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The One Thing You Need to Change If You Want to Accept Yourself

“Serenity comes when you trade expectations for acceptance.” ~Unknown

I quit Weight Watchers this week and I have never felt happier.

To be clear, quitting this weight loss program was not an act of defeat, nor was it an example of me running away from something difficult or painful. Cutting ties with Weight Watchers was truly an acceptance of self.

A couple of weeks ago I had a heart-to-heart conversation with a friend. I was feeling really down, and I confided to him that not only do I lack self-confidence in nearly everything I do, I also seem to not like myself very much at all.

A voice in my head pretty regularly reminds me that I am not smart enough, funny enough, pretty enough, skinny enough, or anything enough in this life, so why bother trying.

As I explained all of this to my dear friend, I noted that I would never treat another human being as badly as I treat myself. I am loving and kind to everyone around me, but inwardly I am a mean bully. As I was saying it out loud, the whole thing seemed kind of ridiculous to me, but I didn’t know how to stop hating myself.

It was at this point that my friend said something that changed my life; he said, “Take a hard look at the things you think you don’t like about yourself. You have a choice: Either learn to accept them for what they are or change them. It’s that simple.”

At first his advice infuriated me. How on earth was I supposed to accept my flaws? I have spent thirty-six years perfecting my self-loathing; it seemed impossible to undo all of that hard work.

Turns out, it was easier than I thought it would be. After I got over the initial angry response to my friend’s advice, I started soul searching. I made a mental list of the things I have disliked about myself for nearly my whole life and examined each one, starting with the issue that has caused the most distress for me: my weight and body image.

For as long as I can remember, weight and body image have been an issue for me. I remember weighing-in in gym class in middle school and noting that I was not as small as some of the other girls in my class, but I also was not as big as some of the others either.

Truthfully, I have always fallen somewhere in the middle and would be considered average, but in my head I was never the right size or shape; I always wanted to be thinner, sleeker, and more toned.

Since my early twenties I have been struggling with weight loss; I would join weight loss programs or get into exercise routines with really high expectations: “This time I am going to lose thirty pounds and look like a super model!”

Inevitably, I would fail each time. I realize now this is not because I am a complete failure; it’s good to have goals, but I was setting my expectations impossibly high. I was aiming to drop three dress sizes when I should have been aiming to just be healthier.

Alone in my bathroom, I stripped off all of my clothes. I stood naked before the mirror and looked at myself. I mean, really looked at myself. I wanted to see my body and acknowledge what I didn’t like. I felt that by doing this I could see the real me and finally accept who I am, flaws and all.

Here’s what I saw: My body is not perfect, but it is certainly not bad, either.

Regardless of its flaws, my body has withstood many challenges: I gave birth to two children, I ran a half marathon, and I can rock the thirty-minute circuit at the gym like nobody’s business. I also have some pretty cool tattoos, and even though I am no super model, I actually think I look good naked.

When I thought about it, I realized my body was actually pretty awesome.

It was then and there that I decided I needed to take my friend’s advice: accept my body for what it is. Sure, it would be cool to have rock hard abs or to look like a girl on the cover of a fashion magazine, but by comparing my body to some ideal, I am overlooking what is truly great about me.

And so I quit my weight loss program, and as soon as I did, I felt amazing. No more feeling guilty about what I did or did not eat that day, no more hating myself on weigh-in day (no more weighing myself, period!), and no more telling myself I am not thin enough.

I will still make strides to be healthy (regular exercise, healthy portions, fruits and veggies), but now it is just to be healthy, not to lose thirty pounds or look like a super model.

My experience in truly facing my insecurities and consciously deciding to accept myself, my whole self, and nothing but myself, was truly enlightening; and it was freeing.

I challenge you to do the same. You don’t have to literally get naked, but definitely do so metaphorically. Strip away your impossible expectations and look at the amazing person you really are.

The next time the mean bully in your head tells you that you aren’t smart enough, funny enough, pretty enough, or thin enough, challenge what you are hearing. Change your story. Instead of comparing your “behind the scenes” with everyone else’s “highlight reel,” yell back at the bully and tell him or her you are awesome because you are you.

It doesn’t matter what size you are; you are still worth loving, so be kind to yourself and start accepting your little imperfections. You might find that once you begin accepting those things you think you dislike about yourself, those flaws are actually pretty great. And you are pretty great, too.

