How To Accept Yourself: 3 Powerful Steps to Feeling Comfortable in Your Own Skin and More Confident in
Social Situations

Are you fed up of feeling down about yourself? Do you often feel inferior to others, and find it difficult to connect with people? Do you torture yourself by overanalysing social interactions? If so, this guide on how to accept yourself is for you. We hope these tips and insights help you feel more comfortable in your own skin, and more at ease in social situations.


Table of Contents
Step 1. Enhance Your Sense of Belonging and Let Go of Social Comparison Thoughts
Step 2. Pay Less Attention to Your Inner Critic
Step 3. Reduce Habits Associated with Social Anxiety



Step 1. Enhance Your Sense of Belonging and Let Go of Social Comparison Thoughts

In ancestral times, being part of a community was vital to our survival. We’re therefore wired to seek a strong sense of belonging and relatedness to our group.

If you lack this sense of connection, it can profoundly impact your mental wellbeing.

Do any of these sound like you?

  • You feel like an outsider
  • You feel like you don’t fit in
  • You feel inferior to others
  • You feel very different from other people
  • You feel as though you’re strange compared to others
  • You sometimes feel like an alien or robot
  • You feel as though nobody understands you

If so, one of the reasons you might feel this way is because you have a rare personality type, and you compare yourself to people with different personalities to you.

Conducive to your sense of belonging is your ability to relate to others – to feel a sense of similarity or familiarity. Having an uncommon personality type may make this process of relating to others more challenging.

A survey between 1972 and 2002 found that the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality breakdown of the US population is:
73.3%

Sensing (S)

26.7%

Intuitive (N)

If your MBTI type is N, you have a rare personality type, which may explain why you feel different to others.

N personality types tend to direct their attention inwards. They spend more time questioning, seeking meaning, and using their pattern recognition abilities to understand the world around them quickly.

On the other hand, S personality types tend to focus their attention outwards to the things happening around them.

Here’s a summary of the key differences between S and N personality types:


Sensors (S)

Intuitives (N)

Pay more attention to information that comes in through their five senses

Interested in facts and observable things, focusing on the tried and tested

Practical, live in the moment, realistic

Ask what is?

Good at focusing on one thing at a time

Prefer concrete communication

Pay more attention to the patterns and possibilities they see in the information they receive

Interested in ideas, focused on novelty and innovation

Deep, analytical, idealistic

Ask what if?

Prone to juggling multiple activities and interests

Prefer abstract communication

Concrete Communication (S Types)

Focuses primarily on the external, concrete world of everyday reality: facts and figures, work and play, home and family, TV, news, holidays, sports and weather – all the who-what-when-and-where’s of life.

Abstract Communication (N Types)

Focuses primarily on the internal, abstract world of ideas: theories, dreams and philosophies, beliefs and fantasies, personal development – all the why's, if's, and what-might-be's of life.
Of course, MBTI describes spectrums, tendencies, and preferences. Nobody is 100% sensing or intuitive, extrovert or introvert. Some people have stronger preferences than others, which is indicated through the percentage scores on the test.

Personality types are subject to evolution. Society requires rare personality types to function well, but not as much as the more common personalities. Therefore, the rare personality types serve more of a specialist function in society.

As well as being an intuitive comparing yourself to sensors, you may be an introvert comparing yourself to extroverts – something that’s very easily done on social media!

Here are some general differences between introverts and extroverts:

Introvert Preferences

Extrovert Preferences

Alone time

Small social circle

Prefers listening

Thinking before speaking

Socialising one-on-one or in small groups

Privacy

Communicating through writing or e-mail

Being around others

Large social circle

Talkative

Speaking while thinking

Socialising in groups

Open with personal information

Communicating on telephone or in person



Some other ways in which you might be self-sabotaging your ability to relate to others:

  • You’re a Type B person (laid-back, relaxed and creative) and you keep comparing yourself to Type A people (driven, competitive and ambitious)
  • You experience mental health difficulties, and you keep comparing yourself to other people’s outward displays of being mentally well (despite not knowing how they truly feel). You might feel ‘broken’ compared to others and alone in your suffering

So, are you someone who often gets sucked into social comparison mode, feeling as though you're different to others? Does this impact your mental wellbeing and self-acceptance levels? If so, read our tips below on how to accept yourself by enhancing your sense of belonging.

Skip to Step Two →


How to Accept Yourself By Enhancing Your Sense of Belonging

Seek Out People with Similar Personality Types

Find out your MBTI type here: 16personalities.com.

