Self-acceptance means to accept your total self, including all your positive and negative attributes. According to Harvard Health, many people have trouble accepting themselves fully. Researchers theorize that if your parents were not empathetic, you might develop difficulty with self-acceptance.
There are a lot of self-words used to describe how people think and feel about themselves. Psychologists work with people who need to improve their self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-understanding, to name a few. But the basic human need of self-acceptance is the most profound and life-altering need a person has.
Because humans form their beliefs about themselves based partly on others’ approval, if your parents didn’t accept you for who you are, you may have trouble accepting yourself as an adult.
Most people find it easy to accept themselves when they do something good. People generally like themselves more when they pass a test, make a fancy dinner, or do something nice for someone else. According to researchers at the University of Virginia, self-acceptance relates to understanding that there is a difference between you and your actions.
Human beings have flaws. With self-acceptance, you know that your mistakes do not define or change who you are. A good person sometimes does bad things, while a bad person sometimes does what seem to be good things. You are not a bad person if you fail a test, burn dinner, or get upset at someone else.
Because self-acceptance can be a struggle for many people, researchers highlight specific techniques to help improve self-acceptance. These techniques include:
- Considering the Opinions of Others
- Your Positive Aspects
Affirmations are an excellent way to remind yourself that you are a good person, even when you make mistakes or fail. Affirmations are positive statements about yourself that you say aloud. It is a good idea to start your day with an affirmation. You may also want to memorize a few affirmations to use when you realize you’ve made a mistake or are feeling depressed about yourself.
Some examples of affirmations include:
- I am not a stupid person for acting stupidly. Rather, I am a non-stupid person who sometimes does stupid behavior.
- I am not foolish for acting foolishly. If I were a fool, I could never learn from my mistakes.
- I do not need to judge myself by how well I’m able to impress others, perform, or achieve.
- I am a human being with good and bad qualities, not superhuman or subhuman.
It may seem counter-productive to consider the opinions of others when working on self-acceptance. However, working through this exercise can help you see how other peoples’ opinions of you may contribute to difficulty with self-acceptance.
- First, list the people you knew when you were young, like your parents, teachers, and friends.
- Next, write down what they told you about yourself or what you thought they believed about you.
- Separate those messages into positive and negative opinions. Now ask yourself if that is who you are, or if you were told so many times that someone thought that of you, you started to believe it.
This exercise helps separate who you are, both good and bad, from what other people assumed you were or predicted about you.
Another way to improve self-acceptance is to focus on your positive aspects. People often dwell on the negative about themselves, making the negatives seem to outweigh the positives.
At the end of each day, think about what you did that was good and positive. Consider what skills and abilities you have that made those actions possible. Congratulate yourself on what went well and spend less time thinking about what went wrong.
Self-acceptance requires that you see yourself as a human being with both positive and negative attributes. Your actions do not define who you are because you can learn from your mistakes and make changes.