At any given moment, we are attacked by the idea that we are not what we are supposed to be, nor what we hoped to be, not to mention what we professed or believed ourselves to be. Hope fades with disappointment.
Personal acceptance is a sign of maturity. Life, with its challenges and circumstances, reveals our strengths and capabilities, as well as our limits.
Self-acceptance is also an act of justice toward God, who made each one of us suitable to our vocation and mission in life. He doesn’t make mistakes in his creations. He gave each one of us all that is necessary to realize ourselves fully. He did not give us our vices or obstacles, but he can help us turn these into positive traits, even if it takes us a long time to see those positive traits revealed. In the same way, just because God did not give us a particular skill, talent, or appearance does not mean we have been denied, but that God has something else in store for us. We could call this “the gift of not being.”
Acceptance does not mean, as some believe, having low self-esteem. Besides being an injustice to God, low self-esteem can keep us from using our gifts to become the person God created us to be. Not appreciating the gifts that God has given us can also lead us to work day and night to be like other people who have different gifts than we do. We can end up being a stressed-out, imperfect, and unsatisfied imitation of a person we were never meant to be in the first place.
Balance is not an easy task, especially when we give so much importance to what others may think or say about us. Centuries ago, in his book The Imitation of Christ, Thomas à Kempis wrote a phrase that is surprisingly relevant today: “Praise adds nothing to [who you are], nor does blame take anything from it. You are what you are, and you cannot be said to be better than you are in God’s sight.”
True self-esteem consists of recognizing, valuing, and appreciating who we are with objectivity and gratitude, nothing more or less. It is here where self-esteem merges with humility, because humility is truth. We struggle at times, wasting precious energy, attempting to model a false image of ourselves. We give ourselves too much importance in an effort to prove to ourselves that we are what we really are not.
Only those who accept and love themselves for who they are can enjoy inner peace. As accurately stated by G.K. Chesterton: “Angels fly because they take themselves lightly.”