Many things about yourself you have the ability to change, such as your attitudes, your behavior, and your personal neatness. Other things, however, you cannot change, such as your physical features, your family heritage, and your specific time in history. How can you accept those features which you cannot change? You must learn to see that you are created according to God’s perfect design and that design is intended for accomplishing His purposes. “O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand” (Isaiah 64:8).
Your attitude about yourself has a profound influence on your attitudes about God, your family, your friends, and your future. Self-acceptance brings freedom from comparison with others as you discover the goodness of God and His purposes in your design.
Understanding Keys to Self-Acceptance
The foundation of self-acceptance is confidence that God personally fashioned you according to His love and wisdom. Self-acceptance comes by recognizing that God has only begun His creative work in you and that He will finish His good work of conforming you to the character of Jesus Christ. (See Romans 8:28–30.)
Accepting God’s design in your life starts by thanking Him for the way He has made you, especially for the unchangeable features you might not have chosen. This attitude of gratefulness requires an active, daily acceptance (by faith) of whatever God brings into your life and an awareness that He will work all things together for your good.
God expresses Himself through His creation. So, when you reject yourself, you are actually rejecting God and His work in your life. When you are frustrated with your unchangeable features, seek God’s wisdom to discern His purposes for these characteristics. God loves you. He created you—everything about you—for a special purpose (see Psalm 139:13–17). Choosing to accept how He made you is a choice to trust Him and the unique plan He has for your life. Even the weaknesses, limitations, or difficulties caused by birth defects or the failures of others can be used as tools in God’s hands to achieve great things for His Kingdom! As you accept God’s design, you will be able to welcome His work in your life and cooperate in fulfilling His purposes.
God has designed life with the following ten areas of “unchangeables.” We did not choose them. We cannot change them. All of these attributes are built into your unique design:
God not only chose the father and mother who brought you into the world, He also fully understood the factors and circumstances that surrounded your conception and birth. (See Psalm 139:13–16.) Since the Fall of Adam and Eve, God has worked through imperfect parents to accomplish His purposes in the world. Some of the weaknesses in your parents will be passed on to you. To compensate for this challenge, God provides special grace to deal with imperfections. (See II Corinthians 12:9.)
2. Physical Features
God prescribed all of your physical features before you were born—your height, voice, body build, metabolism, complexion, eyes, ears, hands, feet, and countless other features, down to the smallest detail. They are expressions of His love and creativity, and they are part of His purpose for you. (See Exodus 4:10–11.)
God created male and female and made a clear distinction between them. God chose your gender for you, knowing exactly what plans He has in mind for you. Desiring to be of the opposite sex will hinder you from accepting God’s plan for you as the man or the woman He created you. (See Genesis 1:27 and Matthew 19:4–5.)
4. Brothers and Sisters
Accepting brothers and sisters involves accepting their personalities, abilities, and talents as well as their physical defects and failures. Through the relationships and challenges you encounter together, God will develop character qualities in your lives. (See Luke 10:39–42.) If you do not have siblings, God will use other ways to build Godly qualities in your life and prepare you for the future. As an only child, loneliness may serve as a signal to deepen your walk with God and invest in the lives of others.
5. Birth Order
Special characteristics, tendencies, and needs relate directly to your birth order. As you accept and understand those traits, you then are better able to learn from and interact with your siblings. You will see yourselves as a team with complementary gifts, avoiding the destructive rivalry and resentment that often occur in families. (See Genesis 25:29–34 and Luke 15:29.)
Each ethnic group has a unique culture and characteristics, but these so-called “races” are actually one “race” descended from common parents—Adam and Eve. Rejecting your ethnic and ancestral background will produce detrimental attitudes of either inferiority or superiority. Accepting your heritage will help you see other people as the special work of God’s design. (See Romans 10:12 and Galatians 3:28–29.)
