Self-Love Starts With Self-Acceptance: Why I prioritize accepting myself first
I think self-acceptance is more important than self-love.
And alright, alright. Before you throw the proverbial eggs at me and demand I wear the cone of shame, hear me out.
In my quest to devour as many personal development articles as I could, I came across a quote that, frankly, struck a chord in me. I forgot what the exact words were but the thought was this: “If you aren’t good at loving yourself, you will find it difficult to love others.”
Honestly, I call BS on that.
Some people are quite capable of loving others wholeheartedly and unquestioningly. But when it comes to themselves, this is a drag-a-square-boulder-up-a-hill kind of battle. It’s difficult. These people often give themselves zero room for errors and set themselves up to extremely high expectations. I always wondered why we do this, why we are so hard on ourselves. And most of us are – especially girls.
I found a bit of insight through Sharon Salzberg. She discussed how we humans were, on an evolutionary standpoint, wired to look for the negativity in our lives. It was literally a surviving mechanism. And this trait has been passed on from generation to generation. It’s probably why we fixate on our failures and inadequacies so much. It’s probably why we do not like our flaws and, ultimately, ourselves.
Look, I’m not saying you should not love yourself. I’m all for that! I just think it’s ridiculous to make it seem like self-love is some kind of prerequisite to other kinds of love. It isn’t. I don’t think so.
I like to believe that self-love, and every other kinds of love for that matter, is one unique experience. Each one is a game utterly separate from the others. They shouldn’t be mushed into one category, as if one kind of love is a level you need to pass through. Learning one kind of love is exclusive of learning all other kinds of love. Apples and oranges, you know?
And here’s what I think:
It may be accepting the flaws of a partner or child. It may be accepting the shortcomings of a family member or a friend or even a dog / cat / rabbit / bird / unicorn child. Why yes, you can do that to yourself too! You can recognize your flaws and get on better terms with yourself.
Acknowledging and accepting that you are not perfect is very much a part of self-love. But in a way, it’s quite different from the “I love this part about myself” and “I am worthy of good things” cupcakes-and-ice cream kind of self-love that we often see being encouraged in the personal growth community. (Although that’s awesome too!)
Through self-acceptance, you don’t only see yourself for the good and more positive traits that you possess. You also accept the bad and less positive ones. You accept that you are not perfect and are with flaws. You don’t just love the cupcakes and ice cream, you also acknowledge the goodness of broccoli and raisins. You are able to embrace all parts of you. Warts and scars and all.
I mean, aren’t these the parts of ourselves that we find extremely difficult to accept and, ultimately, love? It is because we have these flaws, because we are imperfect, that we hate ourselves in the first place. Sometimes we can focus so much on our shortcomings that we no longer see what we’re good at.
So imagine what would happen if you start to accept your flaws. What would happen if you begin to embrace your imperfections?
This is why in my little journey of loving myself more, I want to focus on self-acceptance. On accepting both the cupcakes and ice cream, and the broccoli and raisins. Because even though those broccoli and raisins don’t taste as good as the cupcakes and ice cream, they’re good for you too. (This is a really long stretch of an analogy but I do hope you get the point.)
Do you struggle with self-love too? What are some of your imperfections that you’ve learned to accept?
Photo from Ivory Mix
Often times, I find it easier to love others than to love myself. It’s unfortunate that we have to go through these thoughts, which is why it is important that we lift each other up. I agree with you about acceptance. This kind of reminds me of corporates that accept certain risks, there’s not much they can do about the remediation process so they accept it as it is. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
Nancy ♥ exquisitely.me
Exactly! There’s something to had with a good dose of healthy validation and knowing you have immense support from others. It builds you up and when that happens to me, I like to pay it back and also pay it forward 🙂 I love your comparison with corporates! I didn’t think of it that and I always find it exciting and inspiring when someone compares two things that, at first thought, you wouldn’t have thought to be connected or similar.
Thank YOU so much for sharing your thoughts, Nancy!
At some point, I heard someone (can’t remember who or where now-it was a long time ago) say that “Immature love says ‘I love you because of…’ and mature love says ‘I love you in spite of..'” I think we form better relationships with others when we realize that we can love them even though they do things that we disagree with or have personality traits that make us crazy.
So reading your post really made me think about how hard it is to apply the same logic to ourselves. Maybe it’s the focus on self-improvement? Where do we draw the line between too much self-acceptance (which can prevent us from improving ourselves so that we are healthier, better people) and necessary self-acceptance (which your post definitely showed we need)?
Kate, what do you think can help someone decide when to try and make a change and when to give him or herself a break?
This was fantastic and a great read!
I completely get what you mean, I have never believed in the idea of ‘no one can love you if you don’t love yourself’ that idea always baffled me. Because as you said we can love people no matter what their situation or how they are feeling.
Anyway this was awesome:)
“The end goal of self-improvement is not to become a perfect person”…Words to live by.
Aww thanks so much!
I love your insights here!
Aww thanks so much, Rachel!
Thank you so much for this blog. I have always struggled with that quote: ‘ you have to love yourself before you can love others’. I love others much more than I do myself. Something I am working on, but it’s still hard not to think that I am being selfish in doing so. Your analogy is spot on…at least for me, because I have such an emotional connection to food..it’s a comfort, so trying to remember the broccoli and raisins are good for me, as well as accepting all my flaws and positive traits too. I think what you write can also relate a lot to ‘forgiveness’. Again, something I struggle with because I feel like I am letting that person off the hook, when in reality, I am letting myself off the hook of whatever emotions I am hanging on to. Keep it up Kate. I loved this read. Thank you
I know exactly what you mean. Quotes like that feel as if our loving others is invalidated just because we don’t love ourselves as much and that always ticked me the wrong way. I’m so glad you find the analogy spot on! It was a long stretch of an analogy even for me haha! 😀
What you said about forgiveness certainly made me think too. Thank you so much for sharing your insights and for your lovely words <3