How to Love and Accept Yourself (Self Acceptance)
In its most simplest form, self acceptance means accepting yourself fully for the person you are. True self acceptance therefore comes from an acceptance of the things you like about yourself, and the things you don’t.
As a result, self acceptance is something that you do. It is an active process that involves a willingness to experience thoughts, feelings and emotions without denial or evasion.
A lack of self acceptance involves an unwillingness to experience these thoughts, feelings and emotions, thereby leading to a rejection of the self, or self rejection.
To be self accepting therefore means to honestly accept the facts of your reality, rather than trying to deny, disown or repress the things which you don’t like about yourself or your life.
As you will soon discover in this article, self acceptance does not mean that you can’t change the things you dislike, but rather, that it’s the only way that you can change things for the better.
Giving Yourself the Power to Change
Although self acceptance involves a willingness to accept and experience your feelings, this does not mean that once you are self accepting you will become ruled by your emotions and incapable of logical thought.
For example, suppose today you are not in the mood to work, but you know that you have to because you have an important project which you must complete.
A person who lacks self acceptance would automatically try to deny or repress those feelings, disassociating themselves from the reality of how they feel. The consequence of this would most likely manifest itself physically in the form of frustration, tension, boredom or even anger.
This occurs because by denying how you truly feel, you begin your day with self-deception and a denial of reality. As a result, you do not take appropriate action to remedy the situation, which then causes an internal conflict within you that manifests itself as the physical symptoms previously described.
However, a person who is self accepting can acknowledge that they may not be in the mood to work, but rather than trying to fight against those feelings by denying or repressing them, they accept their feelings and get started on the project.
By accepting the true reality of their situation they do not begin their day with self-deception, and therefore, do not create an internal conflict within themselves. As a result, they begin their day with a clear mind and a focused approach to their work.
Self acceptance and your health
When it comes being self accepting, accepting what you experience, or have experienced, is a crucial component of self acceptance and may even play a role in determining how healthy you will be in the future.
Many doctors, for example, now believe that a large number of diseases are caused by negative emotions which a person has held onto their entire life. Feelings such as hate, anger or resentment literally build up inside that person because they are unable to accept them and release them through the act of forgiveness.
In fact, many of these doctors have told of how their once “incurable” patients healed themselves by learning to accept and forgive the wrong that was done to them in the past.
For many patients, this forgiveness did not come easily and required much courage to confront the pain that they had been repressing their whole life.
Importantly, it was only once these patients had acknowledged, experienced, confronted and understood the reality of their situation, were they then able to release the negativity that had made them so sick.
This example is just one of the remarkable benefits that self acceptance can give you and your life.
You don’t have to like everything you accept
One of the biggest misconceptions that people have about self acceptance, is that self acceptance means liking everything and being able to change nothing. This could not be further from the truth!
Self acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean liking or enjoying, but rather, it means accepting the true reality of a situation whether you find it pleasant or not.
A self accepting person realizes that reality is reality and that running away from their problems will not solve them. They also realize that whilst they may accept something which they dislike, they can still be determined to change or improve it.
For example, suppose that you are uncomfortable with a certain part of your body. You can accept that you don’t like the way it currently is, and then recognize that, for the time being, in your present reality, it is what is.
By accepting the feelings associated with this part of your body, which in this case will most likely be a negative feeling, you put yourself in a position where you can take appropriate steps to change or improve it, if it is possible for you to do so.
If you did not accept the negative feelings you experienced from this part of your body and instead chose to deny or disown them, then it is very unlikely that by ignoring these feelings would you ever take effective and appropriate action to alter that part of your body.
In other words, by lacking self acceptance, you also lack the power and control needed to affect a meaningful change into your life.
There is always a reason for every wrong
Self acceptance also involves the idea of compassion, of being a friend to yourself. For example, if you have done something which you are ashamed of, or something which you regret, self acceptance would not mean trying to argue that what was wrong was right.
Rather, self acceptance involves looking at the context in which the action was taken. It wants to understand the why. It wants to know why something that feels wrong, felt desirable, appropriate or even necessary at the time.
This last point is especially important, as it’s impossible to fully understand why someone did the things they did without first examining the internal processes and reasons that prompted their behavior in the first place.
