Self-acceptance is one key to living your life on an upward spiral. Think of how many times you put yourself down if you make a mistake, forget something, say something awkward, look in the mirror, compare yourself to others. You get the idea. Each time you venture into self-denigration, you put yourself on a downward spiral…and lower your happiness and optimism set-point. It’s time to change that. Get an overview below of self-acceptance.
Self-Esteem vs. Self-Acceptance
Though related, self-acceptance is not the same as self-esteem. Self-esteem refers specifically to how valuable or worthwhile you view yourself, while self-acceptance is a more global affirmation of self. When you are self-accepting, you are able to embrace all facets of yourself, so self-acceptance is actually unconditional, free of any qualification. You can recognize your weaknesses and limitations, but this awareness in no way interferes with your ability to fully accept yourself.
How To Become More Self-Accepting
Perhaps more than anything else, cultivating self-acceptance requires the development of more self-compassion. When you can better understand and forgive yourself, you are laying the foundation for self-acceptance.
To become more self-accepting, start by telling yourself (repeatedly and– hopefully–with ever-increasing conviction) that given all of your negatively biased self-referencing beliefs, you’ve done the best you possibly could. In this light, re-examine residual feelings of guilt as well as self-criticisms and put-downs. Ask yourself specifically what it is you don’t accept about yourself and bring compassion and understanding to each aspect of self-rejection or -denial..
Self-Acceptance vs. Self-Improvement
In reality, self-acceptance has nothing to do with self-improvement as such. For it really isn’t about “fixing” anything in yourself. With self-acceptance you’re just–non-judgmentally–affirming who you are, with whatever strengths–and weaknesses–you possess in the moment.
The problem with any focus on self-improvement is that such an orientation inevitably makes self-acceptance conditional. After all, you can’t ever feel totally secure or good enough so long as your self-regard depends on constantly bettering yourself. Self-acceptance is here-and-now oriented–not future oriented, as in: “I’ll be okay when . . .” or “As soon as I accomplish . . . I’ll be okay.” Self-acceptance is about already being okay, with no qualifications–period. It’s not that you ignore or deny your faults or frailties, just that you view them as irrelevant to your basic acceptability.
Finally, it’s you–and you alone–who sets the standards for your self-acceptance. And once you decide to stop grading yourself, or “keeping score with” yourself, you can adopt an attitude of unconditional self-acceptance.