In order to live life to its fullest it’s important to know yourself and accept the person that you are—including your flaws. Without self acceptance, it’s hard to have fulfilling relationships and roles in life. It can lead us to do things we do not want to do, or things we are not passionate about. In doing so, we can become deeply unsatisfied in our lives.
What is Self Acceptance? Definition
Self acceptance is the act or state of accepting oneself and understanding or recognizing one’s own abilities and limitations. Self acceptance is a tool used in life coaching that helps clients tap into their true potential and become more fulfilled in life. It is a way to gain confidence in one’s personality, passions, and values.
Why is Self Acceptance so Important?
Self acceptance is crucial for living a fulfilled life. Authentic, satisfying relationships with other people are impossible to build without self acceptance. It can limit our self expression and stifle our ability to give and receive love. In doing so, we risk feeling as though friendships and romantic relationships are false, or shallow. It can be isolating. We can lose ourselves by doing things a certain way because we think that’s how it should be done. In extreme cases, lack of self acceptance and self love can make us vulnerable to abuse.
Whether we have self acceptance can also vastly influence how we live our lives. Lack of self acceptance can prevent us from having meaningful, fulfilling careers. It could be as simple as, for example, accepting that you don’t enjoy mathematics. You may feel you need to go into a science field for whatever reason (maybe your parents are doctors, or maybe you feel scientists make more money). So you may feel the need to study pharmaceuticals. But what if you are passionate about creating things? Maybe you should study design, or go into a field where you can use your hands, like carpentry or cosmetics. Without getting to know ourselves accepting our passions and talents, we risk spending our lives doing something that makes us deeply unhappy.
What Prevents Self acceptance and Self Love?
If you’ve read this far, you might be thinking about how to achieve self acceptance in your life. There are many things that can get in the way of self acceptance including past traumas, guilt and fears. It is more likely several of these things combined and working together—against you—to distort your sense of self. Here are the main factors.
Low self esteem
Self esteem has a great impact on our lives. When you think more highly of yourself, you’re in a better position to try new things or discover your passion. Self acceptance is not possible to achieve with low self esteem. Those with low self esteem tend to be highly critical of themselves and, in extreme cases, hate themselves. Good self esteem gives you the confidence to live authentically and share your true self with others.
Self doubt and fear
Self esteem and self acceptance go hand in hand. It is hard to have one without the other. One barrier of self acceptance is self doubt. The most difficult person for us to forgive is usually ourselves. Regret, shame, and guilt prevent us from letting go of our past mistakes. Rather than reflecting on the experience and learning from it so that we can move forward, we dwell on these unfortunate times.
Self doubt can bring forth a lot of fear. In moments when we should have confidence, self doubt can cause us to instead respond with fear. It can lead to issues setting boundaries and fear of intimacy in relationships.
Self doubt and anxiety
Self doubt can also manifest as anxiety, or feed off of an existing anxiety disorder. Anxiety is a natural response to fear that is designed to protect us in a dangerous situation. However, when our self doubt causes us to be fearful in situations (such as setting boundaries or being intimate), we risk training our brains to experience anxiety in such situations. If you are struggling with social anxiety, letting go of self doubt and fear can help you.
How to let go of self doubt and fear
Try these self acceptance exercises to get into the habit of letting go of self doubt.
- Reflect on your past achievements: It is natural to feel a bit nervous when you’re facing a new task or responsibility. Maybe it is a job interview, or maybe you are going out on a first date. If you start to doubt your abilities, reflect on your past achievements to feel more confident that you will succeed in this new challenge. Maybe you’ve done this before. Even if you have lingering doubts, take comfort in the knowledge that you wouldn’t be in this new situation if others didn’t think you were cut out for it.
- Learn to change your negative self-talk into positive affirmations: When you’re overwhelmed with self-doubt, you’re probably listening subconsciously to negative self-talk. Take control of your inner voice and turn negativity into positivity. Rather than focusing on limitation, focus on what you can do. Think about your strengths and your achievements. Write them down as affirmations, and repeat them each day.
- Find cheerleaders: Surrounding yourself with positive individuals gives you a boost of energy and confidence needed to help power through moments of self doubt. Build relationships with friends and family members who encourage you and put out positive energy. Seek out mentors from your personal network who can give you unbiased opinions on what you’re good at, as well as give you insight on how you can improve.
The burden of guilt hinders self acceptance
Like self doubt and fear, guilt can really hold us back from self acceptance and self love. When we feel guilty, we tend to be self critical and hard on ourselves. Sometimes, it’s difficult to forgive our own missteps. We can feel burdened with guilt when we’ve let ourselves down or someone else down. Guilt can lead to self doubt, fear, and even anxiety. Conquering feelings of guilt can be a huge step towards self acceptance.
11 Self Acceptance Exercises to Overcome Guilt
Get rid of guilt for once and for all with these self acceptance exercises.
1. Determine if you should feel guilty
Whose standards are you using? Is someone telling you that you should feel guilty—your parents, your friends, your church? Does it feel right? Make sure that you’re judging yourself by a set of standards you deem worthy. It is your choice.
2. Learn from your mistakes
If you feel guilty because you said or did something wrong, then you’re in a position to benefit from it. Instead of dwelling on what you’ve done wrong, learn from it. Visualize yourself behaving in a new and improved manner. Prevent yourself from repeating the behavior in the future.
3. Accept that guilt can be unproductive
Does your behavior require modification? If not, there’s no reason to feel guilty. Imagine that you feel guilty about missing your child’s game because you needed to work. Sometimes things are out of our control. If there was nothing you could have done to avoid it, then feeling guilty is unproductive.
Saying sorry will make you feel better—even if the person isn’t ready to accept your apology.
5. Forgive yourself
Saying sorry to yourself can help you lift feelings of guilt. Apologize to yourself, and forgive yourself for the misstep.
6. Accept that you feel guilty
Take the time to acknowledge your feelings and the pain that comes with your mistake. Accept that you made a mistake, and realize that it will pass. Continue to forgive yourself.
7. Let it go
Don’t hold onto guilt. Once the event has passed, you have apologized, and you’ve modified your behavior, it’s time to let it go. What purpose does your guilt serve at this point? Imagine you’re putting the feelings into a box and locking it shut. Take a deep breath, let it out, and move on.
8. Have gratitude
Turn negative thoughts into positive ones. Rather than saying to yourself, I should have done this! Think, I’m grateful I’ve learned the importance of this. Negative experiences are worthy of gratitude.
9. Think instead of react
Guilt is often the result of acting without thinking. It’s easy to do or say something you’ll regret if behave rashly. When you become emotional, take a moment to collect yourself before you respond. Pause and think. Avoid social media or email until you collect yourself because it is so very easy to hit “send.” Learn to practice mindfulness.
10. Be less critical of yourself
The need to be perfect and guilt go hand in hand. Don’t expect perfection, and don’t set unrealistic goals. It can lead to feelings of guilt. Realize that everyone makes mistakes. Go easy on yourself!
11. Create realistic beliefs
Just like setting realistic goals, make sure your beliefs are realistic too. Maybe you believe that a good person should do certain things, but you don’t or can’t do these things. Are you sure you are being realistic? Maybe you believe a good person would never get mad, or never leave dirty dishes in the sink, but that is unrealistic. Accept your imperfections and set realistic expectations.
You’re not alone in feeling guilty. Everyone in the world feels guilty at times. What’s important is that you learn from the guilt, and move past it. Some people spend a lifetime wallowing in guilt. They might never experience self acceptance and experience pain, anxiety, isolation and fear because of it.