Self-improvement. It sounds like a good idea to strengthen our skills and habits. But it can have a negative impact on us if we ask ourselves what we should do or should be all the time. Often, our inner critic makes a judgement that we are not good enough, and we don’t accept ourselves as we are at that moment. That is a problem, because one of the most significant factors to be happy, and overall satisfied with life, is self-acceptance.
What is true self-acceptance?
- The awareness of your strengths and weaknesses.
- The realistic appraisal of your talents, capabilities, and worth.
- The feeling of satisfaction with your self, despite flaws and regardless of past choices.
Benefits of self-acceptance include:
- Mood regulation.
- A decrease in depressive symptoms, the desire to be approved by others, fear of failure, and self-critique.
- Increase in positive emotions, sense of freedom, self-worth, autonomy, and self-esteem.
And how can we work on being more self-accepting?
There are some clear steps to truly accept ourselves.
- Become self-aware and set an intention: recognise your thoughts, feelings and pain, welcome them, and separate yourself from them. Then set the intention that you are willing to accept yourself in all aspects.
- Celebrate your strengths and accept your weaknesses.
- Consider the people around you, in recognising positive and negative reinforcement, and practice your sense of shared humanity, for instance through loving-kindness meditation.
- Create a support system; surround yourself with people that accept you and believe in you.
- Forgive yourself; learn to move on from past regrets and accept that you were the best possible you at that moment.
- Shush your inner critic and stop rating yourself against others.
- Grieve the loss of unrealised dreams; reconcile who you are with the ideal image of your youth or younger self.
- Perform charitable acts; give to others, recognise how you can help and make a difference in others’ lives.
- Realise that acceptance is not resignation; acceptance is letting go of the past and things we cannot control. You can then focus on what you can control, and empower yourself further.
- Speak to your highest self; the inner voice that has compassion, empathy, and love, to others, and to yourself.
- Be kind to yourself. Cultivate self-compassion, in not judging yourself, or over-identifying with self-defeating thoughts or behaviour. Take care of your mind and body.
- Keep believing in yourself, use positive self-talk, and practice PERT: Postive Emotion Refocusing Technique when times are tough.
The path to self-acceptance can be rough and bumpy. There will be times that current external circumstances, past experiences, and our programming make it hard or impossible to accept ourselves.
There is no shame in seeking help when things get too hard, from a loved one or a professional. In the end, the greatest gift you can give yourself is self-acceptance. In the words of psychologist Tara Brach: “Imperfection is not our personal problem – it is a natural part of existing. The boundary to what we can accept is the boundary to our freedom.”
With self-acceptance, we can learn to live with our imperfections and be truly free and happy.