self acceptance

Self Acceptance: 3 Critical Reasons You Need it and 5 Natural Ways to Experience It

Self acceptance lies at the heart of all the love we seek and all the accomplishments we desire. Self acceptance makes fulfillment and happiness possible. In its absence we find ourselves struggling, unhappy, lonely, and quite often depressed. It’s our misunderstandings of what self acceptance is and why it matters that stand in the way of true love and true health. 

Let’s begin by exploring what self acceptance is and what it isn’t. Then we’ll consider the 3 most important reasons you need it (and why perfectionism is a sure sign you don’t have it). Finally we’ll offer a natural and practical answer to the question “how do you practice self acceptance?”

What is self acceptance?

Self acceptance is an internal experience of being at peace with who you are and how you are showing up in any given moment. We feel self acceptance when we no longer expect or want ourselves to be any different than how we currently are. With self acceptance we drop the inner demands to show up and perform in a certain way and we stop judging ourselves when we perceive that we have fallen short of our intentions. Self acceptance means that we feel comfortable in our own skin, we allow ourselves to feel what we feel, and we trust our inner knowing. Most importantly, it means we no longer have a need to criticize ourselves. 

Now let’s be clear, having self acceptance does not mean that we give up having goals and desires. It does not mean that we no longer want to improve our skills at something. Of course we will want to do those things. 

The difference between having self acceptance and not having it rests in how we relate to ourselves. Think of a conscious mother’s continually accepting embrace, both physically and energetically. No, not all human mothers show up consistently with embracing acceptance, yet we do know our desire for that unconditional love and acceptance of a mother. Mother energy offers a safe place to land when we’re feeling unsure of ourselves and want an extra boost of love. This mother’s embrace reflects the same energy and love of self acceptance. In the case of self acceptance, the love and compassion flow from within ourselves, offered to ourselves. 

When we have self acceptance the inner critic quiets down considerably and eventually falls silent. We no longer push ourselves with shoulds and expectations that, if we’re honest with ourselves, we could never meet anyway. We realize we’re not robots, we are human, and we have needs. We come to know that our imperfections are normal and natural, and that they call us into a deeper love – a true love of self. Then, as we develop our acceptance of self, we also develop a much greater capacity to accept and love others as they imperfectly are. 

It becomes much easier and much more common to celebrate yourself in the presence of self acceptance. You’ll eventually find that you grow and improve much more quickly in the presence of self acceptance than self judgment.

3 Critical reasons you need it 

Why is self acceptance important? Because the quality of our life, our capacity for happiness, and our physical well being all depend on this essential and truly natural practice. Without self acceptance you can experience brief glimpses of happiness, yet sustained happiness will remain elusive. Similarly you cannot feel at peace for more than a fleeting moment without it. If we feel resistance to anything, including ourselves and our state of being, we cannot relax in genuine peace. 

A feeling of self acceptance makes these three truly meaningful parts of life possible. Yes, to be explicitly clear, self acceptance is a prerequisite for

  1. Love – As we talked about earlier. If you don’t accept yourself, then you will never believe anyone else will either. If you don’t accept you, you’ll find it impossible to imagine anyone else accepting you. Hence, if you can’t feel their acceptance, nor will you have the capacity to feel their love. Without self acceptance we take any love offered to us and turn it around, “return to sender,” because we lack the capacity to let it in. Interestingly, our longing for self acceptance usually turns into chasing acceptance and love from another. Yet, our attempts to get the acceptance from another always fail because we don’t have an opening for it to enter, even when it’s offered.
  1. Trust – If we don’t accept ourselves, our feelings, experiences, sensations, intuitions, flaws (we all have them by the way), we can’t believe in our abilities. If we don’t believe in our abilities we find ourselves feeling less than, inadequate, and sometimes truly incapable. We question our deservedness, our worthiness. At the heart of it, our disbelief in ourselves turns into a continual pattern of self doubt and second guessing. Those internal habits make trust — of ourselves or another – impossible, which in turn makes quality relationships impossible too. 
  1. Happiness – True happiness and peace go hand in hand. Happiness implies a level of contentment and contentment arises when we can relax in what is. Again, our inability to sustain happiness arises as a result of our dissatisfaction with what is. If we don’t like our circumstances, we find it very difficult to feel joy or happiness. If we don’t like, don’t accept, something about ourselves, this makes happiness an even more distant dream. If we want to feel happy on a regular basis, we must cultivate self acceptance.  

