The Journey to Self-Acceptance “Can you accept everything about yourself in this moment?” Common responses to this question and what’s crossed my own mind through the years are:
You mean, just exactly how I am today?
No, I couldn’t possibly do that.
I have to keep trying.
I feel like if I did that than I’d just be giving up.
I’m not ready.
I’d be complacent if I did.
Well, I would if I could finally – – – – – – .
What is self-acceptance and why is it important?
It’s saying yes to every thought, passing feeling, mistake, regret and emotion. It’s recognizing and owning our strengths and our weaknesses. It’s knowing so many of our perceived shortcomings are not our fault. It’s noticing our thoughts, feelings and actions without judgment. It’s appreciating every teaching that has taken place up until this moment and it is the key to feeling alive in the present moment.
It is self-compassion.
It is having enough courage to say “I accept” even to the things we do not like, reject or wished never happened.
It is freedom. It is strength. It is healing.
It’s important because the world needs the fully expressed version of you exactly how you are in this moment.
Self-acceptance is often misunderstood and clashes with our culture of constant striving to “get there” or our obsession with how life “should” look. When we fall into the trap of avoiding or judging vs. accepting, we enforce the notion that we are somehow incomplete or unworthy as we are. We are not enough.
The resistance felt from these two words can be a sobering reflection on how we feel about ourselves and if we are willing to look a little closer, the pieces of ourselves we often like to hide for fear they will hurt or not serve us. When we don’t accept portions of ourselves we are operating at half-mast and half- heartedly, repressing not just the undesired pieces of us but also our greatness, healing capacity and potential. Without wanting or meaning to, the relationship we have with ourselves is one of compromised and conditional love.
Because we are human and what we are often striving for is to simply belong, it’s easy get this backwards. However, the less we are able to accept, the more incomplete and unworthy we feel. It’s a common way we unconsciously limit ourselves.
And no, it’s not easy and no, it’s not always our fault.
Many of us have a legacy of it simply not being OK to be OK.
In fact the roots of our self-acceptance stem from what was “acceptable” to our parents. In an article in Psychology Today entitled “The Path to Unconditional Self Acceptance”, Seltzer writes: “In general, similar to self-esteem, as children we’re able to accept ourselves only to the degree we feel accepted by our parents. Research has demonstrated that before the age of eight, we lack the ability to formulate a clear, separate sense of self–that is, other than that which has been transmitted to us by our caretakers” (Seltzer, 2008).
This is an important to consider as sometimes our inner critics and judgments are not our own.
Although we often seek change or improvement in order to earn acceptance, the funny paradox is that self-acceptance IS the prerequisite to change itself and to us living a fully expressed and conscious life. Notice the peace that comes over you when you step into a version of you that is already complete. Breathe that in. You are whole, you belong and you are so loved as is. Making lasting and permanent change is possible from this commonly overlooked step.
Notice the difference between making choices, changes and healing from this knowing vs. the destabilization of feeling incomplete, not enough or shameful. The experience is much different.
“The curious paradox is that when I
accept myself just as I am,
then I can change”- Carl Rogers
Self-acceptance does not mean giving up. It’s not resigning from living your best life. It’s not saying you can’t do anything about the things you do not like. You can accept yourself as is, in every imperfect moment AND be dedicated to personal growth and the most amazing AND fully expressed version of you.
What does it look like when we avoid accepting ourselves?
In Tara Brach’s book Radical Acceptance she lists strategies many use to manage the pain of feeling unworthy:
We embark on one self-improvement project after another.
We hold back and play it safe rather than risking failure
We withdraw from our experience in the present moment.
We keep busy.
We become our own worst critics.
We focus on other people’s faults.
Do these sound familiar?
What can you do?
Start by writing down all the things about yourself that you have trouble accepting. You can do this with emotions, appearance, experiences or perceived short coming.
Take a step back and quiet your inner critic by whispering “I accept” as you read through these or throughout your day. It can feel like mixing oil and water. If you find yourself stuck or in resistance, consider what you may have to let go of or what you might be holding on to in order to accept. There are a myriad of things we can hold on to from people, beliefs or stories.
Learning to put the words “I accept” at the forefront of your daily experiences, can be life changing and put you on the fast track to more happiness and healing.
Seltzer, Leon F., PHD. “The Path to Unconditional Self-Acceptance.” Psychology Today. Psychology Today, 10 Sept. 2008. Web. 25 Jan. 2017.