To illustrate this point, consider the example of a murderer or serial killer. If you ask a murderer why they killed someone, often they will tell you that they believed that person should die and then provide a reason why. In their mind, this reason justified their action and allowed them to carry out the act.
This same principle is found with all people, not just criminals. Everyone has a reason which in their mind justified their action as being right at the time they did it, even though what they did may have been terribly wrong. Acceptance involves the examination of this reason.
So when practicing self acceptance, it’s importance realize that there is always some kind of context in which the worst of actions can have their sense. True acceptance comes not from viewing wrong as right, or right as wrong, but rather from understanding the context and the resulting action that came from it.
Self Esteem and Self Acceptance
If you have the wrong beliefs programmed into your mind, then no matter what self-improvement you try to do it will never stick because the subconscious will reject it.
It is only by learning to accept yourself and improving your level of self-esteem, will you create a mind that is ready and willing to permanently accept the improvements which you are trying to make in your life.
If you have tried to make improvements in your life before, but nothing ever seemed to stick, now you know why. Your subconscious mind rejected those improvements because they were inconsistent with the beliefs your subconscious already had.
The difference between self esteem & self acceptance
Your level of self-esteem is determined by how you feel about yourself and what you believe that you are capable of doing or becoming. Self esteem is therefore something which you experience, it is a feeling and a belief.
Although self acceptance is very similar to self-esteem, it differs in that self acceptance is something which you must do. To be self accepting is to be on your own side, to be for yourself and to love yourself.
In its most fundamental sense, self acceptance means recognizing your value as a person (self-worth) and being happy being the person you are, regardless of your faults or weaknesses.
In this way, self acceptance is much more primitive than self-esteem and is basically an act of self-affirmation. Self acceptance could therefore be viewed as a natural kind of egotism, one that is the birthright of every human being.
Without self acceptance, it’s virtually impossible for a person to grow and reach their maximum potential in life. Without being able to accept yourself and love yourself for the person you are, it’s therefore very unlikely that any self-improvement you try to incorporate into your life will ever have any lasting effect.
As a result, no matter how hard you try to improve yourself and change your life for the better, you will always seem to be stuck in the past, never being able to advance forward.
Subconscious beliefs, subconscious sabotage
Your level of self acceptance is a direct reflection of beliefs that have been programmed into your subconscious mind throughout your entire life. Most of these beliefs were created during your childhood, teenage and early adult years of life.
A lack of self acceptance stems from a belief that you are unworthy of achieving success or happiness. It is a belief that you can’t do or experience something because of something about yourself which you believe prevents you from doing or experiencing it.
With this belief programmed into your mind, your subconscious will then act out this limiting belief system by preventing you from obtaining the thing which you consciously want. It does this by rejecting any new information that goes against the original belief.
For example, suppose John is overweight. John has a belief that being overweight means he is unattractive, which means that no woman would want to be with him.
As a result, whenever he is around women he has a voice inside his head which tells him “they would never fancy me, I’m too fat” and so John never even attempts to pursue women romantically, even though one of his friends told him a girl thought he was cute.
Because John lacks self acceptance, he believes that his physical appearance prevents him from having any success with women. Even though his friend told him that a girl thought he was cute, his subconscious mind rejected that information because it clashed with his existing belief that being overweight means being unattractive.
Peter on the other hand, is also overweight, but he doesn’t believe that being overweight makes him unattractive. He accepts that whilst he may not have a ripped six-pack, this doesn’t necessarily mean that no woman would find him attractive.
Peter is comfortable with his body and isn’t afraid to go after women he likes. How does Peter do with women? He may get a few rejections, but he also has his successes too!
The difference between John and Peter is that John lacks self acceptance, and by doing so, automatically accepts and reinforces the limiting negative beliefs that have been programmed into his subconscious mind.
Unlike John however, Peter accepts himself for the person he is and so isn’t afraid to try his luck with women. He lives his life with beliefs that empower him, rather than living a life with beliefs that restrict or limit him.
How “Sticky” is Your Mind?
A mind that lacks self acceptance is like a non stick frying pan. You can put things into the frying pan and even cook with it, but ultimately, whatever you put in will not stick and is easily removed.
