So often I find myself explaining to clients that the first step in overcoming their hurt or disappointment is accepting the situation, and their part in how they got there. And for many that is the hardest part of their transformation because self-acceptance requires you to recognize your imperfections and accept them for what they are. Rather than condemning yourself, blaming others or focusing on what they need to fix, a more effective strategy is adopting self-acceptance.
Without self-acceptance, it is very difficult to create lasting change or progress through your painful situation. Afterall you can only control yourself and your responses. Everything else is a lottery.
Reading this, you may be thinking of course I accept myself! It might all seem like a no-brainer to you. But what happens when you reflect on this question, "Do I accept myself?" it might feel odd, it may even not sit well with you as you hear yourself say it. After all, what does accepting yourself even mean? And don't we already accept ourselves as we live every day?
It might surprise you to know that self-acceptance doesn't happen automatically. Many people struggle to accept themselves for who they are, even when they're delighted with their lives and others consider them successful.
Self-acceptance isn't about loving yourself. It doesn't mean that you're saying, "I'm wonderful." It means you accept the way you look and the way you behave. It means that you are ok with the good parts and the not-so good parts who make up all of you. It means you admit that others might not like you because you're different from everyone else.
People define self-acceptance as accepting themselves for who they are, regardless of their weaknesses. They believe that this is the fundamental aspect of self-love. This definition is a widely agreed-upon definition of self-acceptance, but not everyone agrees.
Think about those around you. How often do you hear them saying, "I accept myself"? Or you for that matter? It's rare. Some people don't accept themselves because they don't understand what it means to accept themselves.
Often accepting yourself gets confused with being happy, because not everyone knows or understands what happiness means. Self-acceptance isn't the same as happiness. Accepting yourself involves realistically understanding yourself as a person.
And when it comes to counselling and personal change, accepting yourself is the first significant step towards that change. To accept oneself, a person needs to accept their inner qualities, strengths, and imperfections. They need to resist the urge to criticize themselves and relentlessly push themselves even in the face of contradicting data.
Here are 5 signs of self-acceptance:
1. Comfortable being alone: This doesn’t have to mean being single, although it could. Often it is about spending time alone and tolerating periods of time alone, whether that is by choice or circumstance. When you are comfortable being alone you look forward to those times when you are alone rather than dread it.
2. Validate yourself: When you are able to self-validate and make your feelings and needs important you have moved to self-acceptance, as you don’t need someone else to tell you how you feel or should feel. Of course, that is always nice however it’s not required for you to acknowledge and be ok with how you feel. You are your best cheerleader.
3. Befriended your inner voice: Your inner voice is positive and uplifting rather than critical and admonishing. You are able to praise and compliment yourself without waiting for external parties to bring to your attention before you allow yourself to believe it. With this approach you are able to learn from mistakes and move on.
4. Confident decision-making: You have confidence in making decisions and you don’t need to test your potential decisions with others before making them. Of course, you may do some soundings to help you navigate the potential fallout from a decision, but it doesn’t stop you with your decision. This shows you have embraced your strengths and weaknesses and you’re willing to deal with whatever happens next.
5. Inner peace: there is an internal quiet that arrives with self-acceptance. There’s no longer a feeling of needing to be something else or do something else. With self-acceptance you’ll feel settled and ground, ready to navigate your way through anything that comes your way.
When people talk about accepting themselves for who they are, some assume it means staying where you are without improving. That's one misconception about self-acceptance. Accepting yourself doesn't mean not making moves to improve at all.
It means admitting your shortcomings and then putting a plan together to move forward with self-improvement. It means that your self-improvement journey may not be plain sailing or look like anyone else’s. It also means that you are willing to make mistakes along the way as you recognise nothing is perfect. Of course, accepting yourself is a good first step as it allows you to focus on your good qualities to feel better about yourself.
It also helps you rid yourself of feelings of guilt and lack of self-esteem. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't do anything to improve your life. It doesn't mean resigning yourself to your fate and leaving it to chance.
It means recognizing your mistakes and then correcting them. It means being aware of your weaknesses, so you can learn how to overcome or work around them. And all of that comes from self-acceptance.
Self-acceptance isn't something that you can achieve instantly. It’s important to learn to love yourself even if you don't always feel comfortable doing so. It's not a matter of feeling happy with who you are and what you have. It's a matter of accepting your imperfections without feeling bad about them.
When you do that, paradoxically, you become happier because when you accept who you are, it helps set the tone for positive reinforcement, learning, self-improvement and growth. Self-acceptance allows you to be true to yourself and enables you to be authentic naturally.
If you are struggling to accept where you are in life, or come to terms with something you’ve done, then please book in a confidential call with me and we can explore together how you can learn self-acceptance and lead a happier life.
If you don’t know where to start, I developed a mini bundle called, The Ultimate Busy Woman's Self-Care Bundle! Check it out here! It will definitely help you to put yourself at the top of your big to-do list. The bundle has 101 tips to practice self-care, 31 motivational quotes, self-care planner and self-care journal to help you get started on your self-care journey.