Six ways to self-acceptance
A familiar topic for these times is the notion that we should ‘accept ourselves’ the way we are. We’re beautiful human beings, and if others don’t like us as we are, then tough.
A lack of self-acceptance usually happens when:
- We’re aiming for perfection; holding ideals or standards that are impossible (or next to impossible) to achieve. Nothing better designed to make us feel like a failure as nothing we do is ever good enough.
- We’re comparing ourselves to others or an ideal that we’re told we should aim for.
- We’re highly critical or judgemental; making a judgement about how something is rather than allowing it to just be.
All of these have roots in our belief system and the way that our primitive brains have learned to respond. We learn these beliefs as young children, and they’re directly related to what we’re told by our caregivers. With the best will in the world, every parent/caregiver will have expressed frustration about a young person’s behaviour and it’ll sound something like ‘you’re lazy’ when actually, the young person has just chosen other priorities to tidy their room. Or, ‘you always leave things to the last minute’ when homework is overdue.
The brain then creates emotions and attaches meaning to the response which then emerges in certain behaviours. Equally, overpraising can have a detrimental impact. Telling a child that they’re ‘so smart’ can lead them to only ever try the things they know they’ll be good at to be sure to live up the reputation.
The value of the thinking part of our brain comes in considering whether this response is helpful and whether believing or responding in a different way would bring more useful and rewarding behaviours. This change can be a challenge, and ‘when I’m rich’ or ‘when I have a new job’ can often get in the way of exploring new things. Although hearing good things about us from other people as adults is always lovely, it’s the experience of our younger selves that needs to be challenged.
This article can’t go into all of the ways that you can bring about positive changes, but here are a few really practical solutions. Remember, although self-acceptance (acknowledging all of you, even the ‘shadow’ bit, is valuable) is different to self-esteem (how valuable we see our selves to be as a whole person), often increasing one will bring positive changes in the other.
6 ways to find self-acceptance
1. Start by making a list of 10 things you do like about you. This might feel a bit awkward, but keep trying. Add one thing every day.
2. Remembering that when you behave in a way you’d rather not, it’s just a behaviour. Bad behaviour doesn’t correlate to being a bad person.
3. Judgement is often at the bottom of a lack of self-acceptance. So, if there’s a part of you that you struggle with, try just noticing it without attaching any meaning to it.
4. There are often thoughts running through our heads that reinforce our lack of self-acceptance, including that inner critic. ‘I told you that you’re not pretty enough’, ‘I’m never any good at networking’ etc. Instead of trying to hide them, pushing them away, ignoring them, write them down in jumbled up writing, or say them out loud in a funny voice. See how they feel different now?
5. When things go in a way you didn’t intend, reflect on what you can take away from it. How can you behave differently next time? What could you say or think that will change the outcome?
6. And, finally, what would the opposite of that thing or part of you be? Is this something you could try on? One of the most effective ways of learning new things and behaviour is to model someone or something else. So, what would you do, how would you be if you could completely accept yourself? Have a go and see what it feels like, and when it feels good, repeat the behaviour/thought until it comes more naturally.
I’ll leave you with a couple of my favourite attributed quotes about self-acceptance, and look forward to hearing about your success.
“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.” - Marilyn Monroe
“I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do." - Brené Brown