Self acceptance is the root of mental health and self-esteem. It is seen universally as a key element in personal happiness, personal growth and a healthy view of the world and ourselves. Simply put, it is the acceptance of ourselves, the way we are. True self acceptance comes from accepting the things we like about ourselves and also liking the things we don’t. Self acceptance is something we “do” and involves a willingness to see feelings, emotions, thoughts and actions of part of who we are, without avoidance or denial. An unwillingness to experience these leads to a rejection and denial of the Self. In a nutshell, self acceptance means to honestly accept the facts of your reality and not to disown it or repress the things about your life that you cannot accept. It means not living in a fantasy of who you think you should be or who you think you are. In the book, The Happiness Trap, Russ Harris, author and ACT therapist writes:
Self-acceptance means you refuse to buy into the judgments your mind makes about you, whether they’re good judgments or bad ones. Instead of judging yourself, recognize your strengths and weaknesses, and you can do what you can to be the person you want to be.
Self acceptance is saying ” I choose to value who I am and accept that what I think, feel, desire are also part of me” Self acceptance does not deny reality and does not create fantasy. It does not mean that we approve or avoid responsibility for the things we do not like about ourselves, it means we accept them as part of us and we do not use them for a global judgement of who we are. We also do not use them as an excuse for inaction.
Exercises to Increase Self Acceptance
1. The Classic Mirror Exercise.
An exercise in respecting reality starts with standing in front of a mirror. Looking at yourself, you will see some things about you that you like and also some things that you don’t like. None of us like everything about ourselves. No doubt, you will have an urge to escape the exercise or the critical “protector voices” will appear. While you are standing in front of the mirror (an exercise that might be done every morning), do the following:
- Say to yourself “I accept what I see without judgement or denial. My face, my body, that is me and I accept me”
- Say to yourself ” I know that when I reject or deny reality, my sense of worth decreases”
- Say to yourself ” I accept I will resist reality but I accept the facts and know that I have the power of choice to change anything”
At the end of the week, complete these sentences :
- Self acceptance means to me…………….
- If I am more accepting of my feelings, body, who I am, my conflicts…..
- If I accept my thoughts……..
- If I deny my reality…..
Make a daily list of your strengths, add to it every day. We are very good at listing our shortcomings, less so our strengths.
2. Global Labeling With Language.
Many people who have low self acceptance globally label themselves and attach events to their personality. “I am an idiot”, I am not good enough”, “It failed, so I am a failure”, ” I behaved badly, so I am a bad person”. This type of language increases the negative emotional traffic that consolidates the denial of reality. Try to change the language you use:
- “It failed but I tried I gave it my best and I have learnt valuable lessons”
- “Yes, I behaved badly and I take responsibility but it doesn’t say I am a bad person”
- ” I am not good at everything but I have strengths in certain areas and I can work on my weaknesses.
It is also vital that you understand that the negativity you feel about yourself can be consolidated by the people around you. When you feel negative, it is often easier to be with other negative people. These people can entrench your attitude with their own self talk. It might be important to examine some of those relationships.
3. Deal With The Inner Critical Voices
When we allow our thinking patterns to “protect” us , we often feel there is no escape, no matter how hard we try. These thinking traps are exactly that, thinking and behavior that are ingrained and seemingly impossible to shift. They subdue the Self and the true fears that we need to face. They “protect” us dysfunctionally to keep us from moving forward and offer us the easy way out. They offer us the easy way out and it seems often to be the best option at the time. Only through a process of releasing the control they have, can we promote the Self and have any hope of facing the true issues. More Here
4. Forgive Yourself And Mourn Unrealized Dreams
Much of our denial of reality comes from a feeling that things didn’t work out for us or we messed up at the time. We feel our time has gone and we transfer our regret onto our valuation of us as a person. In this case, an acceptance that you cannot change the past but can influence the present is helpful. In terms of unrealized dreams, where you feel you missed an opportunity, it is often the case that decisions were made based on information held at the time. Hindsight is 20/20!
5. Have An Intention And Make A Pledge.
One of the key elements of self acceptance is to make a plan and pledge to yourself to accept yourself as you are, change those things in your control and live a life that validates self-worth. “Self-acceptance begins with intention,” according to psychotherapist Jeffrey Sumber, MA, writing in Psychology Today. “It is vital that we set an intention for ourselves that we are willing to shift paradigms from a world of blame, doubt and shame to a world of allowance, tolerance, acceptance and trust,” he said. This intention acknowledges that self-loathing simply doesn’t lead to a satisfying life. “If I set my intention that a life with self-acceptance is far better than a life of self-hatred then I begin a chain reaction within my being geared to a life of peace,” Sumber said.