What Does Self-Acceptance Mean to You?

Self AcceptanceWhat would you do if you were good enough just the way you are? What if you could look in the mirror and truly accept the unique, wonderful work-in-progress person staring back at you?

Would “good enough” free you once and for all from endless dieting, frustrated attempts at self-improvement and worrying about what you’re supposed to be doing with the rest of your life?

Or maybe your mind flat-out rejects the notion of accepting yourself as you are now because you are driven to be the best you can be, and after all, you know all too well your many faults and failings.

But what if true self-acceptance lies somewhere in between these extremes, or possibly another place entirely? What does self-acceptance mean to you?

The Nature of Self-Acceptance

Basically, self-acceptance is embracing who and what you are, your strengths as well as your imperfections. Simple enough, but where the interpretation of this concept varies widely is what this ultimately means in a practical sense.

For example does self-acceptance mean “take me as I am” and serve as an excuse to stop nurturing your mind and body? Does this mean that self-acceptance is in effect the direct opposite of personal growth?

Achieving true self-acceptance may be the bravest thing you will ever do.  
Why Self-Acceptance is So Important

Let’s be honest, some of us make a habit of magnifying our faults to impossible extremes. We regularly feed insecurities by beating ourselves up over the slightest misstep and approach self-improvement from a perspective that in some way we need fixing. Then we go about counting up our faults and use them as clear evidence that we are – in fact – defective.

Consider the woman who has worked hard to eat healthy and be physically fit and yet hates what she sees in the mirror because she doesn’t like her face – her eyes are too close together or her lips seem to be uneven, and where in the hell did those little wrinkles at the corner of her eyes come from?! Rather than give herself credit for her hard work and healthy lifestyle, she focuses only on what she perceives to be her faults.

Then there’s the person who grew up in a family where abuse was the norm and continues to carry around all the emotional baggage dumped on them from years ago, blaming themselves for things that they had absolutely no control over.

What about the man who has convinced himself that he’s not “good enough” to be promoted to management in his firm, so even though he has achieved success in his field and has all the qualifications and experience, he never even bothers to try for advancement.

Can you imagine how the lives of these individuals would be changed for the better if they were able to dump the excess baggage of personal history and limiting beliefs to fully embrace their strengths and weaknesses … imperfections and all?

You see it really isn’t a choice between self-acceptance or personal growth. In fact acceptance often leads to dramatic change as you are able to give up the limiting beliefs and self-sabotaging behaviors that you’d adopted trying so hard to be someone you’re not.

Self-acceptance comes from meeting life’s challenges vigorously. Don’t numb yourself to your trials and difficulties, nor build mental walls to exclude pain from your life. You will find peace not by trying to escape your problems, but by confronting them courageously. You will find fulfillment not in denial, but in victory. ~J. Donald Walters
Self-Acceptance is a Process, Not a Destination

Of course achieving self-acceptance doesn’t mean you can just settle in for the long haul and never worry about doubts or limiting beliefs again. With or without our cooperation we change with each new experience in life and the fact is that for many people true self-acceptance is hard enough to come by on a good day, let alone on a day when it seems the force of the entire Universe is conspiring against them.

Fortunately, acceptance is something you can nurture and strengthen over time. The challenge then is learning how to embrace your true self – the good, the bad and the quirky – in a way that it becomes a natural part of your growth process.

