Self-acceptance means knowing that you are enough, just as you are — with all your imperfections et al.
Just recently, the ever-so-charming actress Vidya Balan shared a beautiful note on her social media handle. Taking to her Instagram, Vidya shared two selfies without make-up and narrated an incident she encountered with a fan, who wanted a second picture with her. The actress explained that her fan was miserable and even followed her car because the selfie she took with Vidya showed her bad profile. The woman told Vidya, “Galat side se liya, main achchi nahi lag rahi, yeh post nahi kar paungi (It is a wrong profile, I won’t be able to post the picture).”
While Vidya further wrote about her own insecurities, majorly around her appearance and emphasized the importance of self-acceptance, the actress’ post starkly highlights the growing problem of self-acceptance most individuals face today, especially in a social media-influenced world.
But what is self-acceptance, really? And why is it so important?
Well, Dr Leon Seltzer defines self-acceptance as exactly what its name suggests — the state of complete acceptance of oneself. It is unconditional acceptance of all facets of the self, embracing all our attributes — the positives and the negative, the strengths and even the weaknesses. To be self-accepting is to feel satisfied with who you are, despite the flaws, regardless of past choices, and what people think of you. More importantly, self-acceptance means knowing that you are enough, just as you are — with all your imperfections et al.
Unfortunately, the paradox of life is whilst many of us may scroll past several posts advocating ‘Love Thyself’ during our daily routine of surfing social media, we fail to truly understand the importance of loving and accepting ourselves for who we truly are.
Self-acceptance has profound effects on our health and is directly related to our happiness. Recent research shows that self-acceptance is of utmost importance for our overall physical and psychological well-being, as low self-acceptance levels affect our daily life, work, relationships, and well-being. Lacking the ability to accept ourselves for who we are, impacts our capacity for happiness as we spend more time and energy on the negative aspects of ourselves, and these thoughts create pessimistic emotions.
British psychologist and author Robert Holden wrote 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.”
While happiness is the key takeaway of self-acceptance, the inability to accept ourselves further creates inner conflict and is the core reason for several problems such as low self-esteem, low self-confidence, and a ton of insecurities that govern our day-to-day life. Psychologists across the globe emphasize the fact that lack of self-acceptance can affect the part of our brain responsible for controlling our emotions, which can lead to mental imbalance and elevated anxiety, stress, or anger. Hence one of the most crucial factors to being happy, peaceful, and satisfied with life is self-acceptance.
Agreed, it is easier said than done. Self-acceptance is no mean feat, especially if the lack of it is ingrained in you from an early age and because of societal pressures. However, with time and daily practice, you can gradually learn to be ‘OKAY’ with all the perfect and not-so-perfect pieces of yourself.
Here are a few proven tips that will help you with your journey of self-acceptance…
Celebrate Your Strengths
Often, we focus so much on the weaknesses that we tend to forget about our strengths. People often point out our shortcomings than praise our strengths, because of which at times even we overlook our talents and skills. Moreover, the human mind is conditioned to take things for granted that come to us naturally, like our strengths. Making a list of your strengths, skills, traits, and achievements, and re-reading them whenever you are having a low day is a great practice to focus on self-acceptance. Keep adding to the list as you keep getting better and don’t hesitate to pat your own back whenever you achieve something.
Accept Your Weakness
While it is important to celebrate your strengths, it goes without saying that you should become more accepting of your weakness as well. Philosopher Jean Vanier rightfully said, “Growth begins when we begin to accept our weaknesses.” The reality is you can’t always be perfect at everything, accepting your weakness will help you uncover your fears, reduce your ego, develop more self-compassion, and take you closer to your reality. Fully embracing your weaknesses is the only way to work on them or make peace with the fact that you can’t be good at everything. All human beings have both positive and negative aspects to them, and you should accept these if you cannot change them. Denying the truth serves no one.
Remember It Is Ok to Make Mistakes
Therapist Russell Grieger emphasizes that it is important to understand that your mistakes don’t define you. One of the key practices to work towards self-acceptance is to be aware that YOU as a person are separate from your qualities and actions. Grieger said, “You accept that, as a fallible human being, you are less than perfect. You will often perform well, but you will also err at times… You always and unconditionally accept yourself without judgment.” So, embrace your mistakes, learn from them, and move on.
Self-acceptance is all about loving yourself — the good, the bad, the ugly. It is important to know that loving yourself and taking care of yourself is not selfish. Don’t be afraid to focus on yourself, and your needs first. Practice self-care and self-compassion on regular basis, giving that much-needed attention to yourself will help you to value yourself more and accept yourself better.
Surround Yourself With Positive People
We often develop the concept of ourselves depending on our social conditioning. How are parents and peers look at us, often becomes the defining factor in how we perceive ourselves. If our interactions with the people we surround ourselves with are affirmative, validating, and nurturing, it helps us to be more accepting of ourselves. However, if the people around us are too critical and dismissive of us, we are bound to have a negative self-perception. Therefore, it’s important to choose the people you hang out with carefully. Keep positive people around you, who can help you confront your fears and focus on good things in life.
Today, we live in a fast-paced competitive environment, where we tend to usually set standards that are too high for ourselves because we are constantly comparing ourselves with our peers. We tend to forget that everyone has flaws including the people we perceive to be perfect. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” When comparing yourself to others, you snatch your happiness and focus on their strengths, while ignoring your own. So don’t compare yourself with anyone else. Respect your uniqueness and remember nobody is superior or nobody is inferior, the only person you should try to be better than is yourself.
Counting your blessing is always a good way to learn to accept yourself. Being grateful for what you have and reminding yourself of it daily will help you refrain from negative thoughts. Try to write down five to ten things you are grateful for, it will encourage you to focus on the positive and help you dismiss the critical voice in your head. Practising gratitude regularly can help you work towards self-acceptance better.
So, remember once you embrace self-acceptance with all your failings and victories, once you love yourself unconditionally, you won’t need to look for external sources of validation and you will be enough, just the way you are.