The Empowering Journey to Self-Acceptance

Written by on April 30, 2015 in Everyday Resilience, Self Awareness with 8 Comments

Self-AcceptanceIt may well be that the best kept secret to genuinely accepting yourself is learning to recognize and value your strengths as much as your imperfections.

Now I understand for many this statement may seem that I’ve got the whole priority thing backwards so before allowing those “buts” to get in the way hear me out.

Whether looking for advice or following a conversation on the topic of self-acceptance, in nearly every case you’ll find the attention centered on imperfections and failings – either real or perceived. Some will share tips on learning to embrace or overcome weaknesses, while many others lament their ongoing struggles, but the bottom line is that when it comes to the effort to accept ourselves most of us are squarely focused on our weaknesses which is like trying to build self-confidence by walking around with an “out of order” sign taped across your forehead for all the world to see.

News Flash! You Are Not Broken

As with most things in life, achieving genuine acceptance requires a balanced approach and yet as a rule little if any attention is given to the fact that recognizing and valuing your strengths is every bit as important as out of orderembracing your imperfect bits and pieces.

Call it humility, or simply not wanting to appear self-centered, but the reality is only paying attention to your imperfections and failings will inevitably magnify their importance and power over you, effectively instilling the belief that you need to somehow be “fixed” before you can ever be worthy of achieving acceptance.

So before we look at specific strategies to create a foundation for self-acceptance please write this down and think of it often throughout the process.

You are NOT broken! You are perfectly imperfect and powerful beyond measure. Tweet This

Creating a Foundation to Build Self-Acceptance

Because each of us is blessed with a unique combination of emotions, thoughts and life experiences a one-size-fits all approach to this process would be unrealistic, however there are common building blocks that will help you gain valuable insights and create a foundation to build authentic self-acceptance.

Begin with Reflection

To get to a place of understanding you first need to spend some time assessing your current level of self-acceptance, clarify why making this effort matters to you, and how it can change your life for the better.

I’ve often written about the power of questions and the following examples will help you to begin gaining clarity on these issues. To get the most out of this exercise I suggest using a journal, or at the very least a notebook, to record your thoughts and revisit this exercise from time to time as you work through the process.

  • What does accepting yourself mean to you?
  • How would self-acceptance change your life for the better?
  • What is holding you back?
  • How do you feel when you look in the mirror?
  • What regrets are you clinging to?
  • Who do you need to forgive?
  • How have you been rejecting yourself?

If you’d like to continue this exercise in self-discovery I suggest you visit the Free e-Book page and download a copy of 101 Self Empowering Questions.

Acknowledge Your Strengths

Using your journal or notebook take some time to list your strengths. It may be uncomfortable at first, but remember this is for your eyes only and you can start with something as simple as “I am a kind person.”

Include in your list personal and professional achievements, hardships you’ve overcome, the goals you’ve accomplished, all the connections you’ve made, and the lives you’ve touched for the better. You can also ask others to give you feedback but I caution you to limit this to people who have a history of being supportive of you unless you’re prepared to be on the receiving end of all manner of well-intentioned advice on how to become a better version of you.

Keep your list close by, review it frequently, add to it often, and every once in awhile treat yourself to a reward, even if it’s just giving yourself a pat on the back.

The greatest danger in the need for validation and approval from others is that in time your self-image becomes so distorted you lose sight of your own values and who you really are. ~Author Unknown

Check Your Approval Seeking Behavior

The desire for validation is one the world’s great motivators. The problem is that you’ll never be able to truly achieve self-acceptance if you are more concerned about approval others than yourself.

Do any of these common approval seeking behaviors sound familiar?

  • Changing your opinion because someone appears to disapprove.
  • Paying insincere compliments to gain approval.
  • Feeling upset, worried, or insulted when someone disagrees with you.
  • Doing something which you do not want to do because you are afraid to say ‘No’.
  • Repeatedly apologizing for your words and actions when it is neither necessary nor expected.
  • Pretending to be knowledgeable or an authority on a subject because you are afraid to admit that there is something you do not know.

Any behavior which is contrary to your identity and purpose, or conflicts with your core values and beliefs, is almost always done to gain the approval of others.

I found in my research that the biggest reason people aren’t more self compassionate is that they are afraid they’ll become self-indulgent. They believe self-criticism is what keeps them in line. Most people have gotten it wrong because our culture says being hard on yourself is the way to be. ~ Dr. Kristin Neff

Learn to Use Self-Compassion to Stifle Your Inner Critic

Just as you took the time to list your strengths, you will gain valuable knowledge and insight by creating a list your weaknesses. Now I believe it’s safe to assume that this list will be easier to compile and significantly longer than the list of your strengths. Even so, to get the most out of this exercise challenge yourself to question and gain understanding about the nature and source of each imperfection on your list.

What you want to do is learn to shift your mindset so that instead of ruthlessly judging and criticizing yourself when confronted with personal failings, you use self-compassion to honor and accept your humanness. The more you are able to open your heart to this reality instead of giving in to internal criticism, the more you will be able to feel compassion for yourself as well as for others.

