In those moments of self-rejection it is of the utmost importance that you take a deep breath and work to change your mindset. Look again in the mirror. Only this time just say to yourself, “This is who I am.” Don’t wish it away. Just accept that this is you, right now, today, in this moment. Because who you are right now IS who you are right now! No amount of rejection will change that. You don’t have to love or even like yourself right now, you only have to accept yourself. Maybe you’ll be different tomorrow, but for now, this is you. You can work to improve yourself, of course, but you don’t need to reject who you are today in order to be a better version of yourself tomorrow.
As a part of my series about “Learning To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Jess McCann, the author of the wildly popular dating books, “You Lost Him at Hello” and “Was It Something I Said”. She is an international dating and relationship coach who has appeared on Good Morning America, and been featured in several prominent publications such as The Washington Post and Cosmopolitan Magazine. She started coaching 11 years ago and has helped men and women all around the world break their toxic relationship patterns, find love and get married. She lives in Washington D.C. with her husband and two kids.
Thank you so much for joining us! I’d love to begin by asking you to give us the backstory as to what brought you to this specific career path.
I have always had a strong interest in human dynamics and relationships and growing up I read anything I could on the subject. When I was in my early twenties I started my own sales and marketing company and I taught my staff different relationship building techniques to use with customers. I understood how to logically pace a relationship, present oneself in the best light, and win people over to a different way of thinking. Most of the staff would tell me that my lessons not only helped them at work, but also helped them with their own romantic relationships. That led to me writing my first book, “You Lost Him at Hello” which teaches women how to use different sales and marketing strategies on dates so they can have more confidence, and get better results. The book was picked up by a publisher and soon I was being asked to speak at events and rallies, emails were pouring in from readers who wanted advice, and at that point I had to quit my day job and open my own coaching practice.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you hope that they might help people along their path to self-understanding or a better sense of wellbeing in their relationships?
My third book, “Maybe I’m Cursed” will be out later this year. I’ve had so many women tell me that they feel “Cursed” at love because they cannot get their relationships past a certain point of progression, and I started to see a common theme among them. “Maybe I’m Cursed” is going to help women recognize certain self-sabotaging habits and provide the tools needed to retrain unconscious and harmful thought-patterns, thus changing their results with the opposite sex. Learning self-acceptance is a big part of that process as most women really struggle with that.
Do you have a personal story that you can share with our readers about your struggles or successes along your journey of self-understanding and self-love? Was there ever a tipping point that triggered a change regarding your feelings of self acceptance?
I spent a great deal of time in my younger years trying to keep up with culture expectations. I wanted to look good, have a high paying job, get married, and be “somebody.” Then I had a terrible health scare that lasted 18 months. Suddenly I realized nothing that I was striving for in life really mattered, and that everything I was attempting to achieve was for the benefit of making myself feel like I was “worthy” or “good enough” in the eyes of myself and other people. The truth was, no one was spending any time thinking about if I was good enough or not. Who was I trying to impress? I came very close to dying that year as I had undiagnosed appendicitis. It was the most painful experience to go through physically for that year and a half, but it also brought me to a great enlightenment — my mind was stuck in a thought-habit that I was not enough. When my health failed me, I had a real problem which showed me that my “thought-habit problem” was totally imaginary. After I had surgery and my health returned, I never worried about myself or my feelings of self-acceptance again.
According to a recent study cited in Cosmopolitan, in the US, only about 28 percent of men and 26 percent of women are “very satisfied with their appearance.” Could you talk about what some of the causes might be, as well as the consequences?
Women have always been very hard on themselves as far as their appearance, but with social media and the ability for everyone to showcase themselves all day, every day, the self-scrutiny has reached an all time high. Not only does social media habituate you to focus on your image on a daily (if not hourly basis) but because it provides positive or negative feedback on “You” in the form of likes and comments, it stealthily takes self-acceptance out of your own hands and gives it away to people you barely know. It’s basically your “1 like” against dozens of others. How could you not struggle to feel like you are enough and accepted as you are? One of the biggest consequence of this is not only the relinquishing of your own self-acceptance, but the constant focus on “self” causes a decreased focus on others. We are becoming more self-absorbed and it is hurting our ability to genuinely connect with people and have satisfying relationships with them.
As cheesy as it might sound to truly understand and “love yourself,” can you share with our readers a few reasons why it’s so important?
