Why is Self-Acceptance So Vital to Our Happiness?

Without self-acceptance, we are plagued with low self-esteem, guilt, anxiety, internal judgment, criticism and even possible depression. What is it about self-acceptance that makes such a difference? Let’s delve in and see.

Self-acceptance interrupts the negative

When we embrace self-acceptance, we stop judging ourselves. Our self-criticisms and negative talk stop. A daily regime of negative talk, judgment, criticism, etc. gets internalized to the point that we believe all of it and think we aren’t capable of more. Instead of seeing moments of weakness, we believe we are weak. Instead of recognizing some habits that aren’t helpful, we believe we are deeply flawed. This is a widespread problem, so no one questions it. Instead, we spend hundreds of dollars on self-help books to “fix” ourselves.

But, fixing ourselves never feels like enough. There is always another way to be fixed. We never feel we are enough. We feel broken, wrong, not worthy, there is always another “bad” part of us to overcome. What if, instead, we accept every part of us? Even the messy bits.

Self-acceptance is our natural state

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We are born self-accepting. Babies know what they need and want, and don’t care what someone else thinks of it. I think most everyone loses that along the way. Why? Innate desire to survive. We are born needing to belong. We are hard wired to crave the love, affection, and acceptance of our tribe. If our tribe asks us to change who we are in order to be accepted, we will do it to survive. This may come from family, friends, teachers, or anyone of influence to us. This is a distortion of true belonging though. Belonging, what we crave, is being accepted for who we are. If we have to change, we are fitting in, and that is a poor substitute for belonging.

illustration of drama masks. one smiling, one frowning. self-acceptance

When we warp our true selves to fit in, to be what others want, they aren’t loving us. They are loving a pretend version of us. As mention, this can begin very early. It can begin so early that we aren’t aware we are presenting a false version of ourselves. Some part of us sees it though. Part of our psyche recognizes the sham going on. It sees the falsehood and longs for authenticity. We aren’t happy how society tells us to be. The conscious part of us interprets this as needing to be fixed and so the cycle starts.

We don’t have to conform though, because we aren’t living in a time where it is vital to our survival. We can search out our own tribe and find where we belong. Because of this, we can embrace self-acceptance, stop trying to be someone we aren’t, and not just survive, but thrive.

Self-acceptance validates us

Our true selves, our most authentic selves, are not only positive. Self-acceptance recognizes and even welcomes the acknowledgment of the messy bits too. You can acknowledge that something exists without judging it. Everyone has negative aspects. We don’t have to judge them though. Instead, we can take notice, accept it, and perhaps make plans later to adjust it. There is no need to hate that part of ourselves in the meantime.

It is so much easier to fulfill your needs and take care of yourself when you can see that you are as deserving as anyone else. Your needs are valid.

When we accept all of ourselves and stop judging, all kinds of good things happen. You stop doubting how deserving you are. It is so much easier to fulfill your needs and take care of yourself when you can see that you are as deserving as anyone else. Your needs are valid. You can take time to care for yourself. It is ok to set boundaries for how you will allow yourself to be treated. Your needs for love, affection and attention are valid and deserve to be fulfilled.

Acknowledging your true self and accepting that person, enables us to identify what we want in life. We can nail down our true purpose. When you find self-acceptance, you can hone in on what is important to us as opposed to what others have conditioned us to see as important. They may be the same things, but they shouldn’t be by default.

Self-acceptance gives us ourselves

You want to be able to move forward with goals based on what you, and not others, need and believe. Imagine creating a life in alignment with your truth. You will start feeling more confident in your decisions rather than like you don’t measure up. There will be trust that you are moving in the right direction. You may even find talents and gifts that were buried under who you were “supposed” to be. Being yourself, they can shine.

Acceptance gives you permission to practice kindness with the person you’ve historically been the least kind to: you. If you give it a real try, you’ll see how the criticisms get lighter. Self-doubt shakes off. Shame dissipates. Hating yourself becomes a rare phenomenon. Slowly, your beliefs about yourself shift from less-than to enough, from powerless to empowered.

Self-acceptance is my refusal to be in an adversarial relationship with myself - Nathaniel Branden

With knowing and accepting yourself, this leads to being able to develop more authentic relationships with others. They will know you better, and you, learning how to find even the mess parts of yourself valuable, are able to find more compassion and acceptance for others.

Self-acceptance is powerful and the very foundation of our happiness. I hope I’ve laid out some convincing reasons why. Please comment with any questions or comments you make have. This is a very important conversation to have and to continue.

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My Simple Method for Beating Negative Thoughts

 

I’ve written before about 5 Steps Toward Self Acceptance. Those aren’t the only steps, and I’m sure to write about more later. Today though, I want to expand on the second one in that post. Work on fighting negative thoughts.

The Truth About Negative Thoughts

The truth is, they aren’t the truth. Negative thoughts are our brain catastrophizing the situation. It is really good at coming up with the worst case scenario. These are irrational thoughts, and not based on the facts of the situation. If your conclusions about yourself or your situation don’t take positives into account, they aren’t accurate. There is a good reason pro and con lists are so common. You can’t just look at one side of an issue and make an accurate judgment. The same goes for people.

Why to Fight Them

Your life, your choices, your self-worth should be based on reality. Since negative thoughts are irrational, they are not what your life should be based on. We need to fight them so choices and self-worth can be made with a balanced, authentic view.