About Francesca Harris

Francesca Harris is a mom, an aspiring writer, and a lover of life. She works full time in HR and attends graduate school part time. In her spare time Francesca also writes a blog for a local newspaper where she gives her opinions about books, music, movies, and more. Follow her on Facebook to read more of her writing.

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  • clar

    i have this issue about weight loss also. thank you for the advice. it is really uplifting.

  • Thank you Francesca, I’m going through this right now! I recently put on weight/lost my body tone due to steroids I was taking for an illness I was diagnosed with and I have felt disgusted with the way I look even though, I’m ‘not that great but not that bad either’.

    I’m not going to Weight Watchers etc but I’m starting to look after what I eat and I’ve begun running again – just a couple of kms each time to build up. I won’t weigh myself and I’m trying to accept what I look like whilst I work on getting fitter for myself. So thank you again for helping me realise that it’s ok to accept our flaws and think ‘ok, I don’t look as bad as my mind tells me I do’ 🙂

  • Hi Francesca,

    This reminds me of the quote by Marilyn Monroe “Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.” I believed that everyone is born beautiful because there is only one of us on this Earth.

    Regards,
    Edmund

  • Joyce

    I’ve been doing the exact same thing as you in the last couple of months. Last year I lost about 20kg and I had said to myself: When I lose 20kgs I will be the happiest person on earth. When I had finally done it, I kept picking myself apart. My skin wasn’t tight enough, my breasts were now too small, my arms weren’t toned the way I expected them to be. It was torture. Lately (with help from my therapist) I am learning to see the beauty of my body. How amazing and magnificent this body really is. The things it can do every day and I realize how lucky I am to be healthy and well. I still get a little pang every once in a while where I get a bit down on myself but those times are few and far between now.
    Treat your body with respect and dignity, nourish it properly (without dieting!) and it will reward you daily. In the end another thing to remember: you are not your body!

  • Joy

    Thank you for sharing your story! I can relate to myself. I am so kind to others to myself I am my worst critic and so hard on myself. I always feel ashamed of myself too

  • BL

    Nice post. When you are having such negative thoughts, it also helps to repeat, mentally, “My thoughts are not reality”, and to examine and believe it. I find this helpful when I’ve had a negative interaction, and my mind is spinning out on negative interpretations and possibilities… it’s not real, it’s just

  • Tra

    This one was really great. Thank you so much – I needed this today. xoxo

  • Cassidy

    I did the very same thing last week. I cancelled my WW subscription after four and a half years. In the first two years, I lost an impressive amount of weight, but never quite reached a healthy BMI. In these last two and a half years, I have (for all kinds of reasons) gained over half of the weight back. Even though I stopped going to meetings nine months ago and stopped tracking almost as many months ago, I held onto my membership. It had been my key to “success.” But I was also hanging onto the guilt for not keeping up with my points and the fear of the scale for the weight I knew I was gaining. A few weeks ago, I finally understood the fallacy in my thinking, that I’ll be “better” or “okay” when I am different from what I am now. I decided then and there that I could and would be happy and healthy in the body I have now. I am on a path of mindfulness. I am choosing to let go of the desire to police my eating AND the desire to totally stuff my gut, which are both self-destructive. I recognized that WW was something I was uselessly clutching. My membership certainly wasn’t helping me, and I was letting it damage my self-concept. So I cancelled it. And when I did, I felt the same freedom you describe. Interestingly, in all of this self-acceptance, I have started to do yoga. After I closed my WW account, I reached down to pick up my yoga mat to go practice, and it found one of the fortune cookie slips that I collect in my phone case. Apparently it had fallen out. I flipped it over, and it was the one that reads, “You must let go of something before you can capture it for good.” Indeed.

    Thank you for writing.

  • Suzy

    Thank you for that wonderful insightful post! I used to feel that I was judged by my appearance and that, that was all that matter. This is such a widely held belief in our society and it is so far from the truth! For me, when I accepted my inner intangible qualities as well as my body and all of my imperfections, I was able to find peace within. When I understood these so called “flaws” are really just differences from one person to the next, I accepted that differences are OK, even great! They make life interesting, fun and unique! That changed my life! All of the peace I came to appreciate, affected my body too! So much so, that I lost 30 lbs over 2 years, still losing and it’s staying off. That’s more than all of the other 35 years I spent on crazy and unhealthy diets. It’s a lifestyle of gratitude that I live now. Acceptance and peace has helped me change my attitude about just waking up in the morning, having decent health and having the basics in life. I’m learning to make small changes to my other behaviors and for me, bad habits like procrastination. I live one day at a time with compassion for myself, as well as others, patience and gratitude. Oh and forgiveness!! I wish I had had these posts 35 years ago! Today’s a great day to renew this wisdom you’ve shared!!!
    Thanks again for all the posts here! I appreciate them, truly!