7. Place of Origin
The place where you are from, either nationally or regionally, brings with it both benefits and limitations. Even when your birthplace or homeland may seem inferior to others, you can learn to overcome these challenges as you mature in Christ. Understanding and accepting your place of origin can bring special opportunities to seek the Lord in building relationships. (See Titus 1:12–14, Hebrews 11:23–25, and Daniel 1:19–20.)
8. Time in History
Since God has a special purpose for your life, He has brought you into the world at just the right time in history to fulfill that purpose. To yearn to have been born in a different time or to dislike the time you are living in now is to reject God’s purpose for your existence at this specific time in history. Even if the times in which you live are evil, how much more important it is for you to fulfill your role as God’s light in a spiritually dark world. (See Esther 4:14.)
9. Mental Abilities
God created you exactly with the mental aptitudes and abilities He knew would be best suited to achieve His special purpose for you. Comparing yourself with others can be tempting, but remember you are unique! Scripture teaches, “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (II Corinthians 10:12). Even in areas of lack, God says He is able to prove Himself strong where you are weak. (See II Corinthians 12:9.) The Book of Proverbs is filled with encouragement to seek wisdom and understanding with knowledge, which can be gained through regular study of God’s Word and faith-directed prayer. (See Proverbs 3:13–15, 4:7, 19:8, and James 1:5–6.)
10. Aging and Time of Death
God likely created Adam and Eve to live indefinitely, but on the day they sinned, the curse of death was put upon them and the whole world—both physical and spiritual death. On the day they sinned, the death process began. Signs of aging are God’s reminders to make good use of the life span He has chosen for you. You can look forward to eternity with Him. Aging should motivate us to invest in the lives of others, such as children and grandchildren, by counseling and teaching them. (See Psalm 73:25–26, 90:1–17.)
When you face challenges in these areas, remember that God chose each one for you for a reason. God works with your unchangeable traits to equip you for life and to develop the character of Christ in you.
People tend to measure themselves with the outward standards of others in order to gain their approval. If your life is marked by characteristics that cause others to ridicule or judge you, you may feel rejected and try to compensate for these traits. You might hide your defects, conform to fads, become extremely critical of yourself, compare yourself with others, develop a fear of failure, or become excessively shy.
Accepting God’s design frees you from these negative patterns of comparison and rejection. Ask the Lord for grace to accept your design and overcome your weaknesses. As God works in your life, you will develop the inward character qualities of Jesus Christ, which are far more valuable than attaining a physical standard promoted by our culture.
Growing in Self-Acceptance
Now that you understand that you are uniquely and wonderfully made by our loving Creator God, how might you grow in accepting these unchangeables that He has purposefully built into your life? God desires that you come to Him and share your heart with Him (see Jeremiah 29:11–13). He already knows your thoughts (see Psalm 139:1–4). As you commune with Him, the following are some ways to further grow in accepting yourself and becoming all that God has created you to be.
Identify areas you would like to change.
Are there details about your appearance, abilities, family, or social heritage that you would like to change? List these features and identify areas that you believe God would have you improve. Ask Him to empower you to make these changes. For areas that cannot be changed, consider how God can use those features to help you bring glory to Himself, depend on His grace, come to know Him more, and grow in faith. Ask God to show you the potential benefits of traits you cannot change.
Thank God for the way He has made you so far.
Expressing gratitude for God’s design is a vital step in embracing His work in your life, especially when you thank Him for things you would not have chosen. God will use the features you are unable to change to build into your life the message He wants to showcase through you. God still has more work to do! He understands the big picture of His plan for you, and He will work to complete the good work He has begun in your life. (See Philippians 1:6.)
Put yourself back on “God’s easel.”
When God created you, He began a good work in your life. Surrender yourself to Him now, especially the areas that are difficult to accept. By faith, invite God to continue His good work in you and to fulfill His purposes for you. (See Romans 8:28–29.) As you respond to God, He will fashion your character to reflect the character of His Son, Jesus Christ. Meditate on Scripture passages that describe the qualities God wants to develop in you, such as Matthew 5:3–12, Galatians 5:22–23, and I Corinthians 13:4–8. Be alert to circumstances God can use to develop Christlike qualities in your life.