And the greatest return on investment you will ever get is from the choice to accept yourself.
Leaders must either invest a reasonable amount of time attending to fears and feelings, or squander an unreasonable amount of time trying to manage ineffective and unproductive behaviour.
— Brené Brown
A lot of us grew up in The Capitalist Dream, part of a society that lost touch with its own longing for acceptance. We sometimes think that more money, status and accomplishments will fulfill us.
The next raise or promotion we get, the next business we work on.
The next partner we find or the kids we will have.
The next goal we hit or problem we solve.
We all do this to some extent. We've been taught to believe that our self-worth can be measured. So we optimize our lives for achievement, but not for true happiness.
There is no greater suffering than constantly measuring yourself and coming up short. But where do we learn these things?
We don't come crying out of the womb because of our birth weight or because we have no money.
We learn to measure and we learn to attach our self-worth to those measurements.
– Vironika Tugaleva
What if you could free yourself from these attachments? What if you could truly feel fulfilled as you are, here and now, and then pursue your life vision?
Do you realize how much of a difference that could make in your life?
Maybe you’re afraid that if you were to accept yourself, exactly as you are right now, you would lose all motivation and ambition. You'd just give up. Maybe you would stop trying to get in shape, stop progressing towards your goals, stop working to be a better person.
Test that fear.
I bet that if you actually accepted yourself you would never have an issue with motivation ever again...
That's a huge return on the smallest imaginable investment.
Simply choose to accept yourself.
The only cost is giving up the self-imposed conditions you've picked up throughout your life.
Anyone who knows me knows how much I believe contemplating death can inspire and empower us to live more fulfilling lives.
I recently learned that most people who have had a near death experience report feeling a profound sense of self-acceptance and self-love on their way out. They come back to life, of course. And often, after being resuscitated, they ask their medical team “why did you bring me back?!?!”
They’ve experienced something so profoundly peaceful that they are disappointed to return to their old life. The feeling of unconditional love and acceptance they experienced was such a refuge from their own self-criticism and how hard they’ve driven themselves their whole life.
Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.
– Norman Cousins
We don’t need to wait until death to truly accept ourselves.
It is a moment-to-moment choice, and at first you may need to constantly remind yourself. A lifetime up until now of social and family conditioning and unconscious reinforcement will take time to dissolve.
Consider it a practice. Practice it now.
Practice it when it’s easy.
Practice it when it’s hard—when your own mind is trying to convince you that you need to do, have or be something else in order to deserve acceptance.
Practice earnestly and the feeling will grow.
Here are some questions to prompt some self-reflection:
This post was inspired by a powerful session I had with a client of mine last week. He is a leader at one of the "Big Four" firms and just launched his own business. What I love about working with him is that his life vision includes Inner Freedom and Peace (on top of big goals for the growth of his business and the impact he has on the world).
He experienced a breakthrough during our session related to self-acceptance and sent me this message afterwards:
If you resonate with this post and want to talk with me, I'd love to hear from you.