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. andleeb

    You are right in saying that Self-Acceptance is very important in our life. I think that we have to fall in love with us, everyday. It will help us grow and head towards a better future. If we focus on uncontrollable things like you said, why my eyes are too close or I have small lips etc. we will have negative mindset towards our self.
    I simply believe in one thing, God has created as best and we must love us. If we can not love anything we can not make it better.
    We must focus on things that we can improve than those that we can not control. As you have given example of healthy living.
    If until now we do not love our accept us the way we are we can try to improve our self, it really is a continuous process. We can idealize people and learn from them. But we can not be 100% like anyone else, if we try to do so we are wrong in first place. We must focus on our strengths and try to remove weaknesses.
    Looking forward to your next post.
    andleeb recently posted…Dammam : #Saudi ArabiaMy Profile

  2. William Rusho

    I understand the concept of your post, and I would say that is applies for most people. I however have taken the other way. I never have never allowed any self-acceptance in my life. I constantly consider myself less than worthy, and a low self-esteem.
    I do this because this is how I need to drive myself for self-improvement. I need this lack of self-esteem to force myself to go beyond my limitations. If I had self-acceptance, I would accept who I was, and never get better.

    • Well William I can’t say I agree with your approach although I certain respect your opinion and since we don’t don’t each other I am inclined to say as long as it works for you then I suppose that the most important thing. That said, in the off chance that you read this response I’m going to provide a link to an article that includes the results of a study on self-compassion vs self-criticism and not surprisingly compassion beats criticism in every way. http://ow.ly/Mp9dN Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  3. Meredith

    Wow, that first question is a doozie! I definitely need to spend a little time thinking about that. I love the idea that self-acceptance is a process, not a destination. That gives me hope!
    Meredith recently posted…Canyon PaletteMy Profile

    • That’s not an uncommon response Meredith and the answer will inevitably have a lot to do with our respective belief systems as well as our personal history. But it is definitely worth exploring because it relates to the entire concept of who we think we are. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Tim

    This line in particular “in a way that it becomes a natural part of your growth process” is one that rings very true as I apply it to aging and maturity. It seems as we age we let go of a lot of insecurities and relax into life.
    Tim recently posted…Kalahari’s New DayMy Profile

    • Excellent point Tim, and it’s certainly one I can relate to personally. Sure takes a lot of the pressure off, huh? Thanks for contributing to the conversation!

  5. Mark

    Wow Marquita!

    As I’m reading your excellent examples of “how” people systematically go about constantly beating themselves up,to know end it seems!

    It’s really frightening, just “how” potentially destructive not being able to truly accept who and where we are in life at any given moment!

    And how that can be cause for some emotional turmoil!

    It’s really pretty scary, the way you have laid things out!

    And probably on some level may even require professional help o some kind, in order truly rid ourselves of this incredibly destructive behavior!

    Thank you so much, for truly opening my eyes to this troubling internal and constant emotional struggle! I literally had no idea!
    Mark recently posted…How Another Incredibly Destructive Email Marketing Myth Is Definitely Holding You Back!My Profile

    • Good point Mark, because you are right that some people can benefit from professional help. It really all comes down to attitude, self awareness and being brutally honest with yourself about how much effort you are willing to make to accept responsibility for the quality of your own life experience. 🙂

  6. Jeri

    I grew up watching my mom write her daily calories in a steno pad. It was just one of many factors that made me extremely adamant about learning to love myself. Granted, it helps that I got mom’s good genes, but I just never saw the point of comparing myself to other women. Yet, with self-acceptance I am not quite there yet when it comes to work capabilities, and as a graduate student I always felt intimidated by those I perceived as knowing more, but I got much better about embracing Montaigne’s motto, “What do I know?”
    Jeri recently posted…#WritingPrompt: 15-Sentence Portrait PoemMy Profile

  7. Pamela Chollet

    I think of self-acceptance as self-compassion.I used to think acceptance meant accepting myself the way I was. But, I’ve been practicing Yoga for the past 8 years and my thoughts have changed, just as Yoga has changed my life. There are two terms used by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. One is, “avidya”(incorrect understanding). The other, “asmita(false identification)”.
    When we lack self-compassion, we’re mistaking the behavior we want to change with who we are, rather than seeing it for what it is-a habit that isn’t serving us. A principle of yoga is that, deep inside we are truly perfect just as we are. When we recognize ourselves as fundamentally perfect instead of focusing on our flaws, we can see our patterns wit out judgement.
    Pamela Chollet recently posted…Happiness Doesn’t Have To Be Hard. Read These 5 TipsMy Profile

