Self-acceptance according to Shepard (1979) is an individual’s satisfaction or happiness with one self, and is thought to be necessary for good mental health. Self-acceptance involves self-understanding, a realist, albeit subjective awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses. It results in an individual’s feelings about oneself, that they are of “unique worth” (wikipedia).
In other words, self-acceptance is simply your ability to love who you are; with all the good and seemingly bad traits. It is an important process one would have to go through if one is serious about real personal development.
We need the practice of self acceptance because all of us have in very subtly ways denied ourselves at some point.
If you have found yourself a critical person and one who rarely supports self, probably because you think it’s humbling to look down on self while praising others, what you don’t know is that you are refusing yourself; this is a trait of self-hate and one thing that may be affecting other areas of your life without you being intentionally aware.
When we talk about self-acceptance, the general reckoning would shift to the physical looks, and how we ought to embrace our looks regardless of how we feel about. But self acceptance is beyond just looks. It is full acceptance of ourself. We are whatever opinions we hold of ourselves. Beauty as you see it is a personal thing. What some see as beautiful is not another’s description of what splendor is. Human being’s preferences are just as peculiar as they are.
Through my personal development journey, I’ve realized that the most important part of a being is their soul. People are more about who they think they are, than whoever we may assume they are. Unfortunately, this can be terrible if the personal self-thoughts are negative. It is the reason we emphasize on building up your inner man; the real self that you are inside.
If all your life, and maybe at some point of your life, you’ve become cynical and poorly judging of self without being aware that you are actually rejecting your person, what then do you do in order to become better accepting of who you truly are? Start from here. Begin the work of showing compassion to who you are.
There are always that fundamental issues of an internal self-struggle with an identity of self that necessitates the acceptance of self in the first place. This would usually start from childhood when an individual observes that among his peers, he stands out. He may be given names like weird, nerd, stranger and all of that. Now, whether this is a positive or negative opinion, it’s up to his perception. But at that young age, it can be a torment. Although a lot of adults are bow comforting with these names now, some even labelling themselves so.
Because you seem different, you feel that you’re the weird one in the group. And so whenever that “awkward” situation comes up again that shows your uniqueness, you try to belong and do what others would naturally do, but with an internal struggle within yourself. This struggle is happens because your soul feels disconnected from your choice; your decision being not in congruence with your true self. Even sadder is that, the other fellows with whom you are making so much effort to be same with, can perceive your difference and know within themselves that you are faking it to belong. With this begins sometimes, the bullying process.
They suddenly see you as a prey and a weakling since they can perceive your efforts to be like them. In return, they would punish you in many ways they can knowing that you are at their mercy for approval. It’s a long circle of many eventful occurrences during this time of your life. In the end, you may lose your identity of self. There, begins the identity struggle many people would later suffer through life, especially at teen age.
Another major issue is our parental upbringing. Almost all our lives, we’ve grown up to the more criticisms of what we did wrong than praise for the many things we’ve done right. Our upbringing was one of more criticisms and how we tried to through efforts win the conditional love from our environment and everyone involved in raising us as a child. This is where our own self-criticism was learnt by default in most cases.
And from there begins a lifelong dilemma of retracing who you truly are.
It’s a similar process for most people, until you lose your true self and become like the eagle who has forgotten how to fly because of his continuance relationship with the chickens. This was how most of us lost our uniqueness over time.
HOW DO YOU ACCEPT YOURSELF?
This is one question each of us must ask ourselves in our lifetime. Below are some easy ways you can start right now.
SELF-PARDON: this can be one of the most difficult thing to do. It’s sometimes much easier to forgive others for their offences against us than forgive ourselves. It’s just the human psyche. If you understand self-acceptance well, you’d agree with me that the primary reason you needed it so much is because of how hard you have badly judged yourself. Forgiving yourself for your past mistakes is one essential step towards self-acceptance.
Self-acceptance is accepting those mistakes as part of your growth process, and as part of your life. Although forgiving yourself now does not mean you won’t make future mistakes, no. What will change is in how you can now learn to accept mistakes as part of your life; something you didn’t recognize as that in the past, and the reason you had so much condemned yourself for almost anything you did wrongly.
When you forgive yourself, you set yourself free from guilt and the feeling of condemnation. This new mindset helps you accommodate who you are and free yourself from having to do certain things before you accept yourself any more than you already are. It aids you to live your life with freedom from within.
STOP SELF-CRITICISM: There are only few other things in life more dangerous than criticisms, whether of self or of other people. Most self-criticizing adults grew up being badly criticized by their parents, teachers or the guardians who had raised them as a children. It was from this attitude they learnt to always judge themselves as not doing well enough, regardless of how much they may seem to have achieved.
In the first place, according to Psychologists, the reason we are having to go through the process of self-acceptance is because of the bad criticisms we had experienced from our childhood which we had taken personally to define and treat ourselves.
One of the characteristics of self-critics is in the way they are always seeking for opinion from others. Feedback can be good, if its motive is to help us improve on ourselves but seeking to know what others always think of us can be a bad thing in developing self.
To stop criticizing yourself, take a count of your good too and realize you are not doing only bad. Understand that a self-defaming life style isn’t a sign of humility but a demeaning one. Embrace yourself and give room for more improvement in areas where it is needed, but not as a condition for you to accept yourself. Accept that you are enough as you are and that you are doing well already.
In my book, BECOMING, I shared indepth insights about self acceptance. You can get a copy here
To invite the author for speaking, or for counselling session booking send mail to thecounsellor@gmail.
To your successfully evolving life.