by Linda-Ann Stewart
When I was fourteen, I was fitted with braces. At that age, shiny metal covering your teeth severely impacts your self-image. Friends who’d already been fitted with braces did their best to hide them. They refused to smile and kept their mouths closed so no one would see the silver glint.
However, their attempts to hide the braces brought more attention to the fact that they were cursed with this awful dental appliance. Their self-consciousness opened the door for bullies to call them, “metal mouth.” I decided not to try to cover up the fact that I was wearing braces. After they were attached, I smiled and laughed as I normally did. Because I wasn’t embarrassed about them, bullies didn’t get any reaction teasing me, so they left me alone.
But the best response came in my typing class. Cindy sat in front of me, and at the beginning of each class, she’d turn around to chat for a few moments. Six months after I’d begun wearing the braces, as usual, she turned to say hi. She looked startled, and asked,
“When did you get braces?”
“Six months ago,” I replied.
“No, that’s impossible,” she said. “I talk to you every day, and I would have noticed.”
Except that she hadn’t noticed, because I’d accepted them as normal.
People Take Your Lead
If you don’t pay attention to your imperfections, no one else will. They’ll take your lead concerning your assessment of yourself. When you accept yourself as you are, you’re not concerned about how others perceive you. You’re not afraid of their judgements and are able to be more authentic. Because you don’t pay attention to your limitations, they’re not so apparent to other people.
Self-acceptance doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for improvement. I couldn’t wait to get the braces removed and looked forward to that day. Accepting yourself means that you’re not resisting, criticizing or hating a part of yourself, all of which creates a block to improvement. Self-acceptance simply recognizes and acknowledges the reality of what is. From that perspective, you can plan how to make changes, if that’s what’s necessary.
The Opposite of Self-Acceptance
Self-rejection, which is the opposite of self-acceptance, makes you defensive. You’re sensitive about the part of you that you feel is lacking, and concerned that others will attack you over it. Because you expect to be confronted, often that’s what happens, as it did with the bullies and my friends. You might even overcompensate for what you think is a fault, by bringing it to others attention deliberately or accidentally, when it wasn’t necessary.
For instance, you’re interviewing for a job that you have the experience for, but don’t have a degree in the area. You feel insecure about the shortcoming, and your nervousness makes a bad impression on your interviewer. However, if you considered that your experience made up for no degree, your confidence would have influenced the interviewer more positively.
Benefits to Accepting Yourself
There are a lot of personal and subjective benefits for accepting yourself. These would include raising your self-esteem and self-confidence, allowing you to be more authentic in your life, enabling you to feel comfortable with yourself and more.
There are also objective benefits to self-acceptance. All of these benefits are helpful in both your personal and professional life.
You’re more open with others, so you don’t push people away. People are attracted to you and want to get to know you. Your relationships are better and deeper.
You’re able to be more present with other people. Because you’re not concerned about your imperfections, you can listen to the other person and understand what they’re saying. As a result, you have better communication and connection with them.
If others do notice your shortcomings, it doesn’t bother you. Often, they’re just curious and want some background information. And if they’re rude, it’s easier to realize that the issue is with them, not you, so you don’t take it personally.
Everyone has imperfections. Accepting them means you approach situations feeling empowered and have more resources to deal with challenges. Practice self-acceptance and notice how much freer and happier you feel.
I was thrilled to get my braces removed two months earlier than expected. But my main reason to be happy wasn’t because I was rid of the metal. I was ecstatic because I could once again have popcorn, taffy and bubble gum. And you know what? No one mentioned that the braces were gone.
The Universe accepts me as I am. I now accept myself, with all my imperfections. I feel more comfortable with myself and this communicates to the world around me. With this attitude, I can now change and improve myself. More good flows to me and through me as I open the door to a greater sense of well being.
Watch the accompanying video, Guided Meditation for Self-Acceptance.