You might find yourself asking how acceptance is going to help with the goal of being your best self. After all, in Western culture, we often mistakenly believe that shaming, blaming and criticizing ourselves will force us into making the changes we desire. However, according to the psychologist Carl Rogers, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
Definition of Acceptance
What is the definition of “acceptance”? Contrary to popular belief, acceptance does not mean “liking,” “wanting” or even “resigning oneself to.” Instead, acceptance means to willingly tolerate the circumstances of reality. Self-acceptance means, therefore, acknowledging and allowing the present experience of who we are to be exactly as it is.
For many of us, the thought of self-acceptance seems like a passive approach. But, in reality, acceptance is an action. It’s a choice we make in the moment...and it’s one that can have powerful implications.
Benefits of Self-Acceptance
Accepting all the good things about ourselves doesn’t take much effort. But, how about accepting our less desirable traits, our shortcomings, our uncomfortable thoughts and feelings? This can be difficult, but practicing self-acceptance
- enables us to decrease (or even avoid) suffering. To paraphrase the Buddhist sentiment, “pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” This means that we can expect pain to be a part of the human condition. It’s our resistance to and judgment of the pain that adds suffering. Acceptance does the opposite.
- helps us problem solve. By freeing up the internal resources otherwise spent resisting or denying who we are, self-acceptance allows us the mental space to determine what changes we’d like to make.
- supports psychological health by decreasing negative emotions that come with judging ourselves.
- strengthens addiction recovery. Self-acceptance enables us to stop struggling against the parts of ourselves we dislike, to take a realistic appraisal of our character defects and to accept others unconditionally.
Now that we have a better understanding of the “why” behind practicing self-acceptance, let’s explore the “how.” The following are just a few of the near-infinite number of ways we can begin to cultivate self-acceptance:
- Try a guided self-acceptance meditation, like this one from mindful.org
- If you’re in recovery, work the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous
- Write yourself a letter that offers forgiveness for the mistakes you’ve made
- Read a book, such as The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown, PhD or Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach, PhD
- Tackle unhelpful thinking brought about by your inner critic
If you’re in need of support in developing self-acceptance, the compassionate professionals at Travco Behavioral Health can help. Contact us today to get started!