Do you need to learn how to accept yourself?
In middle school and high school I struggled with finding my identity. I was convinced that I was ugly, stupid, and worthless. I continually thought that to truly love myself and be happy, I had to basically become a different person.
Throughout this time I made major changes to myself. I changed my hairstyle, got new clothes, and started to get in shape.
At first, it seemed to work. I was happier and seemed to be making more friends and getting more attention. As time passed by, though, I began to realize that I still didn’t love myself.
Although I had become the sort of person that I thought was worthy of love, I still didn’t believe that I was worthy of love.
I soon came to realize that changing things about myself did not change the way I felt about myself, so I began to search for a different solution. Over the past few months I have finally come to the realization that I don’t have to become lovable, I already am. I don’t have to be good enough for people to like me, I just have to be me.
This belief that you are worthy of love just the way you are is known as self-acceptance.
What is Self-Acceptance?
Self-acceptance is not the same as self-esteem. While self-esteem focuses on how valuable you see yourself as, self-acceptance takes a slightly different route.
According to thefreedictionary.com self-acceptance can be defined as, “an acceptance of yourself as you are, warts and all”.
When someone accepts themselves, they accept all facets of themselves. The good, the bad, and even the ugly. When we are self-accepting, we learn to even love our flaws.
How does our Self-Acceptance Influence our Happiness?
Now that we’ve defined self-acceptance, you might still be asking: how exactly does self-acceptance impact our happiness?
Well, according to Robert Holden, author of Happiness Now!:
“Happiness and self-acceptance go hand in hand. In fact, your level of self-acceptance determines your level of happiness. The more self-acceptance you have, the more happiness you’ll allow yourself to accept, receive and enjoy. In other words, you enjoy as much happiness as you believe you’re worthy of.”
So basically: self-acceptance = happiness
If you accept yourself you are inevitably setting yourself up to be happy.
One the most important aspect of self-acceptance is that it is unconditional. Very often we only love ourselves when we are doing well or when we accomplish a goal.
Self-acceptance, on the other hand, teaches us that we should love ourselves no matter what. Even if we fail or make a mistake, we are still valuable. This, in turn, allows our happiness to be unconditional as well. Our joy is not based on whether or not someone likes us. It is based on who we are, not what we do or how people perceive us.
How to Accept Yourself
Now you know what self-acceptance is and that it directly influences our happiness, but how to we develop self-acceptance?
Like any other skill, self-acceptance is something that we build up over time. Many people are taught to accept themselves at a young age and never struggle to be self-compassionate. Others of us are constantly struggling to love ourselves for who we are.
We are all at different levels of self-acceptance and some of us will be able to learn it faster than others.
There are many guided meditation practices that center on the theme of self-acceptance. While meditation in and of itself will likely lead you to an acceptance of yourself, guided practices will likely help more.
For great guided meditations about self-acceptance and other topics, I highly recommend Calm for iOS and Android. You can also access these guided meditations on Calm’s website.
A second way to help generate acceptance for yourself is to change the way you think. Our thoughts are ultimately what controls our perception of ourselves. They are the root cause of our lack of self-acceptance and often the only thing keeping us from being happy.
Many of us that struggle with self-acceptance are plagued with negative thoughts. Psychologist often refer to this as our inner critic. Our inner critic is that voice inside that is constantly telling you that you aren’t good enough. It tells you that you’re unattractive or inadequate.
A helpful way to combat this inner critic is to actually engage with it in conversation. This is a tip I learned in Dr. Aziz Gazipura’s book the Solution to Social Anxiety.
Let’s say you just you turned in a business report to your boss and he rejected it. Your inner critic will likely start acting up. To have control of your critic, address it as if it were an actual person:
Critic: Wow you really screwed up this time. I told you he’d reject it. You’re terrible at what you do.
You: Actually, I think I did a pretty good job on my report. Maybe it was just not what my boss was looking for.
Critic: Maybe? I know it wasn’t what he was looking for. The entire report was crap. Have fun with getting fired.
You: Fired? You are making lots of assumptions. Why are you so angry? Did you get fired from your job recently or something?
This type of dialogue is extremely therapeutic. It is most helpful when done at the exact time that your critic is acting up, or at least shortly after a negative experience. These conversations are best had in written form and should be kept in a journal.
These are just two of many ways that you can begin to build up your self-acceptance.
It is important to remember that you path to self-acceptance is a journey. You will have setbacks along the way but you’ll make progress as long as you stay persistent.
Self-acceptance is a beautiful thing. Practicing it will bring you happiness and will make you less vulnerable when facing criticism.
If you need a reminder on how to accept yourself, I would like to share a quote from Amy Bloom:
You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful – Amy Bloom
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Author: Austin Farewell
Austin Farewell is a college student, freelance writer, and entrepreneur. He enjoys books, films, and spending time with people. Check out his personal site here: https://austinfarewell.com/blog/