I went to the IBEC Keepwell summit in Dublin last month. There were many highlights but a particular one for me was Nigel Owens, the Welsh Rugby Referee sharing his story. You could hear a pin drop in the room of 350 people, and many were touched to tears by his life story. 

He started with: ‘They say you make your life…. but first of all, …  life makes you’. Life is what you make it, but we are primed and moulded by our experiences first. He spoke about his upbringing, his family life and parents, his schooling, being bullied, working, attempting suicide and later, coming out. He is a powerful speaker and one I would highly recommend if you ever get the chance.   

After taking us on a special journey – a personal account of his own life, he ended with something universal – something we could all identify with. He said the hardest thing he has ever done is to fully accept himself.   

It is I feel true and something I have struggled with. At times, I have found it easier to accept what has happened and what others have done but harder to accept how I have behaved and who I am. For Nigel Owens, he said it was his greatest challenge, bigger than any of the matches he has refereed, professional heights he has reached or other obstacles he has faced. Only you will know how much of a challenge this is for you.     

In workplace wellbeing programs, there is much talk about bringing your ‘full’ and ‘best self’ to work. It is also part of the approach I use. In order to bring your full and best self to work or to any situation, accepting yourself is fundamental. If we don’t, we can at best bring a part of ourselves to situations. And, it will be a conflicted part if you don’t accept yourself.   Inner peace is not possible. Peace comes when what you think, feel, say and do are all in harmony and balance.    

We enable others to bring their best self to situations when we accept and embrace who they without conditions. Love is love. Viewpoints are viewpoints and diverse teams from all perspectives are way ahead in terms of productivity metrics.     

Before you look outward too much, it is important to look within and accept who you are. Looking at yourself in the mirror, eye to eye and being good with what you see and feel is a great start. We all have great qualities and we have lesser ones – a shadow, a more selfish and darker self.  The parts of the brain responsible for growth and learning shut down when we feel guilt and shame. If you want to be the best version of you, self-acceptance is key and by not accepting you block change, progress and positive transformation. When we can fully sit with ourselves, we can sit with anything that comes in life. Meditation is a great tool to help you learn to sit with yourself and build self-acceptance.    

Dr. Harry Barry, author of the book ‘Self-acceptance’ believes it is….important to focus on ‘unconditional self-acceptance’, while taking full responsibility for our behaviour. ‘If I fail I am not a failure, I simply failed at a task. The only failure in life is not getting back up again’.

He calls this: ‘a revolutionary approach to mental health’.  It is ‘resilience in practice’.   

The road to self-acceptance comes more easily to some than others depending on your start in life. But it is one that is key to travel if you want to reach the heights of achievement and fulfilment possible in your life.