When you’ve invested time and energy into really understanding yourself, the next step is to positively accept yourself as you are right now with a warm regard. Embrace the person you are right now. You don’t have to agree with everything you’ve done or every part of who you are right now. Just say, “This is who I am.”
Avoid evaluating the different parts of yourself as good or bad, and resist the temptation to compare yourself to other people. Simply increase your awareness of the different aspects within you and work to understand how you came to be the way you are. Then embrace this person as though you are welcoming a special friend into your house. Don’t try to make yourself feel better by working to find a person who appears to be weaker or worse off than you are in some way.
When you truly accept yourself as you are right now with all of your complexities and contradictions, you strengthen your sense of self-worth. This is the starting point of long-term success. When you value the person you are at this moment, you can consistently put that value in the service of yourself and other people.
This all sounds so easy, but it almost always becomes overwhelmingly difficult for people to do it. We disparage parts of ourselves because we’re so used to being compared to other people and if we’re compared often enough we will eventually see parts of ourselves as being weak or damaged in some way. Society and even families and friends can damage a person’s sense of self-worth without even realizing it.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do for yourself is to truly accept who you are at this moment. In her book, Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy, Jane Leavy wrote about the enormous pain Koufax experienced after every game he pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers. His elbow would swell up because of the way he threw the ball, and he would have to put it in a tub of ice for several hours to get it back to its normal size. However, he accepted this reality. Leavy quoted Koufax as saying, “Since I have accepted all of the advantages of the way I am built, I don’t see how I can complain about the disadvantages.” I think that’s a great mantra for all of us to use. In his book, Further Along the Road Less Traveled, Scott Peck wrote, “Self-love implies the care, respect, and responsibility for and the knowledge of the self. Without loving one’s self one cannot love others.” Nathaniel Branden wrote, “Without self-acceptance, self-esteem is impossible.”
If you spend your whole life trying to be someone else because you’re jealous of who you think he or she is, you will simultaneously spend your whole life avoiding being who you are. This is the most common way to never acknowledge your self-worth. In The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, Nathaniel Branden wrote, “Persons of high self-esteem are not driven to make themselves superior to others; they do not seek to prove their value by measuring themselves against a comparative standard. Their joy is in being who they are, not in being better than someone else.” This is the same attitude that Abraham Maslow wrote about over and over again in describing self-actualizing people in his books, Toward a Psychology of Being and The Further Reaches of Human Nature.