  • AINON

    I’m so positive minded but when it comes to myself, I too am a bully. Love this article..
    SHUT UP ANT (Automatic Negative Thoughts) repeat repeat repeat 😀

  • lv2terp

    Beautiful, and truly inspiring! Thank you and congratulations! 🙂

  • Bob Edwards

    Absolutely brilliant. Thank you for sharing!

  • Sensei Sasanuma

    I am glad to read your post. Always remember that “People and Things come and go, but YOU are stuck with YOURSELF for the rest of YOUR LIFE.” So why not to become the BEST FRIEND with YOURSELF. Sensei Sasanuma

  • Ishmael

    Serious question – it’s fine and dandy that you accept yourself, but how about everyone else? Doesn’t the pain come from not being appreciated by others? From knowing that you won’t be that girl on the cover of the magazine or get the same appreciation from society that she gets? Accepting yourself sounds like accepting that you will never be as good as the other person, so you may as well just deal with it.

    And you may say that you find support in your loved ones who love you for who you are. But how about those who don’t have loved ones? They never was that lucky because society never appreciated them for what they have. What are they going to do?

  • Flo

    Francesca, almost every detail (except for the tattoos) described me, my life and how I feel about myself too. Thank you so so much for this article, it’s being bookmarked and referenced when I need a kick up the proverbial. I expend SO much energy running myself into the ground looking after others trying to feel better about myself and getting nowhere.

    Time for a change I think. Maybe I should go get a tattoo too 🙂

  • I know how you feel; for me it is a struggle every single day. Just try to focus on the good instead of the bad (easier said than done sometimes, I know). I find that I tend to get hung up on comparing myself to everyone else – but when I just focus on me, I realize I am no slouch. Keep reminding yourself that you are awesome.

  • Beautiful quote, I love that. Thank you for sharing, Edmund!

  • Isn’t it funny how easy it is to bully ourselves? I would never be as mean to another person as I am to myself and that is just crazy. I try to remind myself of this whenever that inner bully starts talking.

  • Thank you, BL, for these thoughts. I can definitely utilize this advice in the future!

  • Thank you for reading and for taking the time to comment! 🙂

  • Well said and amen! 🙂 Thanks!

  • Thank you for sharing your story! I had the Weight Watcher app on my iPhone and I would feel anxiety and guilt whenever a reminder popped about needing to weigh in or needing to track my food. When I first started WW it gave me a sense of control over my eating habits but it eventually flipped and it began controlling ME. And I began equating my mood with my weight…if I lost weight, I felt happy and good but if I gained or maintained, I felt bad and guilty. In our society it is hard to avoid making body image a priority so it wasn’t easy for me to let it go…and I still struggle with it every day. But I do feel a lot better since I stopped trying to be something unrealistic. And it sounds like you do too! Best of luck in your journey!

  • Thank YOU!

  • I appreciate the kind words, Bob! Thanks for reading!

  • You couldn’t be more right…and if I don’t know how to love myself, how can I love anyone else? It’s a work in progress but now I am finally getting it. Thank you, Sensei.

  • I am glad you found my story uplifting, thank you for reading!

  • You raise an interesting point. Our society is definitely very driven by image and I can understand your points about feeling pain or resentment from that. And it is nice to say we should all just love ourselves and that is the catch-all solution for all problems, but it isn’t all that easy…especially for those who, as you point out, don’t have support and love from anyone else. I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me personally it isn’t that I am accepting that I will never be as good as everyone else, it is more about me realizing that no one is perfect and I have to stop living up to a fake ideal. I am trying to stop the mean bully in my head from telling me I am not good enough and to start focusing on the things that make me special. That bully has kept me down for a long time and it has made me miserable – so I am trying a new tactic. It is definitely an inner struggle and I appreciate that it is a battle that not everyone can overcome. Thank you for your insight, you have given me a lot to think about.

