In my last post I talked about radical self-care, and in this post I want to talk about radical self-acceptance.
Radical self-care is the idea that you should treat yourself with the same loving kindness and care you treat others.
Radical self-acceptance is the idea that there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with you.
Nothing about you needs to be fixed.
Nothing about you needs to change.
All you have to do is accept yourself EXACTLY where you’re at with affection, humor, and good grace.
The Pressure to Fix Yourself
It’s radical because entire industries have sprung up around our sense of self-deficiency.
The self-improvement industry is worth 11 BILLION DOLLARS because it’s so good at convincing you that you lack something and you need help to overcome your problems.
It’s convinced us that everything in our lives that isn’t perfect is a problem to be solved.
So if you’re not swimming in a pool of money, looking half your age, and happily married to a successful man, you’ve got work to do. 😉
No wonder we see a mass of problems when we look at our lives.
We see ALL the ways in which we fall short of perfection.
Social media makes us even more conscious of our problems, because it parades everyone else’s perfect life and makes ours feel hopelessly messed up by comparison.
But here’s the thing…
The Pleasure Principle teaches us that we can either focus on fixing all the things that are going wrong OR we can seek out all the things we like best.
Both of those paths will get us moving, but only one will bring us joy. (And I’ll bet you can guess which one!)
Do You Feel Worthy?
If radical self-care is superfuel for attracting love, then radical self-acceptance is the sweetness that helps you enjoy it.
It seems impossible to even imagine a world in which all of those things you think are problems about yourself aren’t ACTUALLY problems at all.
This is what unconditional love is supposed to teach us.
In an ideal world, we would be loved SO unconditionally as children that we would know we were worthy and beloved regardless of any mistakes we made.
But many of us didn’t get that message.
We got the message that love had to be earned.
We only got love if we did what other people wanted us to do. We only got love if we made ourselves into what other people wanted us to be.
We ended up concluding that something was wrong or broken with us.
It felt like everyone else knew exactly what to do. They didn’t struggle. Success happened naturally for them. They had something we didn’t.
This belief—that there’s something fundamentally wrong about us—is very useful to other people.
It makes us easy to control.
All someone has to do is convince us that there’s a “right” way to do things.
We all want to be right rather than wrong, so we do what they say. We try our best to do it right. We’re convinced that if we just manage to get it right, we’ll get rewarded with love and approval and appreciation.
That feels like the way the world works, but it isn’t.
The Deficiency Model of Dating
Women have been controlled for most of human history through their love lives.
We’ve been threatened with the idea that we’ll be unmarriageable if we don’t behave properly.
I am extraordinarily grateful to be living in the 21st century, when we don’t have to behave. 😉 We don’t have to convince a man we can cook and clean and budget before he’ll consider marrying us!
We have the extraordinary freedom of being able to live our lives and make our own choices about who and when and how to love.
So many women don’t feel free.
They still feel that threat of being unmarriageable.
They feel worried that they’re never going to be able to find someone. They don’t feel like they have any power. They feel like it’s still a man’s world, and they have to be grateful for any kind of male interest rather than being too picky.
Every rejection and every bad date reinforces their belief that there’s something about them that’s wrong, or broken, or not good enough. Because if they were good enough, surely they’d have met someone by now.
If it were up to me, I would prescribe a daily diet of radical self-care and radical self-acceptance, but most women don’t try that.
Instead they conclude that they need an expert to tell them what to do, because clearly they don’t know how to do it right.
They need rules to follow. They need a plan that can’t fail.
And so they go looking, and they come across the typical internet dating advice, which goes something like this:
If you want a man, you’ve got to do X, Y, and Z. You’ve got to make yourself look more attractive, because look at you! You’ve got to learn what men like, because right now you’re putting them off. You’ve got to cater to men’s fantasies and desires. And you’ve got to do all this so well and so effortlessly that he’d never guess you weren’t like this naturally.”
And we’re straight back to the 1950s, when women were warned away from anything that might make them unmarriageable.
Have you fallen for this?
How many of you think it’s your fault you’re still single?
How many of you think it’s because you’re not attractive enough?
How many of you worry constantly that you’re going to make a mistake that’s going to put him off?
Then you’ve been sold the deficiency model of dating.
I coined this term to describe dating advice that is predicated on the belief that you need to “fix yourself” before a man could possibly find you attractive.
It’s a very lucrative business model, because if you think you’re deficient, you’ll spend a lot of money fixing yourself.
You’ll put your entire love life in other people’s hands, because obviously they know better than you do.
But there’s another way—and for some of you it might be harder!
It involves accepting yourself exactly as you are and knowing you’re lovable no matter WHAT you do.
Back In the Real World…
What’s crazy is that hardly any of the women I know who are in happy, healthy, loving relationships, had to “fix themselves” before meeting their husbands.
They were just living life, hanging out, being themselves, when they ran into this great guy… and the rest was history.
Real life doesn’t happen the way dating advice says it should happen.
In real life, people fall for each other because they like each other. They fall for each other because they work together or study together or go to the same church. They fall for each other because it just makes sense.
In real life, a relationship isn’t a reward for getting it right.
In real life, a relationship emerges when you spend a lot of time with someone. You find out you have this fun connection, and you want to explore that further.
The secret to love in real life is to show up, feel good about yourself and open to possibilities, and spend as much time as you can with other people.
But in dating advice world?
The secret is supposedly learning as much as you can about men and making yourself as attractive as possible and performing so well that he can’t resist your charms.
Brené Brown talks about “proving, pleasing, perfecting, and performing” as ways we hustle for worthiness.
Most dating advice is about proving, pleasing, perfecting, and performing.
If you’re trying to prove yourself to a guy, if you’re trying to please him, if you’re trying do it all perfectly, if you’re trying to perform for him…
Then you’re trying to win his approval so you can feel worthy, and that will shoot you in the foot.
You Have Only One Job
Louise L. Hay often said that people came to her with all sorts of problems—financial problems, health problems, relationship problems—but she always only taught them one thing:
To love themselves.
If you do not love yourself totally, wholly, and fully, somewhere along the way you learned not to. You can unlearn it. Start being kind to yourself now.”
How would life feel different if you knew you were fundamentally okay exactly as you are?
If you didn’t need to fix anything about yourself.
Or change anything about yourself.
If you just smiled and shrugged when someone pointed out your mistakes and flaws and problems.
It’s okay. This is life. None of us are perfect.
You are who you are because of the life you’ve lived. Even the parts you feel are flawed are valuable. If it’s hard to believe that, find a great therapist.
In the meanwhile, if someone doesn’t like how you are? That’s on them.
No one can take your worthiness away from you.
When you radically accept yourself, you don’t waste time with people who don’t accept you.
You’re on the lookout for your tribe, your people, the folks who get you.
It goes against popular wisdom to stop wasting time trying to be more like what men want.
But what better way could you spend your life than being more yourself, and pursuing what pleases you, and saying no to what doesn’t?
This is why I wrote THE PLEASURE PRINCIPLE.
It’s love advice for folks who don’t want to be controlled or told what to do.
It’s love advice that inspires you to practice self-acceptance and self-care as a path to attracting a truly great love.