That was the 10th most asked "How to" question on Google last year. I guess along with "How to resuscitate a heart attack victim" and "How to unblock a drain". Two of the problems that I think would be good for all people to know the answers to! The BBC was running an article on it late yesterday (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-38304371).
The answers that Google provided largely centred around ...'"shush your inner critic" and "grieve the loss of unrealised dreams".' It was about looking in the mirror and telling yourself the truth. This is often the point at which I start to fail in the area of self-acceptance, as I am confronted with reality, rather than the athletic, 20 years younger, mental self-image that I keep of myself!
"Accept your flaws and use your voice." advised one therapist.
So I dutifully set off to the bathroom, had a quick peek in the mirror and started shouting at myself, "Eat less and do some exercise you tub of lard!" I'm not sure that this was what they meant. We'll see if it works.
The problem with all the "accepting myself for who I am" advice, is that it is totally individualistic. It has nothing to do with the way others treat us or think of us. It will either make you incredibly narcissistic or incredibly depressed. When forced to find security and self-worth entirely from your view of yourself most people chose to ignore their flaws and blame others.
The reason that looking within yourself for acceptance doesn't work is that we're created as relation beings. We are in the image of the God who is in a perfect relationship of love in eternity. Father, Son and Spirit always giving themselves in love to one another. Seeking the honour and glory and good of the other persons of the Trinity.
We're made to define ourselves in relationship. That's why we mostly find our security in what others think and say about us. We can accept ourselves when we feel accepted. But the fickle nature of our fallen world means that one moment we feel beautiful, the next ugly. One moment we feel successful, the next a failure. One moment we feel loved, the next rejected. Human relationships and opinions will never be the bedrock of the our self-worth. And they aren't meant to be.
We are supposed to accept ourselves for who we in relationship to God through Jesus.
In fact it is only in relationship with God that we can afford to be really honest about ourselves. Because God loves us despite all our flaws. However deep and dreadful we feel that they are. Time and time again the Bible makes that very clear:
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
1 John 4:10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
The love of God is seen most perfectly at the cross of Christ. That is there that He took the initiative in dealing with all the ways that we fail to be the people we should be. All the ways that we sin. His love is so great for me that He would bear all the guilt and shame that my failures deserve.
It is at the cross that I can accept myself for who I am. Because at the cross I can admit that my faults and failures go far deeper than I will ever realise. And yet I know that I am loved, forgiven and cherished far more than I will ever imagine.
Who am I?
A sinner who has been made a child of God by His grace alone. This is why I can accept myself as I am today.
"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" (1 John 3:1)