Our daily lives consist of trying to live up to unrealistic expectations, from the media, social media, and even our loved ones. We’re just trying to fit in, be liked, and be accepted by other human beings. No one would possibly like us for who we really are, right? Well no. So how do we get past self-deprecation and learn how to just be ourselves?
Media (and social media) can make us feel unattractive. Models, actors, and now even our friends on social media are photoshopped to perfection, which can often make us feel unattractive in comparison. Indeed, the more media we consume with attractive people in it, the worse we feel about ourselves. But the media sets the bar impossibly high, so no matter how hard we try to improve ourselves, we always feel like we’re falling short. When we start to see media for what it really is—a show—then we can stop comparing ourselves to it and accept ourselves for who we are.
One of the ways we can better accept ourselves is to challenge our negative self-talk. We always have these inner monologues chirping away at us. If this self-talk is mostly negative, we’ll have a hard time accepting ourselves. For example, we might say to ourselves, “I’m ugly”or”My life sucks.” We could stop some of this painful ruminating by simply limiting our media and social media time, but we also need to practice noticing and saying “no” to the negative self-talk.
What else stops us from being ourselves? Mostly, it’s our fear of what other people might think about us if we showed our true selves. For example, maybe our friends all have the same opinion about a political topic, so we decide not to share our different point of view. Maybe our friends like a particular genre of music, and so we decide not to talk about the kinds of music we like. Or maybe our friends enjoy dining at fancy restaurants, so we decide not to invite them to our house for the cozy dinner we’d really prefer. We hold back because we are afraid of them thinking we’re weird or ditching us.
It’s human nature for us to want to show the best sides of ourselves. And holding back our opinions occasionally is a necessary part of life — in fact, it can help make our relationships a bit easier and more enjoyable. Where we get into trouble is when our self-expression becomes a performance designed to evoke some kind of response in others. The result? Few of the people in our lives know who we really are deep down, and others are not given the opportunity to accept you as you are. And you don’t give yourself the opportunity to accept yourself as you are.
It’s sometimes easier to focus on our weaknesses instead of celebrating our strengths. We all suck at things and that’s OK. What’s problematic is focusing on these things instead of focusing on what we’re good at. If we get down on ourselves regularly for the things we’re not good at, it’s going to be hard to like ourselves as much as we could. So celebrate your strengths and discover that accepting yourself is all about perspective.