I Found the Key to Self Acceptance, and It Comes Through These 3 Habits:

Your life reflects the quality of your habits and decisions. Good life=good habits & decisions. Shitty life=shitty habits & decisions. Simple, right?

But most people can’t judge their habits or decisions honestly because they’re so afraid of being imperfect. They think if they do something wrong, that means they’re fundamentally wrong and that they can’t accept themselves. It’s not true.

But that single misconception (called shame) is keeping people from the extraordinary lives they were born for. Take my story as proof.

My parents divorced when I was in 7th grade—I didn’t handle it well. Actually, that’s a nice way of saying I dissipated into a life of petty crime and drug abuse.

I didn’t have the power to make my home life exactly what I wanted, so I acted out in ways that made me feel powerful. Hookups, porn, stealing, skipping school, drinking, getting high…it all amounted to the same thing. I felt more and more powerless.

I knew these weren’t the right decisions because they hurt other people and restricted my freedom. But I couldn’t make good decisions until I first acknowledged my bad ones. That was too hard for me.

By the time I was 21 I had a reputation for being lazy, irresponsible, dissolute, dishonest, and in every other way undesirable. This didn’t help my self-esteem. So I continued my pattern of bad decisions; I continued to run away from myself.

My lack of success made me ashamed. The way other people looked at me made me ashamed. Everything I did made me ashamed. But I couldn’t change it, because that would mean examining my life. And that was something I was still too afraid to do.

I just couldn’t acknowledge my imperfections.

Then I turned 25. My life was a crippled state of shame and fear, and I was running out of people to blame. All my relationships had dissolved into the same pathetic failure soup, with the same bitter taste, and the only common denominator was me. My parents’ divorce happened over a decade ago. And even though my brothers and sisters pitied me for getting hit the hardest, the pity did nothing for me. I was still living on my mom’s couch. I was still depressed. I was still unsuccessful. I was still…still.

And the stillness was driving me insane.

I wanted to break free from mediocrity. I wanted financial independence, and money, and a life I could be proud of. But pride—the healthy kind—and shame can’t coexist. Eventually, the only place left to turn was inward. I had to confront my awful, awful, awful, awful, awful, awful decisions: the root of my shame. Fuck.

I’d dreaded this moment for a decade…what would I find? How could I live with myself when I acknowledged how pathetic and weak I was? How could I accept myself for all the wrong I’d done?

The answer was good habits (journaling, affirmations, and daily planning).

Just like running away from my decisions had been a habit, accepting myself was a habit too—albeit an unfamiliar one. But once I honestly evaluated the mess of my life and said to myself, “you can fix this”, that was the first step of self acceptance. And contrary to my fears, it didn’t kill me.

I’d been grossly irresponsible. But acknowledging that in my journaling sessions didn’t kill me; it just helped me focus on more responsible decision making.

I’d been lazy and distracted. But when I called out my laziness and distractedness as I journaled, I was able to identify the positive habits and decisions that would fix those flaws within me. That’s how I first became disciplined in staying off social media and email until I had completed several hours of work–which gave me a writing career.

The more I practiced accepting myself–calling out the unacceptable behavior, encouraging myself, telling me the good I saw in myself, and planning for better decisions–the more I realized that mistakes weren’t the end of the world. In fact, when I learned to accept myself, to look honestly at my decisions and correct them, mistakes were the key to my success.

Self acceptance is forgiving yourself for having been weak, but promising yourself to be stronger

For every weakness corrected, I gained strength and experience that was useful to others. My relationships, which were so horrible and painful, and where I’d done so much wrong, ended up being treasure troves of useful information that helped me to never, ever make the same mistakes again. And that information proved to be very useful to my readers who wanted better relationships as well. And after I corrected my distracted lifestyle, I was able to convince thousands more that their happiness wasn’t in the next click or notification, but in their own self-directed accomplishment.

So, far from feeling ashamed of my sordid past, I’m grateful for the mistakes. But I’m even more grateful for the habits of self acceptance that helped me profit from my mistakes and become a better human being through them, such as journaling, affirmations and daily planning.

And I’m recommending them to you.

Journaling

For the next month, journal for 10-20 minutes at night. Reflect on your day candidly–the good, the bad, and the ugly. Praise yourself for the good stuff!!! for taking care of your body! for being kind! for sticking to your goals! But just as important, call out where you let yourself down. Promise yourself that you won’t repeat those errors tomorrow. And plan out that better tomorrow in a daily planner (i.e: seeing how your distractions hurt you, then planning on a social media fast for the next day.)

Daily Planning

This self acceptance tool is a force multiplier of your journaling habit. It’s one thing to acknowledge your mistakes and to forgive yourself and accept yourself…but you’re not really accepting yourself if you don’t plan to be better. Because your better self is part of you. And if you don’t plan for that better self, you’ll never be able to accept him or her.

Long story short: you’re going to plan out the corrective goals you come up with through journaling, and you’re going to plan goals for a brighter future–reading, practicing your craft, being consistent with healthy routines, etc.

Affirmations

God doesn’t make junk. That means you are essentially good. But in order to acknowledge and accept that latent goodness, you have to tell yourself some things that might really feel like lies at first…

I’m talking about affirmations of course.

In order for me to become responsible, disciplined, and congruent, I first had to endure the discomfort of telling myself that I was those things. But once I shifted my focus away from always feeling irresponsible and bad to looking for the good in myself, that’s when I started making better decisions. Again, your daily planning habit is a potent multiplier of your affirmations; because if you just talk about being better, nothing is going to change. But if you plan on being disciplined, courageous, consistent, joyful, and all the other affirmations that you say, then you’ll actually do and be those things.

Conclusion

Self acceptance doesn’t mean that you have to accept your bad habits and decisions. If you believe that you are capable of becoming your better self every day, then accepting that which limits you is actually self denial. So, if you want to actually accept yourself, you need to call out your BS, forgive yourself, praise the amazing things you do, and commit to a BS-free lifestyle.

Journaling, daily planning, and affirmations have been enormously helpful for me, and I have a feeling they’ll work for you too 🙂

 

Written by Daniel Dowling
I came from nowhere. High school dropout, college dropout, army reject...no one would've expected me to come as far as I have, writing for the largest publications in the world, coaching Ivy League grads. But I did. And I'll show you how.