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  1. 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? Self-acceptance is: 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. https://youtu.be/nTjGotHozLk  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.  Written by Arlo LaibowitzArlo 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.
  2. I was never one of those skinny girls growing up. For a long time, this bothered me. I never wore a swimsuit, hated shorts even in ninety-degree weather, and I was generally down on myself. My poor body-image and lack of body positivity led to me not taking care of myself because I figured, “What’s the point? I’m going to be fat anyway.”  As I got older and more immersed into body-positive culture, I met a lot of people that were larger than me and sexy as hell. I was shocked how people flocked to them and they had—gasp—cellulite like me! But they didn’t care. They loved every part of themselves. Even if they had struggles at times, overall they were confident.  I wondered what was different about these people and why I couldn’t be more like them. So I started looking at the things they did and compared that to what I was doing.  The first thing I noticed was they all wore swimsuits and they certainly didn’t apologize for it. They didn’t lean over and cover their bodies so no one would see. They stood tall and walked with elegance to the pool or hot tub.  I also noticed that they didn’t walk around in sweatpants and baggy t-shirts. They dressed nice. Groomed. Put effort into their appearance. They believed they were worth that time and effort, so I believed it too.  Developing body positivity I started dressing nicer. Wearing makeup just for fun. I got contacts and stopped hiding my face with glasses. I even started wearing shorter skirts and swimsuits!  But I still wasn’t quite where I wanted to be with my confidence. While I was all for being healthy and losing weight, I knew that I needed to love myself as the ‘fat girl’ before making drastic changes in diet and exercise. Otherwise I’d find something else to pick apart. My teeth, my mom belly, my uneven eyes…  Learning to love my body as it was seemed like the best step. Shortly after this realization, I opened my email to find a note asking if I’d be interested in posing as a figure model. Before I could talk myself out of it, I agreed. I was going to pose nude for a bunch of strangers! It was for a sex-positive/body-positive studio called Catalyst. So they were even looking for someone like me, with a curvier body.  Being a figure model Of course, I was terrified to take off my robe once I got there, but I did it! Once I was in front of everyone, however, I stopped noticing the fact that I was naked. I was far more focused on the chill in the air and the nails not flush in the wall.  Once we were finished, I got to look at the drawings people made of me and I was surprised to find that they were beautiful. I was so happy! People didn’t see me how I thought they did and that helped me see myself clearer. I even came home with an original drawing of me!  Loving myself and developing body positivity hasn’t been easy. It’s taken years and I do occasionally fall back into bad habits. But when that happens, I remember how others saw me. Then I take a deep breath and do something loving for myself.     Modelphotos: Colourbox.com      Written by Sienna Saint-CyrSienna Saint-Cyr is an author, advocate, and the founder of SinCyr Publishing. She speaks at conventions, workshops, and for private gatherings on the importance of having a healthy body image, understanding enthusiastic consent, using sexuality to promote healing, navigating diverse or non-traditional relationships, having Complex PTSD, and more. Sienna loves sharing her journey of healing and finding happiness with her readers. Along with writing erotica and romance, Sienna speaks at conventions, workshops, and for private gatherings on such sex-positive topics as a healthy body image, using sexuality to promote healing, and navigating diverse or non-traditional relationships. She writes for several websites. Find out more at https://siennasaintcyr.wordpress.com/.
  3. Coming to grips with being kinky when you've been raised in a religious or very conservative household isn't easy. When sex is shamed, let alone any exploration outside of missionary style intercourse, finding out what’s even hot can be a challenge. Yet most of the kinkiest people I know have come from these sorts of family and societal dynamics. Many find self-acceptance through BDSM. How BDSM Can Help You Find Self-Acceptance So you’re kinky, now what? You can explore without jumping right in.  One thing that helped me—though my fear of exploration came from being abused—was with reading stories and seeing if they turned me on. This meant I explored a lot of topics. Some more Dominant and submissive related, others being about rough sex, some on bondage, then there’s fetishes… I explored many areas and found that most of them were hot for me in some way or another. Though I didn't always know why they were hot, just that they were.  I did a lot of reading in both fiction and non-fiction. Both are important because as I read the fiction and found it hot, a lot of it wasn't realistic. Therefore, the non-fiction came in to explain how things should really happen. It was also helpful in figuring out the why portion. The books that helped me most were The New Bottoming Book and The New Topping Book by Janet W. Hardy and Dossie Easton. As well as SM 101 by Jay Wiseman. For fiction, I suggest going to literotica.com or one of the other free sites, at least in the beginning.  Back it up with experimentation and exploration. Once you've explored with reading (and/or movies) and are fairly certain that you want to know more, that’s when I suggest asking around. While some venues can offer introductory courses and demonstrations, I've personally found this avenue riskier in the beginning. To start, try an internet search on kink/BDSM munches. Those are for meeting people and asking questions. No actual scenes take place. Chances are, you’ll find others there that have been raised in similar environments. Once you've met some good and trustworthy people, then find a venue to watch demos.  If you take things slow and gradually lower into kinky waters, you’re going to have an easier time adjusting and backing out, if you feel overwhelmed. When we've been taught—brainwashed—to believe that enjoying ourselves sexually is sinful or inappropriate, we have to face our shame and guilt eventually. This is why talking to others that have been through similar situations is helpful. Because this kind of shame and guilt is nonsense and serves no purpose other than to make us feel bad.  