Find out if you’re Type A or Type B here.

Remember, your personality may be rare, but there are people out there just like you!

Some ideas:

  • Join your personality subreddit and chat with people online (INFP, INFJ, INTP, INTJ, ENFJ, ENFP, ENTP, ENTJ)
  • Download Bumble BFF and put your personality type in your bio
  • Go to personality Meetup groups
  • If you’re an introvert, read up on introversion and follow introvert blog and social media accounts

For more inspiration on ways to meet new people, check out our human connection resources page.



Learn About Famous People with The Same Personality Type As You

Check out which famous people have your personality type on 16personalities.com and learn more about them (e.g., through autobiographies, documentaries, and social media).

Doing this was life-changing for Tim from Running Raw. He describes the joy he felt after listening to audiobooks by Richard Feynman in his YouTube video:
“His world... his mind... the way he plays with the world... the way he plays with ideas... the way he plays with uncertainty – that feels like me. What I was crying and joying about, was that his words felt like me. I didn’t feel alone. I felt like I finally found another black swan, like, there’s someone else like me. I’m not alone in the universe. I’m not an alien - there’s somebody else like me.”


Optimise Your Social Media Diet

Some food for thought:

  • Could you follow more people on social media (such as celebrities with the same personality type) that give you a stronger sense of belonging?
  • Could you unfollow people who evoke a feeling of disconnection?
  • Could you stop spending so much time on social media in general?


Remember That Social Media Is a Highlight Reel and Many People Hide Their True Emotions

Below are some statistics to give you a more realistic idea of what’s sadly going on with most people.

A survey by The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) in 2017 found that in a sample of 2,290 people, only a small minority (13%) were found to be living with high levels of positive mental health.

7 in every 10 women, young adults aged 18-34 and people living alone say they have experienced a mental health problem.

As MHF note: Current levels of good mental health are disturbingly low.

Another survey from LinkedIn found that 75% of 25-33-year-olds have experienced a quarter-life crisis, defined as “a time of feeling stressed, overwhelmed and struggling to cope.”

They found that:

  • Finding a job they’re passionate about was the main concern (61%)
  • Comparing themselves to their more successful friends was another top concern (41%) – nearly half (48%) say this has caused them anxiety, with women feeling this more than men (51% vs 41%)

Don’t let social media distort your perception of reality. If you’re suffering, you’re far from alone.


Use Affirmations and Reminders

To reap the benefits of affirmations, it’s vital to believe in what you’re saying. It’s also essential to make it a habit, practicing them regularly. Why not make affirmations part of your morning routine?

You could use an app to save and review your affirmations on your phone (iTunes link, Google Play link), or get our free printable affirmations cards through the form below.

Examples might include:

Step 2. Pay Less Attention to Your Inner Critic

“Most people don’t realize that the mind constantly chatters. And yet, that chatter winds up being the force that drives us much of the day in terms of what we do, what we react to, and how we feel.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
We all have an inner critic. But not everyone pays attention to it.

The more attention you pay to your critic, the larger it becomes.

Your inner critic might be telling you things like:

  • “You’re boring”
  • “You’re no good in social situations”
  • “You’re weird”
  • “Nobody likes you”

This unkind inner dialogue might represent how you’ve internalised the voices of a criticising parent or caregiver, bullies, or an emotionally abusive ex-partner. It might also have been formed due to the experiences of feeling disconnected from others, as explained above.

What’s more, your inner critic may have created a grossly distorted self-image. But don’t worry - over time, you can build a more realistic and more positive self-image, which will make socialising feel easier.

Another thing to note: it’s possible to accept yourself while simultaneously striving for personal growth. So, don’t be fooled. Having an unkind inner dialogue brings you down more than it raises your motivation.


Did you experience a difficult childhood? Read our 42-page free eBook Understanding and Healing Trauma to learn more tips for improving the quality of your social connections.

Would you like to learn some techniques to help you reduce the impact of an unkind inner voice? If so, read on to learn how to accept yourself by paying less attention to your inner critic.

Skip to Step Three →


How to Accept Yourself By Paying Less Attention to Your Inner Critic

Use Cognitive Defusion Techniques

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Viktor Frankl
Cognitive defusion techniques train you to recognise the space between your thoughts and your response to them. This is a critical habit to develop when it comes to improving your mental wellbeing skills.