The truth is, we do have negative aspects to us. Everyone has negative traits. That isn’t all there is to us though. We each have plenty about us that is positive also.

Focusing on our negative thoughts can also lead us to feel there is no point in shooting for our dreams or trying something new. If you find yourself indecisive, always procrastinating, etc. you are probably struggling with negative thoughts.

Exercise #1

I want you to take a moment and either print off this worksheet, or find a sheet of paper and number it 1-10. Now come up with 10 positive things about yourself. It can be anything from “holds doors for people” to “I like my math skills”. Really, anything positive you can think of. Go ahead, I’ll wait for you.

My Simple Method for Beating Negative Thoughts

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Now, put that list up somewhere you will see it every day. It may feel silly, but it is important to give yourself this reinforcement. You need to be reading that list over at least once a day, and there is no such thing as reading it too much.

Next Step – Fight Back

Now that you’ve had practice with positive thoughts, we will talk about fighting those negative thoughts. A pervasive problem with negative thoughts is that we get so used to hearing these thoughts from ourselves that we aren’t even aware of them anymore. Not as what they are anyway. We give them the same, or more, importance as our other thoughts. To fight them, we need to be more aware of them.

Some negative thoughts are more obvious than others. Thinking you are a horrible person, are bad at something, etc are obviously negative thoughts that you should work to counteract. If you feel you everyone is against you, you have bad luck, or constantly think “what if”(what if I went to college after all, what if I had/hadn’t married them, what if I had taken that job, etc), those are all nonconstructive, negative thought patterns also.

I want you to start paying attention to how often you have a negative thought. Every time you do, mentally (or even out loud), say, “Stop!” and don’t allow that train of thought to continue. Then, counter the negative with a positive version. It helped me to come up with counter thoughts to each negative ahead of time.

For example, a common negative thought I would have is that I was a terrible mom. On a good day, I could see my kids were doing well, my husband thought I was doing great, and my parents thought I was doing a good job also. So, on my bad days, the thought of me as a bad parent would come up, and I would think, “Stop!” and then remind myself of all of those positives. It helped me to see that just maybe I wasn’t seeing things very clear right now.

Exercise 2

So, for this exercise, get a new piece of paper, or print off this worksheet and write down 2 or 3 of your most common negative thoughts right now. Then, write at least 2 counter arguments to each. Ask a friend or loved one for help if you need it. Arm yourself with positive statements to remember when these destructive thoughts come to mind.

At first it may feel silly or pointless, but keep at it. Before long, you will be able to replace those negative thoughts easily and eventually they will stop coming.

When you stop telling yourself negative, destructive things, you can start building yourself up, and eventually work toward improving things you may want improved.

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The Fundamental Key to Happiness

New year, new me. It seems like that is always the theme this time of year. There is always a push to be changing and fixing yourself. Bettering yourself is a wonderful idea, but I really feel it is better to approach it from a place of loving yourself and not hating yourself. So I feel it’s better to work on self-acceptance first.

Self-acceptance is your satisfaction or overall happiness with yourself. It has a broader reach than self-esteem. While self-esteem focuses more on the positives, and the value we place on ourselves as individuals, self-acceptance is embracing all of yourself, both positive and negative.

Why is this important?

Self-acceptance quote "Accepting yourself is about respecting yourself. It's about honoring yourself right now, here today, in this moment. Not just who you could become somewhere down the line." Kris Carr

You are living with yourself, right now. All the strengths and weaknesses you deal with day to day are your reality. Self-acceptance is being able to embrace all of that, and stop judging yourself. Embracing everything about yourself, the good, the bad, and the ugly, allows you to move past self pity and self hate and into a more productive place.

Once you can have compassion and understanding for yourself, you stop wasting time being critical of your short comings. You can recognize your failings, and move past them. You can actually appreciate your good traits, and take advantage of them to help build the life you want.

Self-acceptance quote "Instead of trying to mend me, I decided to enjoy me. Instead of trying to solve me, I decided to discover me. It was one of the best decisions of my life." S. C. Lourie

Change that comes from a place of acceptance instead of derision is more successful. You will relieve so much pressure on yourself by being ok with where you are in life and who you are right now. Being happy and feeling good about yourself doesn’t leave you drained like self criticism. You can do so much with that energy. Loving yourself as you are means being ok with not being successful right away with a change. When you aren’t worried about your deficiencies you have mental energy available to focus on other things.

Can you imagine not obsessing over what you aren’t? Imagine the freedom. Picture being aware of it, but being able to focus on your strengths instead. Celebrating yourself as you are. It’s a beautiful thing.  I know, because I recently found that freedom. I’ll be sharing my story in an upcoming blog post.

Back to that freedom. Can you see why it is such a basic foundation to happiness? People are always searching for ways to be happy. There is lots of talk about improving self-esteem, but I think we all need to start much more basic and fundamental. Really, everyone tries to start backward. Losing weight, getting organized, buying new things, none of those things are going to help your self-esteem, and working on your self-esteem isn’t going to work, until you accept yourself.

In this blog, I want us to start at the foundation. I want us to work on improving our self-acceptance. All the rest will fall into place after that. I’ve striven for better self-esteem for so long. Once I started to understand and accept myself as I am, the rest just sorta happened. I still need to work on it, but that’s why I’m excited about the blog. I want to work on it with you!  How fun to have someone to do this with!

Sounds great! Now what?

Well, that’s also coming in future blog posts. So, click to subscribe, and be sure to come back and read more!

Please feel free to leave comments below. I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

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