Do you find yourself asking, “Am I good enough?”
Do you find that you spend a lot of time or mental energy on doing the “right” things?
If so, read on to learn how to cultivate unconditional self-acceptance.
Why Do People Care About Being “Good Enough”
From an evolutionary perspective, humans are conditioned to fear rejection because, historically, rejection from the group meant being alone in the dangerous wild. The focus now might be protecting our feelings from being hurt, not protecting our bodies from being eaten by lions, but our fear of being inadequate and shunned remains hard-wired. That’s where the motivation to do socially desirable things – like get good grades, be popular, make more money, etc – comes from.
Self-evaluative thoughts are the constant inner monologue that goes through your head as you complete your day-to-day tasks. The primary role of self-evaluative thoughts is to judge how well you’re doing, a continual play-be-play of “Am I good enough?”
A few examples of self-evaluative thoughts include:
Concerns over picking a flattering thing to wear
Analyzing your attempts to appear cool or knowledgeable in conversation
Evaluating whether you performed well on a test or at work
Scrutinizing your performance on the soccer field
To review: You want to do the “right” things to earn acceptance, and you always have an inner voice telling you if you are succeeding or failing.
That inner voice has a lot of power. Unfortunately, for many, the inner voice is a critic. People with hyper-critical inner voices are more likely to feel like they are never good enough, struggle to connect with others and experience anxiety and depression.
How Can My Inner Voice Help Me?
Let’s turn those inner critics into cheerleaders by cultivating unconditional self-acceptance.
Unconditional self-acceptance is genuinely loving yourself, no matter what. It’s the comfort, support, and consistency you get from a great best friend, sibling, or parent. People with unconditional self-acceptance still have goals, make mistakes, soar beyond their wildest dreams, and fall flat on their faces. But, they separate their evaluations of their skills, abilities, and behaviors from their sense of self-worth.
How do you foster unconditional self-acceptance? Try these tips:
Practice Imperfection: Show up late, take a wrong turn, don’t study as much for a test, and wear the unfashionable shoes you love. Then, when you experience the natural consequences of these imperfections, notice that everything is, actually, okay.
Question Your Core Beliefs: Think about the arbitrary rules you follow, explore (individually) where they came from, and assess whether that rule is helping you achieve happiness or making you miserable. If it’s generally making life more joyous, reframe the rule as a guideline or guiding light, not an absolute. If it’s negative, stop using that rule as a standard.
Share Your Full Self: When you talk with others, allow them to glimpse your real life. Tell them about the things you’re proud of and your areas of growth. This authenticity will help you establish more meaningful connections without the pretense of perfection.
Teaching Example: GIRLS AND THEIR HORSES by Eliza Jane Brazier
Heather remembers her childhood as idyllic. She grew up in a well-to-do family and spent her free time riding horses and hanging out with barn friends. Everything changed when her dad left. Unable to afford access to the horse world, her barn-based friendships disappeared with her father. Years passed, Heather got married, had daughters, and remained discontent. Heather continually felt like she wasn’t good enough and that her life was stolen.
Suddenly, luck turned. Heather became ultra-rich. The family moved to a mansion, bought a horse, and joined an exclusive equestrian program so her daughters could learn how to ride. They wore designer clothes, hired household help, and spent time with the “right” people. And yet, Heather still feels insecure, unhappy, and generally not good enough.
Applying the Skills
Heather might notice that she has a core belief that happiness can be bought if you have enough money and the right purchase. This belief was formed through her childhood experiences, and she could notice that the belief isn’t serving her now; there is no product she can purchase that will make her feel better. This realization could help Heather stop wasting her time and instead focus on relationships, not shopping.
Heather could practice showing up as her imperfect self by wearing outfits that are not in style but that she likes and saying things that come to her mind before massively filtering. And she could share that self with others. When she practices living authentically, not as the image she wants to project to the world, and sees that the people she cares about, namely her daughters, still love her, she would likely feel more fulfilled. Also, this would lead to making friends who saw her as a whole person, not a puppet they can manipulate.