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Ten Ways to Like Yourself Better

You can learn to like yourself, flaws and all, with these 10 tips
If you were to be totally honest, would you say that you really and truly like
yourself? Or are you constantly performing makeovers on your
appearance, personality, and abilities? When you look in the mirror, do you see the
imperfections in your skin and hair and wish you could make them go away? Do you
do the same thing with your personality? Every time you worry instead of relax
before an upcoming social event, do you want to kick yourself for being so anxious?
Its all too easy to become a mental makeover fanatic, especially when reality
shows are doing just that to everything from fashion victims to outdated houses. We
can get to the point where you only see yourself not as you truly are, but as we wish
you could be. To rephrase this quote from the fated Ophelia from Hamlet, we know
what we are, but know not what we may be: we know what we are, and we wish
we werent this way.
The basis for a positive sense of self-esteem is that you accept yourself as you are,
not as you may be. This doesnt mean that youre never self-critical or that you
should never change no matter what, but that youre able to live with your flaws
and your way of perhaps making yourself a bit less so.
The idea of self-acceptance is gaining ground in the psychological literature as an
important contributor to such positive mental states as peace of mind, greater selfunderstanding, and the ability to empathize with others. Carl Rogers wrote back in
the 1950s and 60s about the quality of unconditional positive regard and its
importance in personality development. According to Rogers, when parents place
conditions of worth on their young children, they cause their tiny offspring to grow
up to be self-doubters and critics. If you feel that your parents will love you only
when you perform up to their standards, youll develop an inner voice that
constantly compares you to how you should be.
In fact, a number of psychologists writing from several vantage points discuss,
similarly, the importance of being able to view yourself without feeling
undue anxiety about where you may be falling short of some unrealistic ideal self.
Currently, psychologists are translating these theories into measure of selfacceptance that make it possible to see just how hard you tend to come down on
yourself.
Before getting to this measure, and some of the research that backs it up, a word of
caution. If you get down on yourself for getting down on yourself, youll
paradoxically only make things worse. Seeing how self-accepting you are, or are
not, can be a liberating process if you look for guideposts along the way that allow
you to shake off those inner, critical voices.
Louisiana Tech University psychologists Gler Boyraz and Brandon Waits tested the
idea that individuals with high levels of self-acceptance may be less likely to focus
and ruminate on negative aspects of the self and more likely to engage in

intellectual self-focus (p. 85). In other words, if you accept yourself, youll be less
likely to mull over your failings and more likely to see yourself in a realistic light. You
dont become completely oblivious to your shortcomings, but youre less likely to
view them as fatal flaws.
To test this idea, Boyraz and Waits conducted a two-part study in which, at Time 1,
they measured the tendency of their undergraduate participants to think about
(reflect), and worry about (ruminate), their behavior and then related these to
changes at Time 2 in the qualities of self-acceptance and empathy. As they
hypothesized, people who reflected on their behavior (but didnt ruminate) had
higher levels of self-acceptance; self-acceptance, in turn, also predicted higher
levels of reflection. Surprisingly, the ruminators tended to be more empathic than
the authors expected. Its possible that the more you ponder your own
shortcomings, the more likely youll be able to forgive those in others.
Returning to the idea of self-acceptance, then, the Boyraz and Waits study suggests
that taking in stride your positive and negative qualities can be beneficial to
mental health and your peace of mind. Now lets examine those 10 ways you can
become a self-liker rather than a self-critic:
1. Dont be afraid to confront your failings. The Boyraz and Waits study
showed that being able to think about your weaknesses doesnt condemn you
to a life of self-hatred.
2. Step back and enjoy your accomplishments. When youve done
something well, dont be afraid to admit that you succeeded. It doesnt have
to be something earth-shattering. Having cooked a good meal, eat it with
pleasure and allow any compliments from those you cooked for to sink in.
3. Learn to look at the things you like about yourself in the mirror. Sure,
your makeup isnt perfect and that rash on your chin makes it look a little red.
What about the great job you did on your hair? If all else fails, find a mirror
with better lighting than the bright fluorescents provided in your office
lavatory.
4. Go on a date with yourself. Spend some time alone devoted to thinking
about your experiences while on the date. Enjoy a movie, a show or
concert, or a meal at your favorite restaurant while you spend time reflecting
on whats going on around you. You can even laugh at your own jokes.
5. Strive to be a better person, but dont expect changes to happen all
at once.You might be completely unhappy with your weight and cant stand
the thought that the pounds arent melting off faster. Give yourself a realistic
timeline and measure yourself against smaller, achievable goals.
6. Spend a weekend day or an evening without worrying about how you
look. Try a makeup-free Sunday or a grubby t-shirt Tuesday night. See what
its like to be yourself without being concerned about impressing anyone else.
7. Think about the past, but dont let yourself be overwhelmed with
regret. You wish like anything that you could turn back the clock and not

said the hurtful thing you said to your friend. Once those words are uttered,
they cant be unsaid. However, you may have learned something useful
about yourself in the process and you certainly can make every effort to
apologize.
8. Understand that no one is perfect. When youre in low self-acceptance
mode, you believe that everyone is better than you. Its possible that others
are better than you in certain ways, but that doesnt mean youre any less of
a person yourself. Instead of comparing yourself negatively, accept that fact,
and then see if you can learn from them.
9. Enjoy your personality, foibles and all. So youre a little bit too
meticulous and want everything to be perfect. When things dont work out as
you wished and you start to berate your weaknesses, stop and do a reality
check. So you spilled coffee all over your brand-new tablecloth. Oh well,
maybe youre a bit clumsy. That doesnt mean youre a worthless individual.
10.Like most of yourself as much as you can. Youre may not reach 100%
self-satisfaction, but maybe you can get to 75 or 80%. In the measure of selfacceptance that the Louisiana Tech team used, getting high scores meant
saying you were happy with most of your personality traits.
The more you can accept yourself, the more youll be able to look realistically at
your experiences. Even if they dont meet your high expectations, accepting both
the good and the bad about you and your abilities can only contribute to your longterm feelings of fulfillment.
Follow me on Twitter @swhitbo for daily updates on psychology, health,
and aging. Feel free to join my Facebook group, "Fulfillment at Any Age,"
to discuss today's blog, or to ask further questions about this posting.
Copyright Susan Krauss Whitbourne 2016
References
Boyraz, G., & Waits, J. B. (2015). Reciprocal associations among self-focused
attention, self-acceptance, and empathy: A two-wave panel study. Personality And
Individual Differences, 7484-89. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2014.09.042