Written by Leo Babauta, originally for Zen Habits. Republished here with permission.
Many of us are familiar with the idea of loving our spouses, children, or parents unconditionally — and we might even try to practice that unconditional love, though imperfectly. Here’s how to accept yourself unconditionally.
How to Accept Yourself Unconditionally
But do we try to love ourselves unconditionally?
Consider whether you do any of these (I sure do):
- Criticize your body.
- Feel like you need to improve at things.
- Feel guilty about things you do.
- Feel undisciplined, lazy, unhappy with yourself.
- Not feel good enough.
- Fear that you’re going to fail, because you’re not good enough.
- See yourself as not that good looking.
- Feel bad about messing up.
For many of us, there’s an underlying feeling of not being good enough, wanting to be better, wanting to be in better shape or better at things. This isn’t something we think about much, but it’s there, in the background.
What if we applied unconditional acceptance of who we are? What if we took a good look at ourselves, our body, our thoughts, our feelings, our actions, and said, “You are perfectly OK. You are perfectly good”?
Would that be a whole different experience for you? Could you accept every single thing about yourself, just as you are, without feeling that it needs to be changed?
I know what many people will immediately say: “But what’s wrong with wanting to improve, with seeing things that need to be improved? Doesn’t feeling bad about ourselves motivate us to change?”
Yes, it can be a motivator. But feeling bad about yourself can also be an obstacle: people who feel that they are overweight, for example, are more likely to eat poorly and not exercise, because they see themselves as fat. They are likely to feel bad about themselves and to comfort themselves with food, alcohol, cigarettes, TV, Internet addictions.
What if instead, you loved yourself, curvy body and all? What if you loved yourself, flaws and all? What if you loved yourself, all that is ugly and incompetent and mean, along with the beauty and brilliance and kindness?
This person who loves herself (or himself) … she’s more likely to take actions that are loving. Doing some mindful yoga, or taking a walk with a friend after work, eating delicious healthy food like beans and veggies and nuts and berries and mangos and avocados, meditating, drinking some green tea … these are loving actions.
Acceptance isn’t stagnation — you will change no matter what. You can’t avoid changing. The question is whether that change comes from a place of acceptance and love, or a place of self-dislike and dissatisfaction. I vote for unconditional love.