One example of a cognitive defusion technique is to say “Thanks, mind” after you notice a thought from your inner critic. So instead of getting carried away by your them, your internal dialogue becomes: “You’re boring. Okay. Thanks, mind.” This can help stop the vicious downward spiral of your inner critic affecting your mood and behaviour.


Use Cognitive Restructuring Techniques

You may want to experiment with directly challenging your inner dialogue using cognitive restructuring techniques.

Here are some examples:

Thought

Cognitive Distortion Type

Cognitive Restructure

“He doesn’t like you”

Mind Reading

 

“I don’t know what he thinks of me. He takes the time to speak with me, so he must think I’m okay”

 



Thought

Cognitive Distortion Type

Cognitive Restructure

“You’re no good in social situations. Everyone can see how anxious you are”

 

Black-and-White Thinking

 

Filtering out the Positive

 

Mind Reading

 

“People don’t notice my anxiety as much as I think they do. I’m not this anxious in every single social situation. And I’m brave for stepping outside of my comfort zone.”



 


Thought

Cognitive Distortion Type

Cognitive Restructure

“I feel so worthless. I am worthless”

 

Emotional Reasoning

 

“My emotions do not dictate reality nor my behaviour. Just because I feel worthless, it doesn't mean I am. Thoughts aren't facts”

 

For more guidance on unhelpful thinking patterns, check out The Mental Wellbeing Toolkit Planner.



Cultivate Self-Compassion

For those of us who have a history of trauma, building self-compassion can be challenging, but life-changing.

A simple technique to start cultivating your self-compassion skills is The Friend Response Technique.

When you notice your inner critic, reflect on what a friend would say to you in this situation and respond with a kinder and more balanced thought.

As you practice this and your self-compassion skills develop, your inner critic won’t have as much of an impact on you.



Pay Attention to Your Strengths

Consider this: How often do you spend dwelling on your perceived flaws and weaknesses? Now, how often do you reflect on your strengths?

Focusing on your negative qualities is another cause of a grossly distorted self-image.

Discover your character strengths with this free scientific survey from The VIA Institute on Character.

A challenge for you: note your top five strengths and reflect on the times you’ve demonstrated them in a journal. Then, when you notice your inner critic, respond by reminding yourself of one of your strengths and the times when you’ve demonstrated it.



Use Affirmations and Reminders

Use the insights from your character strengths survey and turn them into affirmations.

Some examples might be:

  • I am creative
  • I am a caring person
  • I value honesty and fairness
  • I am a wise person

Another challenge for you: Do the character strengths survey and write five affirmations right now!

The more you focus on your strengths, perceiving yourself as a whole person as opposed to a flawed one, the more realistic and positive your self-image will become. Over time, the underlying feeling of not being good enough will slowly start to shift.

Remember: this won’t happen overnight, far from it. Your ingrained patterns take time to shift as you slowly rewire your mind. It may take a long time, but it’s a life-changing endeavour.

As Linda Graham explains:

“Perseverance in our efforts to harness neuroplasticity is the sine qua non of rewiring our brains. By persevering in the use of new tools and techniques, we are stabilising the new neural circuitry so that it can serve as a reliable platform of resilient behaviours, not easily overridden by the pulls of the past.”

Step 3. Reduce Habits Associated with Social Anxiety

Low self-acceptance goes hand in hand with social anxiety.

Increase your self-acceptance levels, and you’ll decrease your social anxiety levels; decrease your social anxiety levels, and you’ll increase your self-acceptance levels.

Here are three common habits that maintain social anxiety:

1. Excessive Self-Focus

Focusing too much on how you’re coming across in social situations is one of the most anxiety-inducing habits of all.

Excessive self-focus includes:

  • Thinking about your facial expression, posture, and signs of anxiety such as sweating, shaking, blushing or stammering
  • Paying too much attention to your inner critic
  • Thinking about your distorted negative self-image

Chronic excessive self-focus can lead to the strange feeling of being disconnected from your body. Instead of being in the moment, you’re continually observing yourself from the outside. Doing this for a long period of time may lead to the sensation of feeling like an alien or robot.

The feeling like an alien phenomenon might also be more common among INxx MBTI types, because they spend a high level of time being inwardly focused, always reflecting and analysing. It takes a lot of practicing to learn how to shift gears from ‘analytical mode’ to ‘social mode’.

“The introverted intuitive has, in a way, a very difficult life, although one of the most interesting lives.” – Carl Jung


2. Post-Event Processing (PEP)

Psychologists define PEP as “repetitive thinking about social situations.” Sound familiar?

