Unconventional Guide to Self Acceptance

self-acceptanceThis post was inspired by Chris Guillebeau’s Unconventional Writing Contest.

What holds you back from accomplishing your dreams?

If you could pin down the one thing that is keeping you from reaching your most glorious dreams where you travel like Chris Guillebeau, make money like Oprah, or work a crowd like Bill Clinton…

What would it be?

Your education?

Your relationships?


It’s none of those things.

It’s your fear.

The fear within you is holding you back from making your dream life a reality. Now I’m not claiming to know it all; I myself have been guilty of giving in to my fears many times, but the important thing is that I recognize what’s holding me back.

Believe me, even Oprah and Bill Clinton have fears, but the difference between them and us is that they lean into their fears until they aren’t afraid of the fire any longer.

My Embarrassing Story

I used to be afraid to talk to groups of any size. I would get a lump in the front of my throat that felt like an orange. As a result, I avoided public speaking at all costs.

This story is about a young me, a wide-eyed buck trying to get a marketing degree. One of the classes I had to take was speech. It was a prerequisite to graduate. For one of my first projects, I prepared a speech about Buddhism and the importance of enjoying the present moment. I hated every moment of that speech.

I see the humor in it now, but back then I was just trying to survive my class.

I stood in front of my class and proceeded to make clicking sounds with my cheeks and tongue (at least that’s what a class mate told me). I also froze about halfway through.

My head was spinning right off my body.

I skipped the middle of my speech and wrapped it up three minutes shy of the five-minute requirement.

To this day, I’m still not sure what exactly happened; I blanked out for most of it. I do know that I wasn’t a natural speaker. My brain short-wired with all those judging eyes.

Let’s Fast Forward

Fast forward 7 years and many Toastmaster meetings later: I began to push myself in front of an audience because I had a goal: I wanted to speak to people about work happiness. When I first started speaking, I was so afraid to be myself that I was monotonous and sooooo painfully boring.

I was afraid to show any personality. People couldn’t laugh at me for being boring. Right?

Boy was I wrong. People will laugh at someone for anything. It’s a natural instinct. We make fun of each other to bond. I know it doesn’t make it right, but that’s just the way it is.

Fast forward another 5 more years: now I regularly give workshops and presentations to small and large groups and I love it. The only reason I was able to learn to I love it is because I realized that no one is a harsher judge than me. It was really my fear of who I was that prevented me from relaxing in front of a crowd.

If I was my harshest critic, then it was up to me to accept my dorky voice, my weirdness (for example: laughing at inappropriate moments), and my crazy ideas before anyone else could feel comfortable with my method of delivering a presentation.

Over the past five years, I slowly accepted myself by putting myself out there. I now do video on my blog for thousands of people and I don’t sweat a drop.

There is probably some part of you that you have trouble accepting. Maybe you don’t like your nose, have a bad memory, or perhaps you also hate public speaking, like many people do.

Whatever may be holding you back, you need to come up with an unconventional plan to accept this part of you. That may mean taking a picture of your nose every week and posting it up on flickr. Yes, this is a little weird, but it works. Because when you put yourself out there, you will realize that people will find a way to love that part of you. More importantly, you’ll come to accept that part of yourself as beautiful.

Are you on Twitter? Then check me out at @workhappynow. You’ll be glad you did.


Lance of the Jungle of Life and Joanna Sutter of Fitness and Spice created an ebook called Blog-4-Cause to help fight breast cancer. I was asked to submit one of my favorite articles. It’s in there, so if you want to find out which one it is then give a small donation to get the book. There is over 150 bloggers who added to the project. I bet there are a few articles that will change your life.

If you enjoyed this article I have a good feeling you’ll like these too:

Image courtesy of topgold

15 thoughts on “Unconventional Guide to Self Acceptance”

  1. Hi Karl,

    Good for you for facing your fear and doing what you can to overcome it. That is awesome.

    I think so many people have dreams and goals but fear just holds them back. It is so sad that many of us are too scared to go after what we want.

    The irony is that we can have the life that we want, we just need to know what it is that we want and just go for it. Easier said than done but it can be done.

    Thank you for the reminder to face the fear.

  2. Hi Karl. There are so many things in life that would be simple if we just took the emotional component out of the equation: worry, fear, embarassment, and so on. You’re so right that a big part of life is getting over ourselves.

  3. Hi Karl,

    I liked you story, especially as I can identify with it. I also do speaking and when a look at how my style evolved in terms of authenticity over the last years, it amazes me every time. Self acceptance is what allows you to put yourself out there. I think a lot of the charisma and life energy people we really enjoy tend to have comes from this.


  4. Karl,
    Your story is a great one – because it goes back to right where you started – fear. In fact, fear of public speaking is a deep seated fear I used to have as well. And Toastmasters was a real lifesaver for me in getting over and beyond that. I spent several years in TM, and came out of it with so much more confidence. What a great program TM is!!
    When I started out blogging, I had this insecurity about having my identity known. I have since gotten over that as well, and what has helped has been just jumping with both feet. And it’s been so good for me, again, to do this – yet irrational fears had held me back at first.

    Great stuff to think about – and what affect fear has on other parts of my life…

    And thanks so much for the shout out for the Blog-4-Cause E-book!

  5. Great story. I like your candor and results.

    It’s amazing what confidence and competence can do. The problem is confidence comes before competence or you’ll never get there. The other problem is confidence alone is not enough. Skills really do make the difference.

