I was 22 years old when I visited the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, Greece. The adage “know thyself” carved into the temple entrance perplexed me. It seemed to me that it should be easy to know oneself.
The fact that these words were etched onto the temple implied otherwise, and it got me thinking. Back then, I was too young to fully appreciate the challenging lifelong process of self-awareness.
Two decades later and more seasoned by life, I found myself at the Luxor Temple in Egypt, built in 1400 BCE. Only those proven worthy of advanced spiritual study had been allowed to enter the temple’s internal area. Among many proverbs inscribed on the interior walls was this one: “Man, know thyself, and you are going to know the gods.”
By then, I understood that knowing oneself wasn’t as simple as the younger me believed it to be. It requires effort to develop conscious knowledge of our own character, feelings, motives, and desires. And then, what if we don’t like what we find? I was starting to understand the challenge of self-acceptance that goes hand-in-hand with knowing oneself.
Our authentic self is always accessible to us. But our social conditioning gets in the way. We are pressured to conform to a norm. The influences of our family upbringing, societal expectations, educational system, religious indoctrination, and media run deep. They can lead us to reject ourselves.
Breaking through these invisible fences can disrupt our current way of being and may require that we do something unconventional and face the risk of failure. It takes courage to accept that we no longer want to be with our partner, continue in the same occupation, hide our true sexual orientation, or be part of a religious community.
The Importance of Radical Honesty
Self-acceptance requires radical honesty: the practice of being completely frank regardless of how uncomfortable or unpopular our truth may be. We will always experience a greater sense of wellbeing when we accept ourselves authentically. The key to a satisfying life is to unveil and embrace who we truly are at our core.
We’re living in a time when quality of life has become a priority. Many of us are no longer required to lie to ourselves and pretend that the status quo is satisfying us when it isn’t. We can break through and say yes to the lives that serve us.
Daring to fully accept ourselves by practicing radical honesty isn’t easy. We may disappoint some people in the short term. But in the long term, self-acceptance offers us a higher quality of life and provides benefits for those around us as well. Because we are all interconnected, elevating our individual wellbeing will ultimately uplift those around us, thereby also lifting up our communities and the planet as a whole. Without radical honesty, our unrealized desires will result in blocks that prevent us from thriving.
How to Accept Yourself
We all want a better world. This means that we must show up as we truly are. Here are six steps to help us along this lifelong journey:
Honor your uniqueness. Think back to what you were like as a child. How would others describe you? What did you enjoy doing? Embrace those aspects of yourself. Face the fact that you were born to stand out rather than fit in.
Let go of things you can’t change. Some things are as they are, especially with respect to the past. Accept, accept, accept. Find your power in the Now.
Identify your strengths and develop them. You were born with distinct strengths that you were meant to hone and share with the world. Resolve not to squander your gifts.
Accept your weaknesses. Every human being has weaknesses. Being aware of your weaknesses is a strength. Research shows that you will experience a greater degree of wellbeing by building your strengths rather than trying to improve your weaknesses. Shift your focus.
Practice self-compassion. Your mind naturally judges, labels, and categorizes everyone and everything you encounter. Worse yet, you tend to judge yourself far more harshly than you would judge anyone else. Offer yourself the same compassion you would give to a friend, neighbor, or family member. Rein in your mind and be kind to yourself.
Tune in. Seek stillness—immersion in nature, meditation, and other mindfulness practices will help you reconnect with your intuitive guidance. Journey within yourself to find you.