative affects to every aspect our lives. By loving ourselves enough to be true to our needs, we become better people and better able to truly give back to those who love and need us.

    Great post! Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Cecilia

    i quit my job, cause my boss is sick, he had a health problem. its been a year. and this post is great. im trying to accept my self, the way who i am.

  • Elate Life YH

    Applause for your courage to show your life to all. Please keep spreading your positive energy. Your positivity and happiness help you to stay away from cancer. I am glad you have done so very well. Keep it up!