  6. Hi Karl!
    Perfect example of what working on something you really want can be achieved! Toastmasters has made a huge difference for so many people! I love the nurturing that they do with people who are willing to try. In contrast, the writers group I belonged (past tense) to was vicious and ego driven – almost as opposite in environment as one could get!

  7. Hi Karl,

    Thanks for sharing your story with us. The irony of giving a speech about the Buddhist concept of enjoying every moment (and being mindful in each moment)while hating every moment of giving that speech in your university class is quite humorous, in retrospect. At the same time, I could really empathize with your discomfort and anxiety. I also used to hate public speaking and was able to motor through a 15 minute presentation in 7 1/2 minutes just to get them over and done.

    I’m not so sure it’s the fear of speaking in front of a group, per se, that terrifies most of us as teenagers and adults: I suspect it’s really a learned fear in response to having been ridiculed or criticized for what and how we communicated over many instances in the past. I would guess that most people, especially when they’re kids, don’t stop to think or reflect that excessively critical responses or rude/insensitive responses from those audiences really said more about other people’s bad manners, poor listening skills and inability to provide helpful feedback than about the person’s ability to communicate well. We often forget that communication is a two way street and the other side of the street is effective listening skills.

    You are also so right that we are often our own harshest critics and not very self accepting of ourselves. It’s ridiculous because being so hard on ourselves does nothing to help us make the changes that are possible, and if it’s a physical or genetic trait or feature that can’t be changed, well it’s a real waste of energy to beat ourselves up over it, isn’t it? I think we often treat ourselves much worse than we would ever treat our friends or loved ones. I think I’m going to post stickies on the mirrors and the fridge door reminding myself to be a good friend to myself.

  8. Hi Karl

    This is fantastic! First of all congrats to you for overcoming your fear and going for it. As I was reading your change from the class to where you are today, my insides were literally cheering for you… can you hear them 😉 LOL – they are saying “Yay, way to go Karl!”

    And what a brilliant question you asked and the answer even more awesome because it is sooo true! It is always a “fear” of something that holds us back – for we all truly can achieve or be or do whatever we want. But we cannot be the ones holding ourselves back from these things through fear.

  9. Tom Volkar / Big Link Rally

    Karl, this is an important realization for many. Of course it’s the fear that holds us back and going a little deeper it’s the erroneous thought behind the fear. I like how you showed the progression of your own confidence as you moved through the years. In guiding clients to their true calling I find that often earlier versions of their right work tried to surface to be beaten back by their own limiting thoughts. But we can accelerate the process and call for our right work now by recognizing the emptiness of fear.

  10. I liked the anecdote about the presentation… I used to have the same fear of presenting but found that the more I presented, the better I did AND the more I liked doing it. I went from hating it to not only liking it but performing better as a result.


  11. What a great story about overcoming your fear of speaking, and done in such a way that helps others see how they, too, could overcome a fear. Funny is fun! That nose picture might work for someone, if they feared (or disliked) their nose.
    When it comes to big time success, I fear I won’t know how to make it all work. I won’t be able to take all the steps necessary to see it through. For instance, last night a friend was talking to me about a retreat center she wants to build, and she wants me to be one of her partners! I thought, “Wow, that’s such a huge, awesome dream… but I’ve never built anything before. How could I possibly add value?” So my fear is that I won’t be valuable enough because I don’t know enough going in. Maybe I think I should have already built nine retreat centers in my young life? I don’t know… But I do know I need to face that fear, as you said, and just go in, recognizing I’ll learn as I go.
    Thank you, Karl!

  12. Hi Nadia, Facing our fears isn’t easy. But to create the work life that will truly make us happy it’s a must.

    Hi Marelisa, It’s hard to get over ourselves, but what is the alternative? Fear? I would rather deal with it and move on.

    Hi Tess, Just do them and keep making them better.

    Hi Lance, Toastmasters should be a must for any leader. You know I believe we are all leaders. So I guess it should be a must for everyone. 🙂

    Hi J.D., It comes down to improving a little bit here and there, then, after a few months or years, we realize all the good work we’ve done and our confidence is stronger.

    Hi Suzen, It’s all about the culture that the group creates.

    Hi Sue, Being hard on ourselves always hurts. We think it helps us create self discipline, but in reality it creates procrastination.

    Hi Evita, I love that your insides were cheering me on. This is a great tool to support ourselves. Cheering creates building of confidence. When we become our greatest leader and cheerleader there is nothing we can’t accomplish.

    Hi Tom, Limiting thoughts are tough to work with. They don’t give us much chance for creativity. We just need to do a quick job of recognizing these thoughts, so we don’t get caught in them.

    Hi Megan, Maybe you can create a physical picture of what you want the retreat to look like and how it will function. Then you can start breaking it down so it makes it encourages you to take action.

    Hi Carl, It’s amazing how encouraging ourselves to do something we fear can really turn into something we enjoy.

  13. Fear has mostly been the enemy in pursuing our goals. The first big step is to push yourself a single step beyond it. It may be scary at first but in the long run, you will realize that fear is only a state of mind and not the reality of all things. 🙂

  14. Fear can be debilitating, for sure! It’s hard enough to act in spite of the fear, but then when you add the all-too-common voice of the inner critic (like mustering the courage to give a speech, and then having to listen to the critic go into detail about everything you could have done better), it can feel almost impossible.

    Paradoxically though, it’s often on the other side of those fears that some of our best learning and growth happens.

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