How often do you find it easier to see your flaws rather than appreciate your strengths? If you answered, fairly often, you are not alone.
Societal norms, educational environments, and/or family dynamics condition us to look at our failures rather than our successes. We internalize criticism and shrug off compliments. For some of us the idea of looking in the mirror with open-heartedness and love then saying to our reflection, “Hey, I think you’re fantastic; I genuinely appreciate and like you,” makes us squirm uncomfortably.
Fear often negates self-appreciation
A primary fear arises from comparing ourselves to others. We strive to do our best, trying to achieve perfection. Yet at the same time we forget that we are human, and by nature, imperfect. We are conditioned by a desire to please others by doing well and fear reprimands for poor performance.
Our grades were established by comparison to other students, our wages and promotions are determined by comparisons to our peers, and sometimes the love we receive from our families arises from comparison to our siblings.
Change our mindset to embrace self-appreciation
Choose to set an intention each day to do your very best — whatever that means for you. If you follow that intention, then you have succeeded in your goal for the day.
Give yourself a hug of self-appreciation, and start over the next day. Even if you didn’t achieve perfection — again whatever that means to you — by doing your best, and being pleased with it you begin to move into a space of self-appreciation.
Self-appreciation does not imply vanity or narcissism. These two traits arise when you flaunt your “daily best” to others and expect praise and accolades in return.
How do we embrace our positive qualities in a healthy way? First, we need to acknowledge that all people have strengths and weaknesses. Then, when we enjoy what’s good about ourselves, we embrace and celebrate our goodness without evoking feelings of arrogance or pretentiousness.
We treat ourselves with mindfulness, kindness, and a sense of common humanity when considering our perceived flaws.
1. Mindfulness and Self-Appreciation
Just as we need be aware of good qualities in others in order to appreciate them, we need to intentionally acknowledge our own positive aspects. However, because we are conditioned to focus on our mistakes and flaws, we are often not aware of things going well. Where do your thoughts linger when presented with a work evaluation, the nine points of praise or the one point of criticism?
This isn’t to say we ought to ignore valid areas of growth. Rather, we mindfully choose balance our perspective so that we continue to grow as well as appreciate what we do well.
Every human being has both positive and negative traits. Instead of mindlessly creating exaggerated story-lines about either good or bad, intentionally practice honoring and accepting ourselves authentically. No better and no worse. The key is having balance and perspective so that we can see ourselves without distortion.
2. Kindness and Self-Appreciation
Do you take for granted, without ever acknowledging them, the best qualities in your friends? Probably not. Yet many of us forget to recognize our own best qualities. Demonstrating our approval of our own actions with sincere praise is the great gift of self-kindness. We don’t need to express this praise aloud in front of others, making ourselves and others uncomfortable in the process. However, self-appreciation grows as we quietly give ourselves the inner acknowledgement we deserve.
3. Common Humanity and Self-Appreciation
Common humanity, as it relates to self-appreciation, means we appreciate ourselves not because we’re better than others, but because all people possess goodness. Celebrating our achievements is no more self-centered than having compassion for our failings. When we appreciate goodness in others, while ignoring our own strengths, creates a false division between us and them.
Our gifts and talents arise from a combination of personal mindset and intention, our ancestry, the nurturing and support of our parents, the generosity of friends, the guidance of mentors, and the wisdom of our social community. Appreciation for our good qualities, then, is really an expression of gratitude for everyone who’s influenced us as we move through life. Self-appreciation quietly honors all those people and life experiences who have molded us into the person we are today.
Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism, once wrote, “Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.” Cultivating mindfulness, kindness, and a sense of common humanity allows self-appreciation to blossom. As self-appreciation blossoms we begin living the wisdom of this beautiful quote daily.