Self-acceptance led me to (at least!) 22 personality changes that I can identify — probably more! These changes occurred because at the core of self-acceptance is learning to tolerate shame. Self-acceptance isn’t just “loving yourself,” but learning to manage that very difficult experience of feeling unworthy — and manage it in healthy, balanced ways.
In this blog I’ll describe the first 12 personality changes. If the following list sounds self-aggrandizing, please consider that I share this information not to brag, but to educate others about the transformative power of these ideas. (And I actually can’t claim credit for making these specific changes, because they largely occurred without conscious effort on my part!)
- As I began to work on developing self-acceptance, I began to notice the huge volume of self-doubting, self-critical messages that popped up uninvited in my brain: “Are people staring at me? Did I say the wrong thing? Did I wear the wrong outfit? Do people like me?” Now, it is rare that I worry about my verbal missteps or fashion faux pas. Where I used to check a mirror everywhere I went, I now go hours without assessing my hair or my hemline. I spend very little time wondering whether I have offended someone. Where before I would walk into a room watching others for their approval or fearing their disapproval, I now enter situations not judging, not fearing being judged. I flow through life knowing that self-approval is far more important.
- My habits at self-deprecation over the years created a cycle that kept me from recognizing the truth about myself. Because my self-worth was so low, I tended to dismiss or overlook compliments and positive messages: “They can’t possibly mean me!” I also repeated internal messages to myself about my inadequacies, reinforcing my already-low self-image. Being preoccupied with telling myself I was worthless, I wasn’t able to tune in to the signals others were sending me – a missed opportunity to hear real, accurate messages about myself and my abilities. Now I am able to honestly assess my talents and imperfections. And when I recognize my faults it is a realistic perception because I am not swept up in anxiety and fear that accompanies excessive self-shaming.
- I became aware of how often I had critical thoughts about others. “What is she wearing? His hair is weird.” I learned to consciously stop these automatic reactions, replace them with compassionate thoughts, and soon these judgmental thoughts faded away to almost nothing.
- I am no longer falsely humble or inappropriately self-promoting. I don’t sprinkle my speech with brags about my accomplishments or experiences. I can accept and give compliments graciously.
- Previously, I overachieved and drove myself to perfection in everything from housecleaning to my career in an attempt to forestall failure and criticism from others. Of course, that meant that I was a constant source of criticism toward myself. Now I have high standards, but only because I personally value the results, rather than doing tasks hoping for praise from others. I work hard and have good morals because I value these behaviors and character traits intrinsically. I have a clean house because I enjoy it, not because I’m afraid someone will stop by and judge me for being a slob.
- I have a realistic sense of myself, rather than mindlessly believing the opinions of certain people — opinions that were often tinged by their agendas of manipulation, dominance and control.
- I don’t assume automatically that things are my fault or worry that I might be wrong.
- Previously, I perceived criticism even if there was none. A friend not returning a phone call, a person ignoring me at a party, not being invited to an event – I viewed all of these as rejection, when there may have been other perfectly good explanations.
- I used to feel tears well up when criticized or even just instructed on a new skill. I was on guard for threats to my self-worth. As a result, criticism led to a fear response — “fight-or-flight.” Today, I can hear criticism or instruction calmly and I actually enjoy feedback. The experience is not intrinsically shaming, so I can respond without emotional distress or the placating behavior of crying. Some people handle shame and criticism through anger or blaming others — a specific personality type called “Other-Blamers” I talk about in depth in Self-Acceptance Psychology.
- Another submissive behavior I had was crying when angry — and this is another habit that has ended completely and without effort. When I am angry, I expressed myself assertively and directly with congruent affect, not incongruent tears.
- This one is quite intriguing because many people believe their blushing is uncontrollable. For 40 years or more I blushed very easily and frequently. But now I never blush! It is fascinating that as I learned to manage my shame and low self-worth, this physical symptom completely disappeared without any conscious effort on my part. (The power of learning to manage shame is remarkable!)
- I gradually realized that I had been far too submissive, placating and lacking in assertiveness. In the past, I felt I had no right to protect myself or respond incrementally to others. It was all or nothing. Either I was a submissive doormat with the door wide open or the door was shut and locked. Of course, this made me fearful and avoidant, because my relationship options were extremely limited. I now have the ability to respond appropriately and set boundaries for each person and each situation, which gives me much more strength and adaptability. As a result, I am fearless about confrontation, but can do so without anger. I don’t tremble in fear of the spoken or unspoken perceptions others may have of me, but can hear and respond to critics appropriately.
What is so powerful about the Self-Acceptance Psychology framework is that these behaviors changed with no conscious effort on my part, without my attention to individually reversing each habit. I didn’t recite affirmations or post reminders on my mirror. These behaviors changed naturally and effortlessly. As I became more self-accepting, the anxieties, fears, and insecurities that seemed such a natural part of my life eased away unnoticed, leaving a much more authentic, confident, and contented person.
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Be kind to yourself!