How To Practice Self-Acceptance & Why Is It So Hard
Accepting yourself for who you are is one of the keys to inner peace. Self-acceptance allows us to treat ourselves as we were our best friend. It helps us foster a healthy and sustainable relationship with our inner selves. Sadly though, fostering self-acceptance is sometimes easier said than done. That is why today we discuss how to practice self-acceptance and some common reasons why it can sometimes be so hard.
Why Is It Hard to Practice Self-Acceptance? 3 Reasons
Many individuals who try to embark on a self-acceptance journey tend to realize that it is not always as easy as it seems. There might be many challenges that make it difficult to develop a healthy, accepting relationship with our inner selves. But, why? Let's explore some common reasons that make practicing self-acceptance difficult.
1. We do not understand what self-acceptance is
Sometimes practicing self-acceptance can be difficult because we simply misunderstand what it is. Some erroneously think that self-acceptance means compromising or giving up. They believe that accepting your flaws automatically means giving up. They tend to think that self-acceptance entails understanding your flaws, accepting them, and then sitting back and doing nothing about it. Similarly, others believe that self-acceptance is synonymous with self-confidence or self-esteem.
All of these views are misunderstanding what self-acceptance truly is. Self-acceptance means accepting our flaws, but still seeing them. It means not denying your flaws or invalidating yourself; but rather embracing them for who you are. It does not mean giving up or sitting back and doing nothing.
2. We have never felt accepted
As discussed before, we tend to misunderstand what self-acceptance is. But, why? Why don't we know what self-acceptance is and how does it feel like? Well, typically we do not understand it because we have not felt accepted throughout our lives. We were likely raised in an environment or by people that did not make us feel accepted for who we are, which in turn, has hindered our capacity to be accepting towards ourselves.
For instance, I met a person a couple of months ago and he told me that "I never experienced being seen and accepted as I am from my father. I always had to go the extra mile in order to feel seen by him. I eventually created a fake persona. I was one person with him and another person when I was with people that accepted me. But, as I was growing, the first persona increased more, and the second, the real person, got hidden more and more."
This case exemplifies what lack of self-acceptance looks like. It motivates people to adapt their selves according to other's demands and abandoning your needs and feelings. It entails becoming what others want and need, instead of what you really need; lack of self-acceptance leads to abandoning your authentic self.
So, if you have seldom experienced acceptance from others in your life, it can be quite difficult to grasp what self-acceptance is and to practice it. If you do not know what something is, how can you become it? How can you practice self-acceptance if you do not know what it looks like?
3. We feel shame and guilt
Some might find it hard to practice self-acceptance because they experience a great amount of shame. They might feel ashamed of who they are and, therefore, do not allow themselves to be their authentic selves. Typically, this shame originates from trauma. When somebody has experienced trauma, it affects the way they see themselves. They tend to see themselves as somebody who made mistakes, who was responsible for something, and needs to be punished for it; they believe that they must carry the shame for their mistakes for the rest of their lives. As a result, feeling guilty or ashamed due to past traumas can lead some to find it difficult to accept themselves for who they are.
How To Practice Self-Acceptance in 3 Steps
Now that we have learned what can hinder our self-acceptance journey, let's delve into how to foster self-acceptance and how to learn to be more accepting of our flaws and who we are.
1. Understand what self-acceptance truly is
The first step is to understand what self-acceptance truly means. Simply put, self-acceptance looks like accepting yourself, even when you have made mistakes. Again, it does not mean sitting down and not doing anything. Rather, it means accepting yourself (mistakes and all), but learning from these mistakes. The key is to view yourself as somebody who is no better or worse than those around you. We all make mistakes from time to time. Embracing our humanness and understanding that making mistakes is simply human allows us to be more compassionate towards ourselves when we fail. It is not giving up, but accepting yourself and seeing yourself in a context full of people that make mistakes, just as you do. At the same time, it entails learning to deal with these mistakes. Dealing with them not with criticism, attacks, punishment, humiliation, or with blame; but learning to see the mistakes, learn from them, forgive ourselves, and then do better in the future, if we can.
In short, self-acceptance is being a good friend to yourself. Here we list what self-acceptance is not, and what does it actually looks like:
Self-acceptance is not:
Self-acceptance indeed is:
2. Start journaling
One second step you could take is to start journaling. For instance, you can try writing statements and affirmation such as:
3. Practice gratitude
Another step you can take is to practice gratitude. Practice gratitude not only for the things that you get and experience every day, but also for you being here every day. For example:
Accepting ourselves for who we are is key to cultivating good mental health and healthy relationships. In order to become more self-accepting, we must understand why are we finding it difficult in the first place. Thereafter, there are many things, such as journaling and practicing gratitude, that can help us along the way. Throughout your self-development journey, please remember, you are not alone.
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