Do you go home and run through social situations in your head, overanalysing what you did or didn’t do?

Perhaps your inner critic even likes to bring up social situations that happened years ago!

This is another social anxiety related habit you can slowly learn to curb.


3. Avoidance and Safety Behaviours

Though avoiding the things that make you anxious gives you temporary relief, it prevents you from realising you’re stronger, more capable, and more resilient than you think.

When you avoid things, you limit your ability to live life to the full.

Author of The Anxiety Solution Chloe Brotheridge explains how people with anxiety often have difficulties ‘leaning in’. She explains:

“One thing I’ve learnt about women who have anxiety is that we have a problem ‘leaning in’ to things in general, whether it’s speaking up, taking risks, or putting ourselves out there. Leaning in can feel risky and unsafe. It means we’re stepping into the unknown; we don’t trust ourselves, and, yup, we’re afraid of losing control. But leaning into life, taking on challenges, pushing ourselves a little out of our comfort zones, and taking a few risks is essential if we’re to overcome anxiety.”

To deal with your anxiety, you may also resort to what psychologists call ‘safety behaviours’.

Safety behaviours are the things you do to feel safer, but they can end up making you feel worse in the long run. Like avoidance, they prevent you from realising you’re stronger, more capable, and more resilient than you think.

Common examples of safety behaviours include:

  • Using alcohol or drugs before meeting people
  • Speaking quietly
  • Making excuses for not attending events
  • Making yourself look busy to avoid speaking to people, for example by looking at your phone
  • Always agreeing with someone even if you have a different opinion
  • Talking excessively to fill silences
  • Avoiding eye contact

How to Accept Yourself By Reducing Habits Associated with Social Anxiety

Keep a Social Anxiety Journal to Better Understand Your Habits

One way to overcome the habit of constantly overanalysing social situations is to do it in a more structured, constricted way using a journal exercise.

Another benefit of keeping a social anxiety journal is that it helps you better understand your habits and how you can change them.

Social Anxiety Journal Exercise

First, always congratulate yourself for facing your fears and being brave. Acknowledge your small wins!

Then, reflect on:

  • What safety behaviours did I use?
  • What thoughts and images were going through my mind?
  • How did I respond to them?
  • What went well?
  • To remember next time

When you notice yourself thinking about a social situation, tell yourself that you’ll journal about it later. This method is very similar to The Worry Time Exercise for reducing worry.


Gradually Expose Yourself to More Challenging Social Situations Using an Anxiety/Growth Ladder

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that's not what ships are built for.” – John A. Shedd
Here's how:

  1. Make a list of what you usually avoid.
  2. Rank them from 1-10 in terms of how anxious they make you feel.
  3. Now, make an anxiety/growth ladder by putting the least anxiety-inducing situations at the bottom, and the most anxiety-inducing items at the top.

It’s essential to take things slowly so that you don’t feel overwhelmed and put off – think about how you can break things down into tiny steps.

You’ll build up your confidence levels over time, and you might even end up enjoying what used to feel scary!

Here’s an example of an anxiety/growth ladder:

Step

Situation

Anxiety Rating

7

Ask a colleague if they want to go out for lunch together

10

6

Join a group conversation and contribute something

7

5

Sit with a group of people on my lunch break

6

4

Make small talk with someone on my lunch break

5

3

Sit in the kitchen on my lunch break

4

2

Ask a colleague what they got up to at the weekend

3

1

Say hello to a person at work I haven’t spoken to before

2



If this sounds too challenging, you might want to seek support with gradual exposure with a trained therapist. Click here to read our online guide to accessing therapy.


Next, we’ll cover some tips that can help make socialising easier.


Reframe Social Situations as Challenges Rather Than Threats

Do you ever tell yourself to ‘just stay calm?’ Research shows this is pretty lousy advice – you can’t just switch off your physiological response to fear.

What you can do, though, is shift your mindset in a way that helps you feel better.

To do this, start viewing social situations as opportunities and challenges rather than threats. Tell yourself: “I’m excited! This is an opportunity for me to face my fears and grow as a person.”

This worked for a group of people participating in a public speaking task in a study by Alison Brooks at Harvard Business School. Brooks found that people who told themselves “I am excited” compared to those who said “I am calm” ended up:

  • Speaking for longer
  • Being perceived as more confident, persuasive and competent

 

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