From my book, “Maybe I’m Cursed”…
One of the biggest issues I see in my coaching practice is the inability to assess if a potential partner is someone of good potential and character. Two key ingredients for a healthy relationship. Usually this is due to a client’s inability to accept herself, thus leading her to look to her date for acceptance. I’ve seen many women ignore obvious red flags in a guy because she was more interested in what he thought of her than the other way around. If we have acceptance of self, we can easily and fairly accurately get to know anyone because our perspective is not muddled by our own need to be accepted. For how can we truly assess anyone is if we are busy worrying about their assessment of us?
Second, our relationships will never get to that deep, meaningful place where we can fully be ourselves with our partner, without self-acceptance. Our self-doubt, self-loathing, or self-shame will always be at the forefront of our mind, which means we are more concentrated on ourselves and our fears than we are concentrated on our significant other and the love we give them. The result is a slow erosion of rapport, goodwill, and of course, connection.
Part of the reason some people cannot accept themselves is fact that they have lived life always desiring to be something else… or something more than what they are. Today’s culture of constantly comparing ourselves to others may well have helped foster the idea that we need to be more than what we are in order to be worthy. If we are fighting who we are by wishing to always be different or better in some way, we will naturally look for other people to help us come to terms with ourselves. The truth is, whatever it is that you are having trouble accepting is not the real problem. Whatever it is that you dislike, or feel badly about is not what is holding you back from love. It is the resistance or denial itself that is hindering you. It is your non-acceptance that is making you insecure, angry, jealous, or unhappy. Saying to yourself, “I wish I was more like this…” or “I was I wasn’t like that…” is a form of self-rejection. You are saying that you cannot fully embrace yourself until you become something else or something better, which will continually create painful feelings. Some people live their entire lives in self-created pain and never experience real love all because they can’t look at themselves and say, “I’m okay. I accept all my imperfections and I don’t need to be more than what I am now.”
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
Many people believe that they can only find self-acceptance when someone loves them. Being a part of a couple gives them the sense of being good enough that they could not accomplish on their own. So even if a relationship is mediocre or worse, they will stay because leaving the other person means to return to unworthiness.
From my book, “Maybe I’m Cursed” : My best advice is to work on your own self-acceptance so that you don’t need another person to feel at peace with yourself. You must make acceptance a daily practice just like exercise or eating well. The next time you pass a mirror and think, “Ugh, I look terrible. Why is my nose like this?” Or, “I still need to lose ten pounds. I wish I my body was different,” recognize that this is non-acceptance. When you encounter people and feel jealous, and think, “I need to be like her or I won’t be happy”. Or, “I probably won’t find love because I’m not cute enough” that is non-acceptance. See how many times in a day you unconsciously reject yourself as you are now. One client of mine kept track of her self-rejections and counted thirty-one in just 12 hours! Before she wondered why she always felt down and hopeless, relying on men to make her feel good, but after that exercise she saw there was no way to feel anything else! In those moments of self-rejection it is of the utmost importance that you take a deep breath and work to change your mindset. Look again in the mirror. Only this time just say to yourself, “This is who I am.” Don’t wish it away. Just accept that this is you, right now, today, in this moment. Because who you are right now IS who you are right now! No amount of rejection will change that. You don’t have to love or even like yourself right now, you only have to accept yourself. Maybe you’ll be different tomorrow, but for now, this is you. You can work to improve yourself, of course, but you don’t need to reject who you are today in order to be a better version of yourself tomorrow.
When we talk about self-love and understanding we don’t necessarily mean blindly loving and accepting ourselves the way we are. Many times self-understanding requires us to reflect and ask ourselves the tough questions, to realize perhaps where we need to make changes in ourselves to be better not only for ourselves but our relationships. What are some of those tough questions that will cut through the safe space of comfort we like to maintain, that our readers might want to ask themselves? Can you share an example of a time that you had to reflect and realize how you needed to make changes?
I really dislike the term self-love because it often creates a “superior” mindset in people. I start hearing demands that sound like, “I deserve this or that, because I am worth it!” Loving ourselves is something I don’t think is necessary. I think accepting ourselves is, but love is something we give to others. It’s a gift for them, and it’s their gift to us.
I think a good question to ask ourselves is, am I thinking about myself too much? How often throughout my day am I thinking, and stressing about myself, and why am I doing it? I used to be someone who had high anxiety and I realized that I was too concerned about “me” and what I thought I needed to be or have in life. I realized this was just a silly ego game. I didn’t need to be anything more than what I already was. I stopped thinking about myself and now I just try to focus on others. That gives me much more joy.