  • Thank you, Flo, for your kind words – I am glad my story had an impact on you. I know what you mean about expending energy; hating myself all the time has made me exhausted. It’s time we all put our energy into something more positive!

  • Joyce – Thank you for sharing your story. It is so great to hear you are making strides to acceptance and self-love. Amazing things start happening in your head when you quiet the bully. 🙂

  • Thank you, Suzy, for your inspirational words! You nailed it by saying “When I understood these so called ‘flaws’ are really just differences from one person to the next, I accepted that differences are OK, even great!” I couldn’t have said it better myself. 🙂

  • Carolynne Melnyk

    Beautifully written and a great inspiration. A little self love and acceptance goes a very long way. Then we also have the choice to change that which we don’t like. Thank you for sharing. Yahoo!

  • Thank you, Carolynne, for your kind words. 🙂

  • Thank you for your beautiful honesty. I recently stopped tracking calories and gave up my FitBit for the same reason and it’s so freeing. I’ve been reading and writing about mindful eating lately, and it’s the only “diet” (really it’s a non-diet) that I’ve ever genuinely loved.

  • Ramadan Abdullah Allem

    praise
    be to allah..lord of the worlds and peace and blessings be upon the
    faithful messenger of allah his family and all his righteous companions
    peace and blessings of allah be upon you a good friend of mine was very
    unhappy with the fact that many muslims omit the five obligatory prayers
    which have been prescribed for them.he requested me to write a book
    with the purpose of inspiring and encouraging those who omit prayer to
    keep it up diligently i have written this book in respondse to this
    justfied reguest hoping that it will be a reminder to disobedient
    muslims who omit prayer finally i hope that this cool will be useful to
    all muslims who read it ?

  • What an Inspiring story! I’m going through some insecurity too after some people told me I’ve gained some weight. I was obviously upset by it and immediate response was to go on a diet…. but then i realise “why am i obsessing over this?”. Yes, now i try to watch what i eat, make healthier choices and doing some cardio… I’m doing this because I want to healthy, not because i want to shed some pounds just to make my friends happy.

  • As a gay man who also hated himself, thought he was homely and fat, one of the best things ever to happen to me was becoming one of the “bears” in the gay scene…. I finally met guys who looked like me, acted like and I later found out hated themselves just like me…. I’m 51, feel so much better about myself and realized the School of Hard Knocks was one hell of a rotten educational institution! Sometimes a fraternity with the same can give such a sense of belonging and with that self acceptance and self love!!

  • Cara, I can’t tell you how many years I spent tracking calories consumed and calories burned…it was exhausting. I will look into “mindful eating”, that sounds very interesting! Thank you for reading and sharing your own story with me. 🙂

  • Syafique – About 15 years ago a family member commented to me that I looked like I had put on a little weight (I had in fact put on weight at the time but was hoping no one would notice, never mind comment on it out loud!). My reaction was extreme: I began taking diet pills and exercising compulsively. As a result I lost a lot of weight, but of course it didn’t last (as extreme diets never do) and truthfully, the weight loss didn’t make me any happier. A few years later I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, which I think was triggered by overusing diet pills (I can’t confirm this since I am not a doctor, but I have read studies that link the two together). The moral here is that 1) letting what other people say or think about you can affect your health, mentally and physically and 2) I am finding that accepting yourself as you are is really the first step to happiness…I could lose 30 lbs and have rock hard abs but I will still be me on the inside … and even if I looked like Jillian Michaels (and had all of her money too), it wouldn’t change how I feel about me. I still have to find a way to love me for me. Be healthy for you, do what makes YOU happy, and try not to let people’s petty comments affect you. <3

  • I always find it surprising when I talk to other people and realize they too have an inner bully just like me; it is almost a relief to know I am not alone in this battle. You are so right about the “school of hard knocks”…it is so great you were able to find peace, love, and acceptance with others who shared your pain. Thank you, Greg, for sharing your story and for reading mine.

  • Nicely shared. If we don’t accept our own self, why would anyone else?
    Valid message 🙂
    Over here from #WWWBlogs 🙂

  • Thanks, Anita! 🙂

  • maria

    Thanks so much for posting this beautiful arcticle! Ive struggled with body image since im a teen and i always looked normal, but never felt skinny enough and therefore couldnt accept myself. i realized that id better accept myself than restrict myself from the popcorn i love having at the cinema! xx