Written by Karl Perera, MA, DipLC
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There are few things more important than accepting yourself for who and what you are. You cannot build your self esteem without first understanding the importance of self acceptance. After many years writing about self esteem and coaching clients with poor self image and low self worth, I will show you not only why self acceptance is important, but what steps you can take to increase it.
Self-acceptance enables you to understand and be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. By accepting yourself, you open the door to self-care and a much more positive attitude towards who you really are. This will create the opportunity to develop and improve yourself and your life.
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Self Acceptance Helps You Face Challenges
When problems come along, as they surely will, you need to be honest with yourself in order to overcome them. It is never a good idea to pretend to the world, and even worse to hide the truth from yourself. It’s not even possible to do the second, even though many people try to do just that.
Accepting the things about yourself that you cannot change, such as your personality and character, is extremely important as a starting point in self improvement.
One other good thing about accepting who you are is that it can give you a stronger and more accurate sense of your self image. In other words, when you look at yourself you will see more of the real you and less will be hidden.
Not Accepting Yourself Creates Inner Conflict
The importance of self acceptance is such that if you don’t practice it, you may have some of the following problems:
- Low self esteem – denying who you are or being blind to what you really want means you may suffer from low self esteem
- Living a lie – if you do not accept yourself and pretend to be what you are not, the result is a false life. If you feel you are living a life which is not you, perhaps you have this problem. It needs solving!
- Unhappiness – as a result of the above, low self esteem and living a lie will prevent you from enjoying life, as you are ignoring your inner voice, your values and your the desires of your heart.
- Becoming a victim – if you do not accept yourself, you may believe others’ criticism and become a victim of their negativity.
- Lacking self belief – low self confidence can result from being unsure of who you are and what you want. This can also be made worse by your feelings of being a victim.
A word of warning: sometimes there are things we want to forget about what has happened to us or what we have done. This is fine in principle but we must acknowledge the truth because events no matter how awful have made us what we are today. Never block out the truth or deny it, it’s best to be honest, especially with yourself. If you struggle with something in your past, or something you cannot cope with – seek help, do not suffer alone.
Self Acceptance Helps You to be More Self Aware
Self-acceptance means that you understand who you truly are and where your strengths and weaknesses lie. You know what you want. This will allow you to be comfortable with your place in the world and be honest with yourself. As this article by Garcia et al (2014) shows, self acceptance is one of the important factors that contribute towards happiness in life.
This is very important for several reasons. The first is that if you know who you are, you can be more confident about that person. You can also be more authentic, rather than trying to be something else. This should make you feel comfortable in your own skin and less stressed.
Secondly, if you accept yourself, you can decide more honestly about what you can do to use your strengths to their best effect. Which career would best suit you? What lifestyle do you long for? With self acceptance you can respect your answers rather than trying to be what others expect of you. With self acceptance comes choice and you can make it honestly.
Accepting Yourself Reduces Self Criticism
“This is an adaptive acceptance of one’s self regardless of the approval, respect or love received from other people”Lundh L.G.
Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 22 (2004), pp. 255-269 Link
In the above definition of self acceptance it can be seen that it is completely independent thinking that does not rely on anybody else’s opinion. If you can accept yourself honestly, you may be able to ignore what others believe about you. Criticism from others is often a major cause of low self esteem.
The importance of self acceptance can also be seen because it reduces pressure and stress which you might be giving yourself. Perfectionism is often a problem which honest acceptance can moderate. Athletes, for example, experience burnout from driving themselves too hard and from trying to be perfect. According to this article in the Journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise in 2008, self acceptance can help such athletes with burnout and the pressures of perfectionism.
Another source of low self esteem and a lack of confidence is negative self talk. This self talk is often highly critical and can hold a person back in their efforts. Self acceptance may involve accepting some things we may not like about ourselves, but to do this provides a basis for positive change.
Freeing ourselves from self criticism, (see my explanation of how to cope with criticism), you can then begin to face the challenges in your life and overcome them. Imagine being at ease with people, being able to speak in public and feel good about yourself.
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Acceptance Increases Your Self Esteem
Self acceptance allows you to see yourself in a better perspective.
If you accept yourself you also value yourself. As a result, you will tell others that they should respect who you are. You will also be able to accept others and not demand that they try to reach your standards. You will also be able to ask others for what you want and need.
Acceptance Makes You Happier
This study by McInnes, published in the Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing in 2006, found that self acceptance improves health and well-being, and is closely related to self esteem.
Accepting yourself will allow you to stop fighting in your mind. You can end conflict inside you by simply being honest about who you really are.
According to a study by Chamberlain and Haaga in 2001, the importance of self acceptance is because it is connected with positive mental health and in particular a reduction in depression, anxiety and increased happiness. They also found that self acceptance increased self esteem. The reason for this is that those who accept themselves are less likely to be self-critical (IBID, same source).
Self acceptance means that you are happy with who and what you are, but it does not mean that you give up hope of change or improvement. Self acceptance, as I explain here, will help you make solid progress in your self improvement because you need to see the truth about yourself. You can then accept it and decide whether or not you can change.
Self acceptance does not mean being happy with your present situation or standing still. Rather, you are free to change what you can in complete honesty with your truth.
What steps can you take to increase your self acceptance?
We have discussed the importance of self acceptance, but how do you actually go about accepting yourself? Here are a number of steps you can take:
- Take time to think about who you really are – your personality, your background, what makes you tick.
- Understand that there are both positive and negative aspects of who you are and you should accept these if you cannot change them. Denying the truth serves no one.
- Are there things about yourself which you don’t like? OK, maybe you can improve but first acknowledge them and accept them.
- Are you pretending to be something you’re not? Why are you doing this? Wouldn’t it be better to be honest with yourself?
- Self Hypnosis can really help you to learn how to start accepting yourself – easily and naturally, this will get you there much faster!
- Chamberlain, J.M., Haaga, D.A.F. Unconditional Self-Acceptance and Psychological Health. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy 19, 163–176 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1011189416600
- Garcia, D., Al Nima, A., & Kjell, O. N. (2014). The affective profiles, psychological well-being, and harmony: environmental mastery and self-acceptance predict the sense of a harmonious life. PeerJ, 2, e259.
- Hill, Hall, Appleton and Kozub. 2008. Perfectionism and burnout in junior elite soccer players: The mediating influence of unconditional self-acceptance. Psychology of Sport and Exercise. Volume 9, Issue 5, Pages 630-644.
- Lundh, L.G. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 22 (2004), pp. 255-269
- MacInnes, D. L. (2006). Self‐esteem and self‐acceptance: an examination into their relationship and their effect on psychological health. Journal of psychiatric and mental health nursing, 13(5), 483-489.
Website Author and Your Guide
Karl Perera is a fully qualified Life Coach (DipLC), Teacher (MA), and author of the book Self Esteem Secrets. He has taught at various universities including Durham, Leicester and Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge. He has run More-SelfEsteem.com since 1997 since suffering from low self esteem for more than 25 years overcoming it in his thirties.