Open minds lead to self-acceptance. Owning who we are is beautiful, and accepting ourselves divine in its own right. So try not to judge yourself. Instead, remain open to what you feel based on the things you read, discuss, and later witness or take part in. Accepting ourselves means we get to experience a level of joy free of the guilt and shame we’d walked around with previously. This isn't limited to our sexual exploration but applies to all areas of our lives.  When we accept our kinky side and find self-acceptance, it means we get to be conscious about our choices rather than have that side sneak out in non-consensual ways. We get to express ourselves without judgement, have better sex, and more fun! In my experience, I've found almost everyone is kinky in some way. So be brave, explore, and experience the joy that comes with accepting and loving who you are!  And always remember: Listen to yourself, explore and it's ok to change your mind anytime.    Model Photo: Colourbox.com  Written by Sienna Saint-CyrSienna Saint-Cyr is an author, advocate, and the founder of SinCyr Publishing. She speaks at conventions, workshops, and for private gatherings on the importance of having a healthy body image, understanding enthusiastic consent, using sexuality to promote healing, navigating diverse or non-traditional relationships, having Complex PTSD, and more. Sienna loves sharing her journey of healing and finding happiness with her readers. Along with writing erotica and romance, Sienna speaks at conventions, workshops, and for private gatherings on such sex-positive topics as a healthy body image, using sexuality to promote healing, and navigating diverse or non-traditional relationships. She writes for several websites. Find out more at https://siennasaintcyr.wordpress.com/.
  4. Self-awareness compared to self-esteem Srini Pillay, MD, defines self-acceptance as “an individual’s acceptance of all his/ her attributes, positive or negative. It includes body acceptance, self-protection from negative criticism, and believing in one’s capacities” in his blog post on Greater Good. He links improved emotional well-being to self-acceptance.  Though closely related, self-acceptance is different from self-esteem as the latter refers to how worthwhile or valuable we see ourselves. The former, on the other hand, refers to a comprehensive affirmation of self. This allows us to accept all of ourselves, not just the good. We are able to recognize our limitations and weaknesses, but this by no chance hinders our ability to accept ourselves for who we are.  Many of us who have low self-acceptance try to suppress this by trying to accomplish great things. But this only serves as a Band-Aid approach to improving our self-esteem. Srini Pillay goes on to say that, “But this only helps your self-esteem for a while. That’s because achievement is a poor substitute for intimacy.”  The truth is, if we want to improve our self-esteem, then we need to honestly explore all parts of ourselves that we have not come to terms with and that we have not fully accepted. It’s only when we stop being harsh critics of ourselves that we can develop a positive sense of who we are. This then explains why self-esteem naturally goes up as soon as we become self-accepting, which is crucial to our emotional well-being and happiness.  What triggers self-approval from the word go? Much like self-esteem, we are able to become self-accepting as children to the extent our parents fully accept us. Scientific studies have shown that children who are younger than 8 don't have the ability to create a distinct sense of emotional well-being other than that demonstrated by their parents or other caregivers.  Extreme parental evaluation goes further beyond critiquing certain behaviors. For example, a parent may convey the message that their child is ungrateful, not smart enough… and so on and this significantly affects our self-acceptance. In short, most of us continue ‘parenting’ ourselves much like how we were parented.  What are the emotional and physical impacts of low self-accepting traits? It is true that with little or no self-approval, our psychological well-being suffers and even when we seek help, it is often less fruitful compared to other people in the same situation who are more self-accepting.  When we are low self-accepting, the brain sectors that control our emotions and stress levels have less gray matter compared to people who are self-accepting, meaning we physically have less tissue to work with in our brains which can trigger anxiety and stress.  How to accept ourselves So far we have seen that our parents and the environment around us have had a profound effect on our ability to become self-accepting. But, in truth, we need to let the past go and learn new techniques of accepting ourselves as we are. For the sake of our peace of mind, happiness and overall emotional well-being, we first need to accept ourselves unconditionally.  There are three main ways to boost our self-approval or acceptance levels and therefore our emotional well-being: • Self-regulation This allows us to shut down self- deprecating emotions such as not being good enough and focusing more on our positive attributes and restructuring negative occurrences, so we look at them as great opportunities that are meant to help us improve ourselves. • Self-awareness Sometimes, our self-accepting level goes further than our conscious level such that when we are not self-accepting, we essentially split ourselves and feel incomplete. That is, the part that needs forgiveness and the one that should forgive are at loggerheads. Self-awareness helps us understand what is happening at a deeper level. • Self-transcendence This allows us to depend on things that are outside of ourselves to define who we are. That is, we turn to an unseen force that connects us with the world. Some of the ways we can become self-transcendent is by contributing to charities, helping the less fortunate, and so on. Self-transcendence has been proven to impact our brains positively by increasing the release of our feel good hormones, that is, dopamine and serotonin which reduce our stress levels and give us emotional fulfilment. The role of meditation in increasing self-acceptance Loving-kindness and mindful meditations can help us become more self-accepting. By loving ourselves more and not judging ourselves, we are able to lower our brain response to anxiety and stress. As we practice these, the activity in our brain regions that affect emotions will start improving.  One size does not fit all! We are unique, and so not all of these methods work in the same for everyone. The important thing is to affirm that you need to become more self-accepting and start doing what works for you. Take it one little step at a time, and you will start seeing positive results.     Model Photo: Colorbox.com  Written by Guest AuthorWe are happy to publish articles by guest authors that will broaden the perspective and bring new insights. If you are interested in publishing an article here on happiness.org please contact us.
