By: Ismail M Taher
In the last article I took you, the readers, on a slightly personal journey through my story with self-consciousness and insecurity, and how I built a strong self-confidence from scratch and gave myself the love and credit it badly needed.
Today I’m going to spin off a little bit, yet still talk about a very important aspect that relates directly to self-confidence and happiness in general:
In my article about building self-confidence I touched a little about the concept of self-acceptance, but there are so much more to tell about that.
So, let me tell you a short story,
For years, years and more years, I struggled with almost nonexistent self-confidence, skyrocketing levels of self-doubt, insecurity, and a catastrophic level of self-consciousness.
At a time, I was even afraid to leave my own home because of the various sights, sounds, people, or situations that were surely to trigger my deep rooted insecurities and make me feel horrible.
I thought, at that time, that the best ‘solution’ to my problems was to avoid them altogether, or more precisely, pretending that they didn’t exist.
I skipped outings, family gatherings, and pretty much each and every social event possible. By continually doing this, i.e.: escaping from all my fears, I unknowingly locked myself into a closed vicious cycle.
Because, according to psychology, humans are creatures of habit, and to put it simply, our nervous system is pretty good at habituating or constantly adapting to its surroundings, which is the total opposite of what I used to do.
By constantly escaping and avoiding all my fears altogether, I was indirectly preventing myself from even the tiniest chance that I could overcome my fears. In other words, I was repeatedly rewiring my brain and nervous system to always escape my fears, which in turn, made them sound far more horrifying and intimidating than I used to believe they were.
In a very thought-provoking article published by Edward A. Selby Ph.D. on Psychology today, he touches on a critical concept many of us are not aware of, the concept of:
In the article, Professor Edward explains how every time you avoid your fears, you’re essentially “Negatively reinforcing” your avoidant behavior.
In Layman terms, Reinforcement is a psychological concept that refers to training your brain on a certain pattern of thought or action.; and here, the word ‘negative’ refers to the elimination of the source of anxiety.
For example: If you feel very anxious by just thinking about going to the Gym, every time you actually do avoid going there you’re ‘negatively reinforcing’ this behavior, which means that you’re rewarding your brain for eliminating that source of anxiety or tension (The Gym in that case).
The problem with this approach is that over time, a serious of negative reinforcements will only be detrimental to your mental health and it will, paradoxically, increase and feed your fears, which in turn makes you continue avoiding those fears, and then you’ll be again negatively reinforcing those behaviors, and so on.
So, what does all of that have to do with self-acceptance?
There is a slightly amusing anecdote here; when I was a teenager, I used to believe that wherever I go, everyone will immediately stare at this freak of a human being (that’s what my anxiety used to tell me), and as a result of that belief, I would avoid most of the social events or situations.
Later on, I discovered that ironically, people did stare at me, but you know why? Because I was so insecure and self-conscious, I would automatically start looking everyone in the face whenever I enter any public place, and naturally, what happens when you look a stranger in the eyes? He looks back at you!
I’m telling you this story as an example of how your mind can play brilliantly dirty tricks on you, making you believe in completely unrealistic beliefs or scenarios. My self-consciousness continued for a good while until I started learning about just one truth that could change your life for good.
"Nobody gives a damn (or at least most of them don't!)"
This was an absurdly simple fact that many people somehow often forget. We tend to be too caught up in our own brains and the beliefs they feed us on a daily basis, thus forgetting this very simple concept: We’re living in an enormous world, the odds of someone looking at you only to think “My God this man/woman is horrifying” is close to nonexistent.
I once read an amusing story about a man who dressed in a clown outfit and went on to dance on the streets. At first, and instinctively, people did actually stare at the man, after all, how often do we see a dancing clown on the streets?
But guess what happened after a few minutes? The clown kept dancing and people began minding their own business and going about their normal lives.
This tells you a lot, nobody truly cares about anyone else, at least not to the extent you think they do, and even if they do, it’s nowhere near what your brain would like you to believe. This brutally honest fact about human nature was one of the key factors in helping me begin my path to self-acceptance.
"If you’re depressed, you’re living in the past. If you’re anxious, you’re living in the future, and if you’re at peace, you’re living in the present…"
For long, I hated myself; my appearance, my hair, my physique and pretty much everything related to me. The core reason behind that raging self-hatred was a past of traumatic experiences, including bullying. Once I identified these core past roots of my then self-hatred, I was able to think clearly on how to get rid of that debilitating emotion.
I started pinning down everything I didn’t like about myself, and thought, if you hate anything about yourself, there are two crucial facts you need to be aware of:
Fact no.1: How SOME people see you DOES not define how you actually are.
