Accepting Yourself Now Is the Best Fuel for Future Growth
Coach, Chelsea Hicks-Webster, teaches me the motivating power of self-acceptance
“I like you, just the way you are.” It’s a powerful romantic proposition. The declaration packs enough of an emotional punch that you almost forgive Mark Darcy’s rambling preamble. Yet, if I try to express the same sentiment in a mirror, it is a challenge not to add a long list of “buts”.
Too often, we say to ourselves “I love you, but…” when there is more power in saying, “even with that messy piece, I love you”.
Self-improvement can be a noble and rewarding activity. But it can also be a veil that hides self-criticism and self-rejection. When we survey ourselves and see unacceptable flaws and imperfections, we use self-improvement to become someone who is “enough.”
Here’s the trouble:
The journey to our goals becomes heavy and painful, instead of joyful and fulfilling.
We are more likely to quit. The less confidence we have in ourselves and our abilities, the more likely we’ll interpret the inevitable failures as proof we’ll never make it.
It’s simply not true. You are already enough. Right now. Before you change a single thing. And if you don’t see that now, you won’t see it once you’ve improved either.
The alternative to using self-improvement to prop up your self-worth is to decide to accept yourself now.
Even with extra 50 lbs.
Even with the mental health challenges.
Even if you yell at your kids and are constantly late for work.
It’s a bit paradoxical, but the harder you love and accept yourself now, the faster and more weightlessly you’ll achieve new goals.
This is the theme that emerged from my conversation with Chelsea Hicks-Webster, life coach, mother of 3, and a woman in constant evolution. We found ourselves drawn to these themes of self-criticism and the power in stripping back the limiting “shoulds” to reveal an authentic and motivating “want”.
Chelsea’s powerful proposition was this: “There is nothing wrong with where you are now, but where do you want to go next?”
Why is self-acceptance important for achieving change?
Although focusing on what comes next is an essential step towards action, Chelsea illuminates the power of acceptance in the equation. Where self-criticism can drain our motivation and feed overwhelm, the self-compassion inherent in acceptance can be a powerful driver in taking action.
One of Chelsea’s constructive ideas centers on redirecting our energy from “should” to “want”. “We are socialized to believe that ‘want’ is selfish,” says Chelsea. “But truthfully, when we give ourselves permission to do what we want, instead of what we should… THAT’S when our motivation really starts to rise. That’s when we have the emotional fuel to get us through the hard times.”
Chelsea recognizes how “should” has pulled her own focus. For years, she wanted a career where she could directly improve people’s lives, but she thought she should keep the safety net of a university job. Even once she found the courage to pivot to life coaching, she admits that she still felt compelled to build the business the way she perceived she should. “This year, I decided to start building my business based on what I love and value, even if it breaks the standard mold. I feel like now, instead of fighting myself, I have fuel.”
How does self-acceptance create energy?
In an atmosphere of self-acceptance, our self-talk becomes productive and motivating, breeding that ever-elusive quality, self-confidence.
When we can accept ourselves fully, right now, our self-improvement becomes much more authentic. We are no longer in a rush to improve all the perceived “flaws.” Instead, we are free to ask, “In which ways do I want to grow. Let me pursue those.”
And when that is the orientation with which we approach self-improvement, we will bring energy and resilience.
One of the exercises that Chelsea suggests is intentionally creating an internal compass that clearly defines what you want. That could be who you want to be in your relationships, who you want to be at work, or how you want to be allocating your time. Then, measure yourself against that.
“We can use our natural tendency for self-evaluation in a way that drives increased authenticity, instead of a sense of inferiority against someone else’s standard.”
Chelsea believes in the emotional energy created by pursuing what we want. “There’s emotional energy behind what you want. And is so much easier to create something if you have natural emotional energy behind it,” she explains.
How can a strong internal compass guide you forward?
What lends weight to Chelsea’s messages is that she always has a poignant anecdote that artfully illustrates her point. She recalls a moment at her lowest, sitting with a colleague and saying, basically in tears, how all she wanted to feel was “competent.” It is this scene that I recognize in my own struggle as a first-year lawyer.
The woman beside her answered with two questions. She asked, “What if that wasn’t the point?” and “What do you actually want to do?”
Although Chelsea says she rejected the woman’s message at the time, she slowly began to realize that she was chasing external gratification in the form of approval from her bosses and the praise of the employees she managed. But Chelsea had the option to pivot her focus to, “What kind of manager do I want to be?”
Soon after, Chelsea created a simple excel spreadsheet with 10-12 criteria describing who she wanted to be as a manager. This was her first “internal compass.” Then, each time she found herself in self-criticism at work, she would open her spreadsheet and ask, “How closely am I aligning with each of these characteristics?”
Now, as a coach, Chelsea has a similar compass that defines how she wants to show up as a coach. This exercise allows her to go from “just blatant and useless self-criticism to objective self-exploration.”
How can an internal compass help navigate the external should?
What I admire in Chelsea’s approach is she acknowledges those external forces on our internal compass. She raises awareness particularly around the specific conditioning of women in western society. There is pressure to be everything (primary caregiver, successful worker, good feminist). This pressure is compounded by the beliefs that we must achieve linear success and put others before ourselves. All these expectations feed a feeling that we are failing.
Chelsea believes that “when you can view your failures as learning and, therefore, progress and success in its own right, that feels really empowering.” Chelsea still navigates these external messages and ingrained conditioning daily. When I ask how she does this, “Messily” is her beautifully honest answer.
In particular, Chelsea describes the strong pull she still feels to please other people. “I see it, I know that’s not who I want to be, and work to pivot it. But I still feel the pull.”
OK, you know what you want to do in the world, what next?
The simple answer? Just start doing it.
Chelsea never trivializes that process. Instead, she is very open about how she has transformed her own feelings of “brokenness” with the help of others. Chelsea’s approach emphasizes that these feelings are normal and you are not alone in your struggle to change. Inherent in this message of self-acceptance is an unwavering belief that you are capable of making those changes that you authentically want. And if you need help, it’s available!
I admit that even after absorbing Chelsea’s wisdom about these issues, I still struggle to put them into action.
Self-acceptance is proving a vital piece in the puzzle. For days after Chelsea and I met, I found myself caught in the riptide of self-judgment. I avoided my laptop because I felt destined to fail and stopped before I even tried. But eventually, I turned up. I turned up not because of self-criticism or guilt, but because I recognized that I wanted to.
I am learning how to accept the messier parts of myself armed with my internal compass in hand, and this is enabling me to better navigate the internal chatter, external messages, and high expectations. Chelsea’s stories give me the sense of hope, a precious resource. That hope is that I can not only put the pieces together, but also fill my glass with water and flowers.
Whatever you do next, make it what you want. Your want is worthy of you and you are worthy of your want, just as you are.
A huge thank you to Chelsea Hicks-Webster, who truly collaborated with me on this piece, and taught me many valuable lessons along the way! If you are interested in learning more about Chelsea's coaching services and philosophy, you can visit www.thekickassmom.com. Chelsea offers plenty of insightful content and practical tools, including the Live Your Way Mini Class, which describes the most common limiting beliefs that women absorb from society, and how to start releasing them – so you can pursue what you actually want.