In the same way, a lack of self acceptance and the subconscious processes that fuel it, will allow you to absorb new information into your mind, use it for a while, but soon lose what you learned and then go back to your old limiting beliefs.
This leaves you exactly where you first began, and so in the long run, no real progress is made.
The important point to remember here, is that through a lack of self acceptance you only strengthen the negative limiting beliefs that dwell inside your subconscious mind.
By fully accepting yourself however, you do not automatically make these limiting beliefs go away, but rather, you stop reinforcing them thereby making them weaker and weaker over time until they eventually die out on their own.
All beliefs in the mind, whether good or bad, need attention to grow just like a plant in a garden. If you neglect it, the plant will die. This is how beliefs work in the garden of your subconscious.
Every belief you have you either reinforce or weaken through your thoughts and actions. A lack of self acceptance is just one of the ways that people strengthen their limiting beliefs.
The battle for your subconscious mind
Because limiting beliefs do not immediately go away, but rather gradually weaken over time, self improvement is initially a battle between the conscious and subconscious mind.
Consciously, you may be trying to improve your life with new techniques and methods, but if you have a “non stick mind” and are lacking self acceptance, then your subconscious will constantly be trying to tell your conscious mind that things are not working, that they are not happening quick enough and that you should give up.
This occurs because there is an imbalance of opposing beliefs. Whilst you are trying to plant a new belief in the garden of your subconscious, your old belief is still there and still trying to influence you.
Because the new belief that you have planted is still young and weak, you will have to fight off that old belief until your new belief becomes stronger and your old belief fades away.
It is during this time that the new belief you have planted is most vulnerable. If you do give up and go back to your old way of thinking, acting or doing, then the old subconscious belief wins which further reinforces it and makes it stronger. This then makes future battles that much more difficult.
This is precisely why persistence (i.e. the ability to keep going no matter what happens) and self-discipline (i.e. the ability to do what you know you should do, whether you feel like it or not) are so important when it comes to making meaningful and lasting positive changes to your life.
If you lack either of these two traits, then self-improvement becomes much more difficult.
Should the conscious mind persist and obtain victory, then the subconscious mind is forced to re-examine and change its initial belief, thereby incorporating your new belief.
This then makes future battles with the subconscious that much easier, until eventually, it is completely reprogrammed with the beliefs you want it to have.
Simultaneously this will also strengthen your level of persistence and self-discipline, which again makes future battles with the subconscious that much easier.
Two minds in the same mind
Just remember that self improvement is a constant battle between programmed beliefs in the subconscious mind and desired beliefs in the conscious mind.
Subconscious beliefs are always going to be much stronger than those in the conscious mind and so battles against the subconscious will be very difficult.
However, this does not mean that such battles cannot be won. So if you are defeated, get up and try again because eventually the subconscious will give in if you persist for long enough.
The job of your conscious mind is to implant the best beliefs into your subconscious and to then hold your ground until that new belief has had time to establish itself and the old belief has died away.
Once your new belief has been established, remember to reinforce it with your thoughts and actions because otherwise it may fade away and the good that you have done will be lost.
An Exercise to Help You Love & Accept Yourself
In order to improve your level of self acceptance, you need to make an honest assessment of its current level. To do this, you must first stand in front of a mirror completely naked so that you can see your face and your body.
The aim here is to look at the very core of you as a person and to see what feelings arise as you look upon yourself. These feelings may be about your body, or they may be about you as a person. Be open and receptive to whatever comes.
When doing this exercise, do not focus on your makeup, jewelry or anything else that is not you. Ideally, you should be completely naked with nothing on at all, not even makeup. This is important because anything else that is not you is a mask that hides or alters the real you, and so will only interfere with the process.
To begin the process, look at your body. Notice if this is difficult or if it makes you feel uncomfortable. If you are like most people, then you will probably like some parts of your body more than others. This is ok.
You may find some parts of yourself difficult to look at because they make you feel uncomfortable. If this occurs, then it may indicate a pain which you do not wish to confront. Something that you may have been denying, repressing or evading the reality of.
Perhaps you are too fat? Or too thin? Perhaps you see signs of aging and cannot bare to stay connected with the emotions these things cause in you?
