By Thomas Oppong
Sep 7, 2019
Mark Twain once said, “The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.” He couldn’t be more right. If you finally accept yourself and your vulnerabilities, your life will be much more liberating.
According to Dr Tara Brach, author of Radical Self Acceptance, the feelings of shame and unworthiness are the source of many problems we experience with our relationships, careers, and creative endeavours.
Self-acceptance is the ability to accept yourself as you are instead of how you wish you were, or how you wish others percieved you. It frees you from an overly high concern with what other people think about you.
Self-acceptance is the feeling of satisfaction with yourself despite your weaknesses and regardless of your past behaviours and choices. It’s necessary for good mental health.
When we’re self-accepting, we’re able to embrace all facets of ourselves — not just the positive parts. Self-acceptance could be the key to a happier life, yet it’s the happy habit many people practice the least.
As Robert Holden puts it in his book Happiness Now! “Happiness and self-acceptance go hand in hand. In fact, your level of self-acceptance determines your level of happiness. The more self-acceptance you have, the more happiness you’ll allow yourself to accept, receive and enjoy. In other words, you enjoy as much happiness as you believe you’re worthy of [emphasis added.”
If you are oblivious to what others think about you, and you don’t judge yourself in many situations in life, then self-acceptance is probably irrelevant.
But for many people, self-acceptance is a daily struggle. They consistently doubt themselves. And with more doubt comes even more negative thoughts about themselves. And more negative thoughts can quickly become your reality.
The bitter is, we will never be free of the feelings of despair, or self-loathing. The good news is, we don’t have to identify with these emotional feelings. You can accept them and still focus on being the best version of yourself.
Nass — a professor of communications at Stanford University — explains, “Negative emotions generally require more thinking, and the information is processed more thoroughly than positive ones.”
Typical human behaviour focuses on negative qualities. People who judge themselves harshly process negative emotions more than negative ones. That means they spend more time contemplating the bad stuff and less time on the good stuff.
We are much better collectors of our shortcomings than our strengths,” according to Ryan Howes, PhD, a psychologist in Pasadena, California.
This can easily become a cycle that becomes difficult to break.
Getting through life happily requires us to understand the balance of positive and negative emotions and work towards accepting ourselves and still become the best versions of ourselves.
Self-acceptance begins with intention,” according to psychotherapist Jeffrey Sumber, MA. “It is vital that we set an intention for ourselves that we are willing to shift paradigms from a world of blame, doubt and shame to a world of allowance, tolerance, acceptance and trust,” he said.
Self-loathing or poor self-acceptance doesn’t lead to a satisfying life. Life with self-acceptance is far better than a life of self-hatred.
Fortunately, self-acceptance is something we can nurture. See it as a skill you can practice versus an innate trait you either have or don’t.
Learning self-acceptance teaches you to focus your mind to provide self-pardon, rather than repeating fear-provoking habits self-judgment.
If you are having a tough time accepting yourself, hone your strengths. Pay more attention to things you are good at.
You can even go a step further by writing your abilities down. This puts things in perspective for you. Start with something basic like “I’m a kind person.” If you are having trouble coming up with things you are great at, ask your friends and colleagues to help you. Sometimes, the people close to us are better at noticing our greatest strengths. Don’t force to write everything at a single sitting. Typically, lists evolve with time.
Howes suggests you make another kind of lists to boost your confidence and appreciate how far you’ve come. He says “Make a list of all the hardships you’ve overcome, all the goals you’ve accomplished, all the connections you’ve made, and all the lives you’ve touched for the better. Keep it close by, review it frequently, and add to it often.”
With enough practice and a change of perspective about yourself, you can stop judging yourself and stop harming yourself with the severe impact of negative self-judgment.
The path to self-acceptance will take time. Our external circumstances, past experiences, and how we’ve been brought up can make it hard to accept ourselves. But it’s not impossible. With time, you can gradually evolve to a state of unconditional self-acceptance. Sometimes it pays to seek help — from our loved ones or a professional – when things get too hard.
One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is self-acceptance.
In the words of psychologist Tara Brach: “Imperfection is not our personal problem – it is a natural part of existing. The boundary to what we can accept is the boundary to our freedom.”
The famous French expression, “Tout comprendre, c’est tout excuser” (“to understand all is to pardon all”) is a saying that we ought to apply to ourselves.