Updated: Oct 19, 2020
Loving yourself isn’t only about accepting flaws. It is about acknowledging your flaws and loving yourself enough to change them.
I don't know about you, but my Instagram feed is always flooded with activists preaching to "love yourself the way you are because you are perfect." Of course, this is true to a degree; and of course, this is something we all should try to live by; but not one of us is perfect.
If we fall into the trap of accepting ourselves and believing we are perfect the way we are, then life becomes stagnant and lackluster. There is no growth in that. On the other hand, it is unhealthy and wrong to believe we are nothing more than broken creatures made up of life-inhibiting flaws.
So, where is the balance?
There is only one way to move towards permanent self-improvement, and that is through loving yourself despite your flaws. We know that we all have things we need to work on. For example, I know that I can be quick to anger sometimes, and that causes me to be irrational and overthink. I have started on the path to be more patient and rational in my thinking; however, because I have acknowledged this flaw and called attention to it, I have analyzed it.
The difficult part of this exercise is being completely candid and vulnerable with yourself. It is never easy, in any sense, to look at our least pleasing qualities, but it is the foundation for self-improvement.
This is not a negative exercise at all. It is a positive and cleansing part of growth. Being honest with yourself about the good, bad and ugly truths of who you are allows you to call yourself out and hold yourself accountable.
These are a few of the things that I do when I feel as though I need to practice self-reflection, which I do about once a month:
1. Make a list of all of the things you love about yourself and a list of the things you want to change. Make sure to list the internal vices first, and make sure they are coming from your own heart, not from the feelings of others. It is absolutely fine to list things you want to change about your physical appearance, but that is not where self-improvement starts. It starts from within. I’m sorry if that sounded cheesy, but it is true!
2. Pick one and think through it in detail. Lay out the situations that make these vices come out and other ways you can respond, rather than resorting to the vice. For example, what tends to trigger me and make me jump quickly into anger are usually situations that frustrate me, such as when I feel like my point of view is not being understood, or if I feel that I am being blown off or ignored. I know that I start off being snappy and sassy, and then it tends to make me look for problems.
3. Learn how to recognize it before it happens. Regardless of what it is, the first step to reforming this vice into a positive quality is recognizing it before it happens. If you can do this, it will be easier for you to stop it before it even starts. For example, I recognized that when I am about to get angry I feel a warm sensation in my head, and my mind starts to race. I know it sounds silly, but that is what happens, and I acknowledge that.
4. Make a plan to stop it before it happens. Making a plan is the most effective way to ensure you have a replacement response for your vice. Saying that you are just "going to quit" may not be a very logical way of improving yourself. The easiest way to ensure success is to replace your bad habits with positive habits. For example, when I feel myself starting to get angry, I stop talking, take a step back and ask myself, "On a scale of one to ten, how upset does this make me?"
If it is above a "five," I usually pause the conversation and remove myself for a few hours or even sleep on it. This allows both parties to take a step back, reflect, and then we can get together later and come to a conclusion. This prevents me from saying things I would later regret saying.
5. Acknowledge and reward yourself when you start to see progress. Acknowledging that you are making progress and being proud of yourself - no matter how small the victory - is important to keep yourself motivated!
The only way to be successful is through constant self-improvement. It is hard, it can be extremely challenging, and at times it’s ugly, but this is how we grow. Are you ready to level up?