Self-acceptance, self-love and improvement. It sounds like a great idea to strengthen our skills and habits. But, in fact, it can have a negative impact on us if we're constantly asking ourselves what we should do or should be all the time.
Often, our inner critic makes a judgement that we're not good enough, and we don’t accept ourselves as we are at that moment. That can be a problem, because one of the most significant factors to be happy, and overall feel satisfied with life, is self-acceptance.
Benefits of self-acceptance include:
Watch and learn: practice self-love with this happiness.com video
Check out the video above and read below for 12 clear steps to being able to truly accept ourselves:
Recognize your thoughts, feelings and pain, welcome them, and separate yourself from them. Then set the intention that you're willing to accept yourself in all aspects.
And accept your weaknesses. Thinking about your strengths, ask yourself a few key questions: what are the traits that always earn you compliments? What areas of work do you excel at? What are your unique talents? Making a list of your strengths and past achievements and re-reading them when you are having an off moment is a great way to practice self-acceptance. Also, add to the list whenever possible. Instead of focuses on failures or mistakes (which is normal), replace that negative thought with a positive one about when you achieved something.
In recognizing positive and negative reinforcement, and practicing your sense of shared humanity, for instance, through loving-kindness meditation.
“Making a list of your strengths and past achievements and re-reading them when you are having an off moment is a great way to practice self-acceptance.”
Surround yourself with people that accept you and believe in you – and avoid those that don't. Indeed, quality relationships are key to happiness and self-acceptance. In a landmark 75-year, multigenerational study, Robert Waldinger measured happiness levels in people from Boston’s poorest neighborhoods. The most joyful were those with high-quality social connections.
Friend focus: surround yourself with people that accept you for you
This can be a tough one to conquer, but learning to move on from past regrets and accepting that you were the best possible you at that moment is a key step to self-acceptance. Indeed, even if we’ve become pretty good about being able to forgive others, self-forgiveness seems to be much more difficult.
So, in order to forgive ourselves, we first need to admit to ourselves that we made a mistake. Take ownership and acknowledge your error — then, try to retain what you learned from the event but release everything else (here's how to stop ruminating over things you cannot change). Try to appreciate those missteps for what they actually are: a stepping stone on your life path. Also, remind yourself that mistakes and failures are part of being human. In fact, it’s how we learn and grow.
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.
And stop rating yourself against others. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “comparison is the thief of joy,” and today this rings truer than ever. One way is to try to avoid scrolling endlessly through social media channels and comparing your life to that of others. Remember, people tend to present and project the positive images of their lives – you never really know how people are feeling behind the scenes.
Perhaps you've found yourself in a job you don't enjoy, an area you never wanted to live in, or single when you’ve always dreamed of being settled with a partner. Whatever it is, we often wonder what dreams are worth holding onto and whether, in fact, it's time to just let go.
“One of the most significant factors to be happy, and overall feel satisfied with your life, is self-acceptance.”
And when it is time to let go, it's not always easy. For some of these plans, giving them up can lead to freedom. But for other unrealized dreams, there can be deep grief involved. Whatever your situation, realize that letting go of unrealized dreams doesn't stop you dreaming of new situations and aspirations for your future! Reconcile who you are with the ideal image of your youth or younger self and grab hold of what's coming next.
Give to others and recognize how you can help and make a difference in others’ lives. The benefits of kindness are scientifically proven and both mental and physical.
The inner voice that has compassion, empathy, and love, to others, and to yourself.
Follow our 12 steps and learn how to practice self-acceptance
Cultivate self-compassion, in not judging yourself, or over-identifying with self-defeating thoughts or behaviour. Take care of your mind and body.
Use positive self-talk and practice PERT: Positive 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.
If this happens, there's no shame in seeking help – from a loved one or a professional – when things get too hard. 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.”
Arlo is a filmmaker, artist, lecturer, and intermittent practitioner of metta meditation and morning yoga. When not dreaming about impossible projects and making them happen in the most impractical ways possible, he journals, listens to jazz, or cuddles with his better half.
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