So many don’t really know how to be alone, or are afraid of it. How important is it for us to have, and practice, that capacity to truly be with ourselves and be alone (literally or metaphorically)?
It’s of vital importance. Some people can’t be alone with themselves for the very reason we are speaking of — no self-acceptance. They are afraid to be without a relationship for reasons I mentioned earlier. Being a part of a couple gives them self-validation because they can say to themselves, “See, someone else is accepting me” and therefore they can relax and accept themselves. On a more existential level, some people don’t like to be alone because it forces them to face who they are (or who they are not.) There is so much fear in facing our flaws, and imperfections that some of us use constant distractions and activity to avoid having to do this. In either case, the fear of being alone is the fear of seeing who we are and needing to accept it. Unfortunately without doing so, we will never connect to another person in a deep and meaningful way. Connection and acceptance of ourselves leads to connection and acceptance with another person. Not the other way around.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
In today’s celebrity-obsessed, social-media centered atmosphere most women are on a quest for self- acceptance every day. For many hours in that day, they enhance and embellish themselves to the point of self-falsification. In other words, in order to be accepted they can’t be their true selves. They have to be a fantasy version of who they wish they were, or who other people want them to be.
If you feel this way, stop and consider how much time and effort you spend on projecting a certain image of yourself to the world. It’s helpful to try and improve yourself on the inside, but if you are always working on bettering your image, or your status so that others view you in high regard, then you really haven’t completely accepted yourself. Once you acknowledge that, you can take little steps that will help tear down the pedestal you think you need to be sitting on.
You will know how far you are from self-acceptance by how much you resist the next suggestion. It’s time to do something raw and honest. Follow in the footsteps of Grammy-award winner Alicia Keys, and try not wearing make up one day while you are out, or post a less flattering picture of yourself and see how it feels. Let people see the real you. Although you might be scared, this is a very big step in the direction you need to go in order to be at peace with who you are and bring forth your True Self.
Have an honest conversation with a friend about your feelings instead of trying to tell a “glamorous or impressive” story about yourself. Attempt to be vulnerable. Our ego will want to battle against doing this. It will feel awkward and uncomfortable, but know that if it does feel that way, it means you are on the right track. Alicia Keys admitted the first time she was photographed without make-up she was nervous and uncomfortable. After years of trying to live up to the public expectation and approval, her knee-jerk reaction was “what will people think?” But within minutes, all the walls she had put up around herself came down. She freed herself from her own Curse by simply deciding to be who she really is. “And”, she says, “I swear it is the strongest, most empowered, most free, and most honestly beautiful that I have ever felt.” Isn’t that what we are all striving for anyway? To feel free, empowered and beautiful in our own right? Somehow the path to getting their has taken a sharp turn in the wrong direction.
What are 5 strategies that you implement to maintain your connection with and love for yourself, that our readers might learn from? Could you please give a story or example for each?
3. Practice giving of yourself to others
4. Practice awareness of self-rejection and turn it into acceptance
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources for self-psychology, intimacy, or relationships? What do you love about each one and how does it resonate with you?
My favorite books for self-acceptance, improvement and relationships are by Eckhard Tolle. Although this books fall under the category, “spirituality” or “new age”, they speak directly to the subject at hand. His book, “The Power of Now” talks about our constant search for wholeness in the future, when in actuality, our sense of completeness can only be found in the present. My favorite quote is, “If you find your life situation unsatisfactory or intolerable, it is only by surrendering first that you can break the pattern that perpetuates that situation.” He is saying that what you are fighting to accept about yourself right now is your problem more than anything else. Only be surrendering the fight will you be able to see the truth of this, and do what is productive or necessary to change your situation. Much of the time when we surrender, we see that there was nothing that really needed to be done after the surrender itself because the real problem was only in our minds. I’m probably not doing the quote justice, but reading the book was life-changing for me, someone who suffered from anxiety and always looking to the future for salvation from the present.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? Maybe we’ll inspire our readers to start it…
Self acceptance comes when you stop thinking about yourself. We struggle to accept ourselves because of the ideas and expectations we put on ourselves and others. But searching for worth is as useless as searching for a pot of gold. There is nothing we can attain in the future that will allow us to better accept who we are. We only believe the future “us” holds the key to acceptance. Once we give up the search, we automatically self-accept.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you use to guide yourself by? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life and how our readers might learn to live by it in theirs?
My life lesson quote is from Eckhart Tolle’s book, “A New Earth”. “Give up defining yourself — to yourself and to others. You won’t die. You will come to life.”
Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!