It’s our conditioning

Unfortunately, we must also admit that while these essential feel-good life experiences truly matter to our hearts, our relationships, and our overall health, we actually face a significant amount of societal conditioning to not accept ourselves. Learning methods and parenting styles often highlight and reinforce what’s “wrong” with us and our behavior. This teaches self criticism over self acceptance. Too often we internalize the criticism and expectations of others and quickly come to believe that we are inadequate, unworthy, undeserving, and the like.  

Our need for self acceptance invites us to see the difference between an opportunity for improvement and a problem with our current state of being. When improvement, expansion, and growth inspire self love and self encouragement, we know we have found self acceptance too. This honoring of self plays a critical part in the development of a healthy ego, a healthy relationship with our human self. 

Self acceptance, success and perfectionism 

For many people, talking about the need for self acceptance brings up fears that if we accept ourselves we’ll lose our edge in success. When it comes to feeling successful, some believe that all successful people truly accept themselves. Others deeply believe that self judgment, high self expectations, and a commitment to perfection – in other words, the opposite of self acceptance – make someone successful. Both could be false assumptions.

While a true experience of success relies heavily on self acceptance, many who appear highly successful (based on accomplishments and material accumulations) experience little to no self acceptance. Sadly, when we strive for success in the absence of self acceptance, no matter what we do, no matter what we accomplish, no matter how much we contribute, it never feels like we did enough. We know we could have done more, better. 

This means that again, like happiness and peace, we can never feel a sense of inner satisfaction. That in turn reveals that those who drive themselves based on inner dissatisfaction, rarely rest or have fun. They almost never enjoy the fruits of their labors. With a lack of self acceptance, especially when combined with perfectionist tendencies, we cannot actually experience success. 

Whether our lack of self acceptance more directly impacts our sense of success, our ability to feel love, or our emotional wellbeing, it consistently leaves us feeling deflated, empty, and longing. So, acknowledging it’s critical importance, how do you practice self acceptance? 

Criticisms are not truth

When we choose to begin practicing self acceptance, we can also find ourselves asking the question, “why is self acceptance so hard?” 

It’s hard because, as we said earlier, life has often taught us and rewarded us for being hard on ourselves. We’ve actually been told, in many cases, by other people that we weren’t ok, that we weren’t acceptable. That’s hard for any heart, any human, to hear. It’s easy to start believing the projections are true.

To make the shifts we desire in our relationship to ourselves and our goodness,  we have to first realize that not accepting ourselves has, in most cases, become a deeply ingrained habit. And, habits take time and intention to change. Second, we have to recognize that sometimes people we loved deeply, and who we thought loved us, were quite critical. They did judge us. This recognition doesn’t yet take away the non-accepting conditioning we received, it does however give us our power back. With that, we regain our ability to practice self acceptance. 

When we recognize that we heard the stories about our “goodness” from other humans, we can begin to see that their words were simply their opinion and not the truth. Moreover, we can realize that many times, the criticisms were spoken in moments of pain, fear, or struggle. Then we can begin to sense that the criticisms were never a true reflection of how that person actually felt about us. 

When we realize our inner critic isn’t “right”, that it was programmed based on other people’s opinions, it gets easier to stop believing it. At a minimum, we can start to question the validity of the judgemental voice in our head. 