This simple fact gets surprisingly missed out by a ton of people. I was one of them, and as a result of a few bad experiences with a few bad people, I convinced myself that I was ugly, undesirable and all around horrible human being.
Take a moment, and ask yourself if you’ve been a victim of bullying before or have had negative encounters that made you feel any degree of self-hatred: Does that person’s (or people) opinion truly reflect my identity and who I am?
The answer often will be a resounding no. We always tend, again, to think in black and white, assuming that everyone thinks we suck, because a mean kid screamed that in your face in school. Think about it, there are literally more than 7.7 Billion people on this planet, so in the astronomical possibility that 7 Billion people actually told you that you suck (Imagine?), you’re still good to go with more than half a billion people, which means over 700 million people. Will it then be hard to find someone who loves you for how you truly are?
After doing some calculations, this is how putting things into perspective looks
Assuming that 100, 1000 or even 10,000 people told you that you're the worse person imaginable, by dividing this number by 326 Million people (JUST the US population), and then multiplying the result by a 100 to get a percentage, you end up with something like 0.1%. In other words, if you think you suck because a thousand people be they toxic friends or family members told you so, you're just basing your view of yourself on a 0.1% of the population.
Let that sink in for a while and you'll get an idea of how things look in proper perspective.
So, as I just explained, the first and most important step in the road to self-acceptance is to get a grasp on that important concept:
Nobody cares, and someone’s view of me will never define who I really am
Fact no.2: My past should NEVER dictate my present or future.
In order to fully accept yourself, you should be aware of the fact that past never did and never will translate into your present or future without your consent.
To put it another way, if you want your present and future to be exact copies of your past, only you can allow this, and on the other hand, only you can take action to shape your present and future the way you wish.
Now, I here many people say:
"We’re just products of our circumstances"
and that's dead wrong! There is a beautiful quote I keep reminding myself and everyone of all the time, which says:
"Life is not what happens to you, it’s how you react to it…"
One of the most common mistakes many people make is thinking that they’re merely a product of their unfortunate circumstances, which automatically frees them from any responsibility and throws off all the blame on some arbitrary imaginal force.
While the truth is, if you truly want to accept yourself and live a life of growth and development, you should be aware of the fact that how you react to your circumstances is what shapes your present and future.
So, from now on, stop the blame and take responsibility. I get it, your past might have been tough, many of us went through that, but if you don’t take real action, your present and future might as well be the same (or even worse) than your past. So, accept responsibility, take control and decide you’re not going to let your past dictate your present and future.
After being cognizant of those two facts we just mentioned, you need to remember this important statement:
Confidence is not “They will like me”, it’s “I’ll be fine if they don’t”
This is a profound realization that could very much lead you onto the way of a much deeper inner-peace, personal growth and happiness. Self-acceptance implies that the acceptance is coming from you, not from anybody else so stop searching for acceptance in the eyes of other people
I used to do this, searching endlessly for validation from total strangers until I realized: “How can I search for acceptance from people that might not even be accepting themselves?”
And this hit me hard; you’re not supposed to be waiting for acceptance or validation from anyone on earth, but your very own self. The moment you pin down that realization and keep reminding yourself with it, you’ll start feeling as if a huge weight has been lifted off your shoulders. Previously, you were supposed to await acceptance from billions of people, now you’re waiting for acceptance only from yourself, much easier huh?
Let me be honest here, even if you aren’t seeking acceptance from anyone, it’s tough to be alone right?
Definitely! And that’s why I had to point out that self-acceptance never implies total detachment from people, it’s just, believing that even if you got rejected by a million people, you’ll still be fine because you enjoy high levels of self-acceptance and inner-peace.
Ironically, when you start feeling confident and accepting, you’ll actually attract another type of people; those people who would love seeing you live to your fullest and realize your biggest potential, those people who you would be totally comfortable in your own skin around. In other words, self-confidence and self-acceptance will distant you from the toxic destructive people and make you highly attractive to the positive, constructive and influential people.
The conclusion is,
Self-acceptance is one of the major foundations and pillars for a life of constant personal growth and development. Without fully accepting yourself, you’re surely to hit endless plateaus on your journey towards fulfillment, peace and happiness.
If you’re serious about living to your maximum potential, and helping others be comfortable and empowered enough to do the same, it’s crucial that you start assessing your personal self-acceptance levels, and work hard every day on accepting yourself more and more, on the way to inner-peace and fulfillment.
For more details about how to build your self-confidence from scratch, check my last article. Also, check out the Blog section on the website for more value-packed articles crafted with one aim in mind: Helping everyone live a more meaningful, satisfactory and happy life. Hence, the name “The Happiness Times”
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