What does it even mean to “accept yourself, just as you are?” Well, for me, true self-acceptance means having unconditional positive regard for the things you like about yourself, and the things you don’t. In other words, I don’t have to LIKE how directionally challenged I am (sometimes I get lost in my own neighborhood!), but I can still accept myself despite that flaw.
Self-acceptance is not something you have, it’s something you DO. It’s an active process that involves a willingness to experience thoughts, feelings, and emotions without denying yourself love.
Now that doesn’t mean that you can’t change things for the better.
For example, suppose you have a cranky three year old who is getting on your last nerve. You don’t WANT to scream at him, but you just couldn’t help it and you’ve done it, you’ve let it rip and now you feel terrible.
A woman who lacks self-acceptance would automatically try to deny or repress those feelings, disassociate themselves from the reality of how they feel. The consequence of this would most likely manifest itself physically in the form or further frustration with the child, tension in her shoulders, and even anger at the other people in her life (maybe even the dog.) And the downward spiral begins.
How do I know?
Because the person I just described was me 4 years ago.
This occured because, by denying how I really felt, I was coming from a place of self-deception and a denial of reality. As a result, I didn’t take appropriate action when I was feeling fried and ready to lash out. (Some ideas would be to go to the bathroom and take 10 deep breaths, call a friend to vent, or take everyone into the backyard for a change of scenery.)
Had I accepted rather than denied the feelings of frustration I may have made a better choice.
THREE TIPS FOR ACCEPTING YOURSELF EXACTLY AS YOU ARE:
Remember that you don’t have to like everything that you accept. One of the biggest misconceptions my clients have about self-acceptance, is that it means they have to LIKE everything about themselves. They worry that this means they will never change. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. A self-accepting person realizes that reality is real and that running away isn’t going to solve their problems.
Know that there is always a reason for every wrong. Self-acceptance involves the idea of compassion, of being a friend to yourself. For example, if you have done something that you are ashamed of, or something that you regret, self-acceptance would mean that you look at the context in which the action was taken. It encourages you to understand why you behaved that way.
DO self-acceptance rather that BE it. Unlike self-esteem, which is determined by how you feel about yourself, self-acceptance is something you must DO. To be self-accepting is to be on your own side, to be for yourself and to unconditionally love yourself.