3 Strategies for Developing Self-Acceptance
Updated: Sep 24, 2022
In a recent post I talked about self-esteem and self-acceptance. When we can accept ourselves, acknowledging both our flaws and our unique talents, the world may seem to become a more accommodating place for us. We may well find that some of the causes of our stress disappear and we consequently gain joyful experiences more frequently.
Accepting ourselves completely is not easy – it entails courage, wisdom and compassion. When we are plagued by difficult emotions such as anxiety, jealousy, shame, anger, envy, or guilt, these can lead to low self-esteem, but (as discussed in the previous post) we can counter this by learn to accept ourselves…warts and all!
Sometimes we can fall into a trap of equating our worth with things like our achievements, our love life or our social status…but then what happens if these are someday diminished in some way? After all, these can all end up being temporary conditions due to one reason or another - Life has its ups and downs with plenty of bumps in the road.
When we practice self-acceptance we can help prevent our self-worth from hinging on our current situation.
Low self-esteem can result in our minds refusing to accept our own uniqueness and capability for transformation. When things don't go well we might tell ourselves that we're not good enough and trap ourselves in a vicious cycle of negative and self-fulfilling prophecies.
What can we do to turn this around?
Suppose we could start to appreciate the world around us - we then might start to become aware of our place within it. As we recognise that others are important to our well-being, we might also have the realization that our existence supports others too. Appreciation can be a first step towards self-acceptance.
Developing self-acceptance involves starting to believe in our intrinsic worth and uniqueness. There's no one else in the world quite like you or me and we're constantly changing and developing as we go about our daily business of living life. Our value is not measured by how others perceive us and it is not validated by external reference.
Human beings are fallible and none of us are perfect (even if social media would have us believing otherwise!). Even an enlightened soul such as The Buddha had to struggle to achieve their goals. Likewise, we must also work to improve ourselves - unfortunately there is no easy route, but the bumps in the road are all part and parcel of the journey and actually with hindsight we may even look back and see that they have enriched it in one way or another.
When we make mistakes we can find ourselves almost automatically judging ourselves (remember the self-critic?), but how helpful is that? We wouldn't label our children as failures or losers because they failed a test, we would show them compassion and support. So why don’t we do the same with ourselves? What would happen if we were compassionate with ourselves too and resisted labeling ourselves as failures or bad people because of past errors? Wouldn’t that be a more helpful and supportive stance to take towards ourselves?
When we review our mistakes, we can feel remorseful and disappointed, but these are perfectly normal and healthy emotions to feel in the circumstances. They are a signal for change – our mind’s way of telling us that perhaps a different action or response in a similar situation might serve us better.
Mistakes are an opportunity to learn and grow!
Remorse and disappointment are very different to self-condemnation, which can lead to depression, guilt and shame. Experiencing these difficult emotions may lead into us wanting to give up or perhaps avoid facing the mistake. Instead, looking towards what we can do to change our actions next time is a helpful, supportive and constructive stance that we can take for ourselves.
Try these strategies to increase your self-acceptance:
1. Avoid excusing yourself from your mistakes. It's okay to tell yourself that you're human and prone to error, but if you use this to refuse to face your mistakes, you won't grow. Instead, work on improving yourself. This will help you accept what you did but put it in the past and move on.
2. Use positive self-talk. Notice if you call yourself names like "idiot," "total failure" or "loser", then try to get into a habit of replacing it with a compliment. Reinforce the qualities about you that you value by telling yourself things like "I can do this," "I'm good at this," "Forgiving others is perfectly like me," or "I can find a solution to this challenge."
3. Be tolerant and compassionate with yourself, just as you are with your friends. Judge your behavior, not yourself – good people do bad things sometimes, that doesn’t automatically turn them into a bad person.
It takes time and practice to master these new ways of thinking about ourselves, but the rewards are worth it!