We're all going somewhere; we're all striving to be something better than we've been. But you'll miss out on the gift of life if you don't accept yourself first.
Three years ago, I was so desperate for change that I refused to accept myself. I knew the kind of man I could be, but I was so far away from that ideal that I actually resented myself.
After years of breaking promises, flaking out, and mooching, I found myself in the worst possible situation: Nobody wanted to be around me. And I couldn't blame them — I didn't either.
I needed to change, but the self-hatred thing wasn’t getting me anywhere. The only way to become the man I wanted was to accept the self I had come to despise. Easier said than done.
I needed help.
Here's how I overcame my shame
I started by listening to Zig Ziglar's A View From the Top. Taking Ziglar's advice, I set goals for how I'd be defined when I died; I wrote my own eulogy (try it for yourself).Then I set my mind to become that man before I actually died.
It didn't happen instantly.
I still had years of limiting beliefs that subconsciously sabotaged me. Though I was improving by leaps and bounds, there'd be some hideous flaw that would slither its way up to the surface, reminding me how far I had to go. I had a really hard time accepting my mistakes.
At first I was embarrassed, not wanting to claim my idiosyncrasies. I was ashamed of myself. And the shame kept me from loving myself, cracks and all. So I started reading books about vulnerability, like Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, to overcome my barriers.
I learned that shame can grow only where there isn't light. So instead of shutting down and turning away from my mistakes, I embraced them with open arms.
I wanted to be more honest, so I practiced honesty by accepting the wrong I'd done, admitting it, loving myself anyway, and planning for better results in the future. What did I have to be ashamed of if I committed to learning and growing from my mistakes?
That small shift in thinking allowed me to practice everything I wanted to be without fear of anybody's opinion, especially my own. When I failed, I no longer tucked my tail and pretended I hadn't; I took ownership of every mistake I made, knowing I could change if I accepted myself, affirmed my worth, and planned for something better.
And I changed.
Here's how I accepted my imperfection
I'd have hiccups in my character — most people do. But instead of sending me into a relapse, mistakes inspired me to work even harder at becoming the man I knew I could be. Whenever I let myself down, I reflected with a journal to see what thoughts and beliefs caused it. Then I made personal commitments to do better the next day, to grow in whatever traits would help me become the man in my eulogy.
Bit by bit, I came to accept myself unconditionally, separate from the considerable wrong I'd done. With focus and consistent effort, I knew I could improve even my worst actions and leave behind the habits that didn't serve me.
Within a year, my inconsistencies of character became more and more infrequent. I accepted that I would be the man of my dreams if I accepted myself and tried my best. That's when things really started to fall into place.
From that place of acceptance, I grew to love my life again. Overcoming the obstacles that kept me from my goals felt so good that I came to a life-changing conclusion: Even if I could instantly achieve whatever I wanted without the pain or uncertainty of experience, I wouldn't. The path of self-improvement became a treasure in itself.
If I had none of my flaws, then I wouldn't get to experience the triumph of transcending.
The best part is that I get to inspire others by sharing my experiences. Every day I grow in virtue, I become a better friend, a better husband, a better partner, a better writer, a better role model, and a bigger difference maker. Helping others gives me a reason to be patient with the change I wish to see in myself.
Here's why my journal is my best friend
I wouldn't be where I am today without a journal. The act of journaling conditioned me to be honest with myself, to accept myself, to appreciate the hard work I do, to commit to myself, to be disciplined in choosing the best thoughts and actions for me, to strive for worthy goals, and to overcome my shame.
Every night before I sleep, I take 15 to 30 minutes to reflect on my day: what I did, the effort I showed, the goals I worked toward, where I did my best, where I could've done better, and the thoughts that made my day. Even when I do something out of character, I practice loving myself for who I am and encouraging myself for how much better I know I can do.
In over a year of nightly journaling, I transformed my life. I've gone from total dependence and underemployment to a full-time writing and coaching career. I've grown confidence that allows me to tackle impossible-seeming goals and to keep pushing when hope is dim.
Journaling helped me to encourage and accept myself on the way to achieving my biggest goals. If you really want to be somewhere you're not, and if you want to enjoy your life on the way there, journaling is for you. Give it a try.
I get my best results when I commit at least 15 minutes to journaling each evening.
If you're striving for the best version of you, practicing self-acceptance is the best thing you can do. So affirm your worth from dawn to dusk; be grateful for the incredible person that you are now; constantly encourage yourself, especially when you let yourself down; and commit to your best self with a journal.
You're worth it.