  5. The Journey to Accepting My Sexuality As long as I can remember I've had a longing, an appetite for the darkness, for 'forbidden fruit' and the so-called bad. Maybe that's why I got into so much trouble growing up. I met shady guys who took advantage of me. I became more and more destructive, until I realized that I didn't even knew who I was anymore. My journey to accepting my sexuality might be dark, but it ended in with such a wonderful thing.  I was jumping between men, hoping to find something I was longing for, needing actually. Someone who as good at at giving me spankings as giving me sweet kisses. Nothing I found was completely right for me. Instead of looking inside, deep down in my soul to find what I needed - what I was begging for. I just jumped on the next guy. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with doing that, but for ME, it only broke me down even more.  Until one day it just clicked. The day when my fiancé came into the picture everything changed. He saw me, through my body, passed all the walls I'd built. He saw that little girl and nurtured her. Took care of her. And that was probably where our fetish for DDlg started - without us even knowing.  Mr. B, as I call him, knows the exact amount of comforting that is needed after a rough night in bed. He understands, and views it as a privilege, that I'm his sub. That I chose to submit only to him. I'd been in the BDSM lifestyle for a while before I met Mr. B. Even still, I never totally understood what aftercare meant until I met him. For the first time in my life, I lived out BDSM to please me and my man, not to let other people destroy an already broken person.  Some say that you need to love yourself before you can love someone else. For me it's the exact opposite. Someone loving me has made me look at myself in a different way. And now I'm empowered. I'm strong. And I'm proud of my sexuality.  Accepting my sexuality - Accepting my kinks At the very beginning of my sexual journey I knew I liked it hard, the 'forbidden fruit' of the bedroom. But I didn't really experiment with it. It was the same thing every time: being tied up, spanked, whipped and once in a while a slap on the cheek. I liked it but I didn't really feel satisfied, not completely satisfied.  Then I met my fiancé. We lived on different continents and therefore sex became a lot more verbal. We experimented, and still do to this day, without our bodies even touching. Somewhere along the way, I started sorting out what my kinks were, and which were not.  First meeting... When we finally met for the first time, after a long time of long distance dirty talk and sex-cam action. A new journey started- the physical journey. Not until we were secure in our knowledge of each others bodies and minds, did we feel that we were ready to take the next step: Master/slave. We made a contract and everything. But we, especially Mr. B, felt a little intimidated by it. Like it was too much of a commitment to drop the role playing and live like this 24/7. In the middle of the situation my fiancé took the infamous 'BDSM test'.  I was laying in bed, minding my own business, when he started poking me with his finger. "You've gotta read this!" It was about Daddy Dom/ little girl. I read it and halfway through it was like everything was suddenly clear. This! This is what we are. This is what we already live 24/7.  From the beginning I was totally terrified. Fetishes like that are so misconstrued. But the more we talked about it, the more we realized that it wasn't that much of a choice. It's just who we are, we'd started living it freely, naturally.  Delicious forbidden fruit Today I feel like a little, really feel like it. I've let my princess side out more and more, which I hid earlier by wearing tom boy clothes and not acting girly at all. Today I've let that princess in me come out and be free and I'm so happy. It wasn't that much to overcome. It was more like poking at it a bit to come out and play. And if there's one kink that makes you feel complete. Makes you feel satisfied in more than the sexual aspect, go for it.  Afer accepting my sexuality I feel free, happy and unstoppable.    Modelphoto: Colorbox.com  Written by Princess EPrincess E is a Swedish freelancer who focuses on DDlg, which she's living 24/7. Most of her writings are based on her experiences with her Daddy; Mr. B. Runs a blog and can be found on Twitter.