Let Go of the Past

You knew this was coming, right? Past regrets can trip us up in so many ways, however there’s no question that telling someone to just “forgive, forget and move on” is annoying at best and at the very least easier said than done … but it is not only possible, it is a choice that anyone can make.

Whether it’s about something you’ve done, or something that was done to you, the only way to grow through it is to accept that you can’t change the past, release the pain and disappointment, and find the lessons in the experience. Some will surely say, “Well, I’ve tried and it’s just so hard.” That may well be true, but each time that thought pops into your mind you have to ask yourself, “Am I willing to carry this baggage around for the rest of my life, or will I finally choose to do something about it?”

Let me add that I understand firsthand that some experiences are far more challenging to let go of than others. If this is something you’ve been struggling with on your own for some time, the best gift you can give yourself is to seek professional help to resolve the problem(s) once and for all.

Accept who you are – completely; the good as well as the bad – and make changes as you see fit. Not for the purpose of gaining approval from others, but because you accept the power you have to create the quality of your own life experience. This is the gift of self acceptance. ~Marquita Herald

Give Yourself Permission to Be a Work in Progress

There are of course many other things you can to do build self-acceptance depending upon your circumstances and personal history, for example taking a realistic look at the people you are surrounding yourself with, the way in which you invest your time, and what types of personal boundaries you have with the key relationships in your life.

Ultimately this process is about giving yourself permission to be a work in progress and committing to create your best life by becoming intentional about the choices you make each day. In fact in the 3rd and final article in this series on self-acceptance we’ll explore the “work in progress” concept by learning to balance self-acceptance with the desire to grow and improve yourself. If you’re just joining us on this journey you may want to go back and read the first article in this limited series, What Does Self-Acceptance Mean to You?

Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living  click here.


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  1. Mark

    First of all, what a really great post headline Marquita!

    Because without a doubt, learning to to truly accept ourselves is most definitely an empowering journey for sure!

    And I totally love your passage near the bottom of paragraph # one, where you share:
    “But the bottom line is that when it comes to the effort to accept ourselves most of us are squarely focused on our weaknesses which is like trying to build self-confidence by walking around with an “out of order” sign taped across your forehead for all the world to see.”

    M, as I read it, it literally my mouth temporary open and I just had this really wide grin on my face!

    That is just such an awesome passage!LOL! Thanks so much for writing another winner! And eye opener!
    Mark recently posted…Three Extremely Powerful Marketing Lessons You Can Learn From The Mayweather VS Pacquiao Fight!My Profile

  2. Suzie Cheel

    Marty love this post and it resonated with me on many levels- I often start the day with a question that opens up ways for me to move forward. Self-compassion is something we often forget and in comes the gremlin/inner critic to knock us down! Like the approval seeking checklist. Yes I have used all of those in my earlier life x
    Suzie Cheel recently posted…Get The Crap Out Of Your Life!My Profile

  3. Kimba

    If I’m being completely honest, there are days here in Club 50 when I look in the mirror and I’m not happy with what I see. The up side of reaching the fifth decade is that I’ve become more than happy with who I am as a person, even if I can be loud, opinionated, and stubborn. But, the physical realities of the aging process sometimes get in the way of my acceptance of who I am.
    Kimba recently posted…Dear Doctor, Please Speak HumanMy Profile

  4. I must say, I’v never doubted myself. I have my parents to thank for that. I was taught to be self-confident, and to assume I could do anything I attempted. I have found that feeling of self-reliance and self-confidence to serve me well. I really DO believe it is a learned behaviour.
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…riding the Big Bus in MiamiMy Profile

  5. Another great post with a roadmap for self-improvement.
    We’re not broken but we may need a bit of “tweaking”.
    Betty Eitner recently posted…As Humble a Woman as My MumMy Profile

  6. Dave

    This sounds really corny, but I feel so much better about myself just after reading this article – seriously.

    At times, I can be what some would consider quite self-centered and stubborn. And although these are certainly weaknesses in some situations, they can be strengths in other areas.

    Perhaps my most vulnerable gap to becoming self-accepting is my natural propensity to seek approval from outside instead of from the inside. It’s probably something that has been cultivated and practiced from a very young age, but I can feel the shell beginning to crack a bit – letting that stubborn side of me stand up and say – hey, self, you’re good enough just the way you are. And, by the way, I love the term perfectly imperfect :-)

    Thank you for another great article Marty, and I really look forward to the final installment!
    Dave recently posted…Shifting gearsMy Profile

  7. Sue Kearney

    Oh, that one about pretending to know everything made me smile. I was raised to always act as if I knew something, even when I didn’t.

    Learning to say “I don’t know” changed the game for me. And with practice it got easier. Now, every time I say “I don’t know” I feel my heart and my divine feminine humanness shining through.
    Sue Kearney recently posted…How does the Scorpio Full Moon call to you?My Profile

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