Whatever the discomfort that you experience, the natural impulse will be to escape, to shift your awareness, reject, deny or disown these aspects of yourself.
However difficult you may find this exercise, stay focused on the image you see in the mirror. Now say to yourself “whatever my imperfections are, I completely and without reservation accept myself“.
Another shorter phrase that you could use is “I accept myself for the way I am“. The exact phrasing doesn’t matter, so use a phrase that you are comfortable with but one that has a similar meaning.
Remember, the purpose of this exercise is to accept yourself fully for the person you are and this involves accepting the true reality of a situation, regardless of whether you like it or dislike it.
Say the phrase that you have come up with to yourself over and over again whilst looking at various parts of your body. Start with your toes and finish with your head, saying to each body part that you accept it for the way it is.
End the exercise by looking directly into your eyes and holding the gaze. Tell yourself that you completely accept yourself for the way you are. Allow yourself to fully experience the meaning of your words, so say them with emotion.
A good time to do this is in the morning after a shower before you leave the house, or at night before going to bed. This is because the subconscious mind is most susceptible to programming during these periods of the day.
What is most important when doing this exercise is to give yourself time to experience any emotions looking at a body part may cause in you. Some parts of your body will make you feel good, bad or nothing at all. So do not rush the process and be willing to fully experience what it is that you are experiencing.
If you find yourself quickly skipping over a certain body part, or that you lack meaning/emotion in your words of acceptance, pay particular attention to the areas that this occurs.
The ease of which you are able to accept your body and say words of acceptance with meaning and emotion, will indicate your overall level of self acceptance. So if you are unable to complete this exercise because you think it is silly or too hard, then your level of self acceptance is most likely very low.
How can I accept what I don’t like?
Whilst doing this exercise you may find yourself protesting that you don’t like certain things about your body and so you question how you can accept them completely?
This is extremely common and even people who you would consider to have “perfect” bodies, such as models, have areas of their body which they do not like.
If this happens to you, remember that self acceptance does not necessarily mean liking or that you cannot imagine change or wish for improvements.
Without acceptance you are likely to ignore or disown certain parts of your body and do nothing about them. But if you can accept the things you dislike, you will find yourself with much more power to make a meaningful change as you will no longer be trying to disown or repress your dislikes from your consciousness.
So even though you may not like a certain body part, you can still say “That’s me and I accept it“. Then be motivated to change it, if that’s what you want and it is possible to do so. This is a recognition and respect for reality, without which, reality cannot be changed.
The mind that loves the body
Doing the exercise that has just been described will help you to understand the relationship between self acceptance and self-esteem, because ultimately, this relationship is made up of a mind that loves itself and its body.
Self esteem will suffer if you are in a rejecting relationship with your body, because you can’t truly love yourself if you despise what you see in the mirror.
So practice the self-acceptance exercise and do it several times until you are completely comfortable with, and love, what you see in the mirror. You will know when you have reached a high level of self acceptance as you will start to care less about what people think of you and feel good (accepting) about yourself.
The time it takes for you to be completely comfortable looking at yourself in the mirror, especially when looking into your eyes, will depend on your current overall level of self acceptance.
I’m not saying this will be easy. Some people may find this exercise extremely difficult and give up after one attempt. But if you persist and accept the reality of your current situation, you will eventually find that your self acceptance begins to improve and that you start doing things which make your life better.
Perfection is just an illusion
If you fall into the trap of seeking perfection, you will never find it. This is commonly found with plastic surgery patients, whereby after one operation the person wants something else “improved” and then something else.
Before long they end up looking worse than they did before they started having surgery. Michael Jackson is a good example of this.
Michael Jackson’s lack of self acceptance for his body ultimately lead him to seek perfection through surgery. However, many would argue that he looked far worse after his surgeries than he did before them.
So remember, no one can be perfect and our imperfections make us who we are as individuals. If you seek perfection and lack self acceptance, ultimately you will end up far worse than you are now.
This is not to say that you should not have any plastic surgery if that’s what you want. But if you use surgery as a replacement for self acceptance, you will find that it simply does not work because true self acceptance can only come from within you and so is something that you must do by yourself.