    • Thanks so much for contributing to the conversation Pamela! Self compassion and acceptance are certainly compatible, but I think it’s important to clarify that they are not the same. I talk about this in my next article, but for now I’ll provide an example. I am an Introvert and I accept that part of this means I need time alone to recharge. Introversion is not a weakness, a bad habit that needs to be changed, nor does it require sympathy so there is no need for compassion. My point is that self-acceptance is not only about accepting flaws. Thanks again for sharing your experience and insights!

  8. Awesome Post, it got me thinking about my life. Self acceptance and all. I really enjoyed your post. Look forward to reading more.
    Thank you x

  9. Beth Niebuhr

    I think it is a worthy goal to be self-accepting – accepting who we are now not as an end point but who we are while evolving.
    Beth Niebuhr recently posted…MindsetMy Profile

  10. Dave

    I am really enjoying the article series that you are putting together Marty. They help to break ideas and suggestions down into small manageable pieces, and it gives us time to digest each one of them individually and begin to put them into practice in between new articles.

    I was private messaging with a friend on Facebook this morning. It’s amazing how closely the message you describe here resonated with that conversation 😉 I must say that just reading your words here today helped to remove a large weight off my shoulders.

    We have all heard that we don’t need to be perfect, that we need to accept ourselves for who we are and be proud of it. You have managed to convey that message in a way that not only feels right, but also adds a sense of responsibility to the way we deal with it in a very encouraging and motivating way.

    I am looking forward to the next article in the series, as well as the process it entails, thank you Marty 🙂
    Dave recently posted…Big gameMy Profile

    • Hehe, how funny because you know I had a similar conversation with a FB friend this morning. 🙂 Glad you found value in the article Dave and I hope that you’ll equally enjoy the next two because the truth is they were much tougher to write in way that won’t scare people off from making the effort. I suppose for me this is the part that is the most challenging and at the same time the most fun … taking piles of studies and data, adding a dash of personal experience and a bit of real world advice to come up with an article that as many people as possible can relate to. 🙂

  11. The media has had a large effect on people’s self acceptance as have our internal tapes based on our personal family history,etc and I do agree that self acceptance is critical for a happy life as well as for personal growth. I also agree that self acceptance does not mean we are unwilling to change, on the contary, it means that we are continuously giving ourselves permission to change and to evolve in our perceptions and how we respond to things. Meditation helps me step out of my programming and to re-orient myself with regard to how I feel and how I perceive myself.

    • Excellent point Michele about the media and I certainly agree with you, especially when it comes to body image. I believe meditation to be an excellent practice to gain insight and internal peace, I have just never been able to sit still long enough to make it work for me. I suppose long walks here here I live in Maui is my version. 🙂

  12. Sabrina Q.

    What a great post! I think everyone battles with self-acceptance at some point in their lives. I truly believe it is OK to accept ourselves, but not stop learning and growing into a better us. Life would be so boring if we stopped learning and growing. =) Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
    Sabrina Q. recently posted…How To Conquer FearMy Profile

    • So glad you enjoyed the article Sabrina and of course I couldn’t agree more with you about how important continued growth is. I’m a life-long learner and it certainly has added value to my life. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  13. Donna Janke

    I like the comment self-acceptance is a process, not a destination. Also the comment that it isn’t a choice between self-acceptance and personal growth. While self-acceptance is an internal thing, I think there are a lot of external messages in our society that often make it harder.
    Donna Janke recently posted…Historic GrueneMy Profile

    • Glad you enjoyed the article Donna, and I couldn’t agree more with you about the role of external messages we’re bombarded with pretty much on a daily basis. Does make life interesting, huh?

