A is for Accept Yourself and Others

Part 4 in this B-A-L-A-N-C-E Your Life Series.

acceptanceAcceptance is one of life’s greatest lessons. Yet in our society we don’t invest the time to understand how it enriches our lives. It can take years or a lifetime to master the fine art of truly accepting yourself and others.

Accept Yourself. This is a tough one. With hundreds of images of society’s definition of “perfection” coming your way each day, it’s easy to get consumed by an unrealistic or even unattainable self-image.┬áThe moment of liberation comes when you realize how important it is to not compare yourself to others. They don’t have what you have. You don’t have what they have. There is only one you. No two people on the entire planet are exactly the same. First become aware of yourself, then accept yourself. How do you do that? Tell yourself, “I accept myself for who I am.” “I value myself for who I am.” “I love myself for who I am.” As you say those words, you must feel and know that it is true. Empty words will do nothing for you. They must be filled with true emotion. What else you could do to accept yourself?

A few years ago, I experienced a personal breakthrough on a walk in the woods. It was a beautiful day. Walking along the path, I felt the warmth of the sun on my face, and smelled the freshness of the air. I was fully present in the moment, enjoying every step in nature. I became so filled with joy, I said out loud, “I love myself.” I let the words sink in. Then a smile came to my face. I repeated it with even greater emotion, “I love myself.” It was the first time in my life that I had said those words and actually felt and believed them. It was a turning point in my life.

Accept Others. This is another tough one. You can more easily judge others than accept them for who they are. Accepting others is hard work. It requires a bigger heart and more time. You must first understand that you cannot change others. You can only change yourself. This means you must accept other people, warts and all. Some of life’s greatest frustrations happen when you try to repeatedly change anyone else’s bad habits. Once you understand that only they can change themselves, that’s when your real learning begins. What could you do to better accept others?

When I was in my early 20s, a friend of mine smoked about a pack of cigarettes a day. I tried my best to talk to him about the health benefits of not smoking. He listened and admitted that he enjoyed smoking. I had to learn to accept and respect his wishes. A few years later, he proudly announced that he had quit smoking. I immediately realized the lesson: The change was not mine to make. It was his. It wasn’t until he felt the need to quit that allowed him to quit. It was his choice, his decision, not mine. I had no control in the matter. Several decades later, my friend has maintained a healthy lifestyle, smoke-free for all these years, and he goes to the gym five days a week. It was his choice to make.

Acceptance – of yourself and others – requires great focus and an open heart. Here are two questions to ponder:

How could your life change for the better if you began accepting and valuing yourself for who you are and begin celebrating your greatness?

How could your life change for the better if you began accepting and valuing others for who they are and begin celebrating their greatness?