How to practice self acceptance naturally

Learning to practice a natural form of self acceptance invites us to start simply. First and foremost, practicing self acceptance starts not with what you do, but with what you stop doing. These next steps will give you a simple, practical, and actionable way to approach building self acceptance. 

  1. Stop criticizing yourself or making yourself wrong, and apologize. Commit to stop the self rejection. Stop the self judgment. Even if you still believe the judgments, decide to stop speaking them, at least for now. Self rejection destroys everything that is of value to our hearts. When we don’t have self acceptance, by definition we reject, ignore, and quite often abandon ourselves. This  lack of self acceptance creates the most painful and damaging impact. This practice won’t likely be easy, but catching and stopping yourself mid-criticism matters. Whenever you catch the critical voice, even after the fact, apologize to yourself. Apologize just as you would want someone to genuinely say “I’m sorry” for having attacked you with judgements. 
  1. Question the criticisms and get honest. When you notice the inner criticisms and get really honest with yourself. Ask yourself, “Is this really the truth or just some story or opinion I made up and bought into?” Ask yourself, “Whose judgements are these?” When you focus on your critical voice, it appears that you never actually do anything right or well. Does that feeling of constant failure actually help you be a better version of yourself?  Many think that without the criticism they won’t be a good person or that they’ll lose their drive for improvement and success. Later, once the inner critic goes quiet, they understand that nothing could be further from the truth. We go much farther, we perform much better, with praise than with criticism.   
  1. Start acknowledging yourself. For most, while we know we need to move from self judgment to self affirmation and self praise, making that leap directly is too big. So don’t try to move from criticism directly and immediately to praise. Simply begin by acknowledging that you made an effort. Acknowledge what you did do. In some cases, acknowledge what you intentionally or consciously chose not to do, because that behavior used to sabotage or hurt you. Acknowledgment, or in other words admitting what’s true about ourselves is a prerequisite to acceptance. We must acknowledge our state, our experience, our needs, before we can accept it. 
  1. Begin to ask, “What if it’s ok?” When it feels difficult to accept something about yourself, you can use the “What if it’s ok?” technique to help loosen the grip on the judgments and expectations. With this technique you begin to ask “What if the thing I’m judging isn’t so bad? What if it’s ok?” By asking ourselves this question a few times repeatedly and listening for the deepest answer, most find that resistance begins to fall away. As a natural byproduct, we find more peace with ourselves and what is. 
  1. Practice love, compassion, and understanding. As we progress through these steps and practices to build self acceptance, we exponentially expand our capacity for self compassion and love of self. They begin to flow more freely and naturally. Allow this to happen. Let compassion and kindness be your best friends. In that we allow ourselves to soften in places where we used to be hard, rigid, and guarded with ourselves. We begin to learn how to be vulnerable and realize that our vulnerability compels our deepening self acceptance and self love. 

As you deepen in your understanding of self acceptance, and you practice the steps needed to truly accept yourself, you will sense subtle yet immense changes in your inner world as much as your outer world. You will rest more deeply, you will have more inspiration and insight, and you will absolutely know more love – in every one of its expressions. 

You’ll also, importantly, come to understand the, often mysterious, concept of how to love yourself and what that really means for you and your relationships. When you practice self acceptance you are less likely to engage in self abandonment and the harm it causes relationships. You’ll allow yourself to set and honor your own boundaries. You’ll come to realize, with time, the essential and innate brilliance of your soul. 

How you are is how you are meant to be.

*At Ecstatic Intimacy, an all-inclusive website for singles and couples, we welcome all sexual orientation(s), gender(s) and relationship expressions. In this article we utilize the pronouns he/she/him/her.

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  1. Yeti on January 25, 2024 at 9:00 pm

    It would be wonderful to have the origination date of the post at the top. It helps us keep track of them in a sequence. Thanks!

  2. Yeti on January 25, 2024 at 9:05 pm

    Oh, I see that the dates are at the bottom! Thanks!

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