  14. Lenie

    Hi Marquita – I have put many years into being what I am today. So for better or worse, I am comfortable being me. Can I be better? Absolutely. That’s why much of my week is spent researching possible topics for my blog and learning and doing new things. Self-acceptance is important as long as it doesn’t make you complacent, that is, I’m ok, no need to change.
    Lenie recently posted…Duct Tape 101My Profile

    • And I know that I am not alone in my opinion when I say that you are an absolute treasure Lenie! I love the things you are doing with your blog and learn something new from you every week, so keep up the great work of being ‘you.’ 🙂

  15. Marquita — It’s hard to break the habit of beating yourself up if you don’t if you could have done better because you didn’t feel you met your own expectations. Every New Year’s I made these resolutions (copied from my brother): No more coulda, should, woulda’s, stay fit and have fun. Whenever I begin to say ” shoulda,” I think of my resolution.
    Jeannette Paladino recently posted…Now You Can Create Perfect Posts for Social MediaMy Profile

    • True Jeannette, but when I was reading your comment my first thought was why do you go through this every year? Have you taken the time to discover why you’re not achieving your goals? Realistic expectations are not about dreaming smaller, they are about planning better so before resolution time rolls around again this year you might want to mine your past for some lessons on goal setting. Thanks so much for contributing to the conversation!

  16. I think many of us have difficulty with self acceptance ,because
    we are told how we should be . Media paints the ideal man or woman for us ,we compare ourselves with others. If we realize that we are as unique as our fingerprint , we are on the way . Yes ,it is a process.
    Thank you Marquita for this nice post

    • No question Erika that the media plays a role in perception of the way we ‘should be’ – particularly for women, but ultimately we have to take responsibility for ourselves and if one is inclined to be heavily influenced by others anyway that is going to make the process of self acceptance a bit of an up hill battle. Hopefully the next two articles in the series will answer more of these questions.

  17. Donna Merrill

    Hi Marquita,

    Self acceptance is a process and not a destination. I have been working on it for a long time. Although I have made many huge strides with hard work, I do accept myself as a person.

    However, I look in the mirror and have to do tons of self-talk about the wrinkle popping up here and there, the skin starting to sag under my chin. Age is catching up with me, and I’m trying so hard to accept it.

    Usually I’m OK, but wherever I go, I see ads about looking younger, people I know doing botox or even worse “little surgery” I know these are dangerous and I won’t go there, but that peer pressure does get me thinking sometimes and am still trying to boost my self esteem on this one!

    Donna Merrill recently posted…Got Business Swag?My Profile

  18. Phoenicia

    Self acceptance is a process. I work on this daily as I have a tendency to be very critical of myself. I am driven and ambitious and place a lot of expectations on myself.
    Phoenicia recently posted…Comment on Is a woman’s work never done? by organisedmamaMy Profile

  19. Erica says:

    This seems like a really exciting 3 part series. I think most of us could work a little bit more on self-acceptance. I think even though I am confident in certain areas of my life, I’m still left very insecure in others. And the things I’m insecure about aren’t always logical…just old recorded messages swishing around in my head.
    Erica recently posted…The Secret to Successfully Slimming with CarbohydratesMy Profile

  20. Self-Acceptance is a heavy topic. It would seem to be a goal, but then I want to take care not to get complacent…feel as if there aren’t more things to learn, or ways to improve. I guess at this stage of my life, when I look in the mirror, sometimes I see a mess and sometimes I see not so bad. Mostly, I’m happy to be where I am. That’s my version of self-acceptance, I guess:)
    Jacqueline Gum recently posted…For Your Age… Where’s The Justice?My Profile

    • You are of course quite right Jacqueline about self-acceptance not being a light topic, but I do think it can be very positive depending upon whether we have a fixed or growth mindset. After all, we’re not talking about attempting to achieve perfection, simply feeling good about who we are. The tricky part is clearing away all of that old internal baggage so that we can see our true selves with out all the extra filters.

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