“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves”… Dalai Lama (xiv)
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection” …..Gautam Buddha
The quality of life we lead has a lot dependent on how we look at and relate with ourselves and others. Good relationships with self and others has its roots in our being happy with acceptance of ourselves as we are.
What is Self Acceptance?
Self Acceptance is an agreement with yourself to appreciate, validate, accept and support who you are at this moment.
- It involves accepting ourselves the way we are, with all our strengths and weaknesses.
- It is an important pre-requisite to happiness and well-being.
- However it is also the most difficult thing to do for most of us!
In my profession of working with people, it is important to understand what is it that makes it easy or difficult for people to accept themselves.
Where does the difficulty originate in accepting ourselves?
Self acceptance or lack of it, has its roots in a person’s childhood.
When a child receives appreciation and validation from the parents, he/she develop a sound sense of self. This helps in feeling good about oneself.
- It plays a significant part for the children to form a healthy sense of Self and accept themselves.
- The child grows in an environment of tolerance, humility, compassion and approval and grows up with a high self-esteem.This forms positive beliefs about oneself.
- The internal dialogue that the child nurtures is self-supportive, healthy and encouraging.
However, when a child does not receive any praise or love or is constantly compared, criticised, physically or emotionally abused, then
- the sense of self is fragmented.
- The self-esteem is low and it is close to impossible to think or feel anything positive about oneself.
- The child forms negative beliefs about himself and his internal dialogue that is nurtured is self-critical, punitive and self-demeaning.
- Individuals who didn’t receive this parental support in their childhood, become prey to self-criticism in adulthood, not forgiving (themselves or others) for mistakes made and having no love for themselves.
How does one overcome the limitation?
Some of the ways that I have found effective for people to bring self acceptance are:
- Affirmations- “I am ok as I am”; “I am good at my work”; “I am a good mother/father”;”My family loves me”; “ I feel good about my status in life” etc
- Changing their negative beliefs and replacing them with positive ones. Example – Instead of “I was never very good as a student”, focusing on what is good, such as “I am good at teaching my kids”
- Accessing and acknowledging present resources and strengths. Example-“My friends at work are supportive and encouraging. It motivates me to go to work everyday.” Or, “My husband is appreciative and supportive of me. I enjoy being with him.”
- Accepting oneself as having both good and bad parts by giving permission to self to be who we are. Example –“There’s a part of me which is hard working and can achieve anything and there’s the other part which is lazy and just wants to be. Both are me”.
- Forgiving oneself and others for what happened in the past. Example- “My mother was always restraining me from socialising beyond school time, but I can now understand why she behaved that way.”
- Resolving the difficult feelings associated with specific childhood incidents with therapeutic help.This involves intense inner child work, which allows the person to get in touch with unexpressed emotions and sensations, in the safety of the therapeutic space. The therapeutic relationship facilitates resolving old patterns and looking at self and others with a fresh lens. This results in dealing with inner conflicts; address and acknowledge the mental blocks about self or others; to enable move on in life.- Example- “I am now able to look at my father as a caring and supportive person.”
Positive relationships with ourselves and others allow us to open ourselves to love and compassion; and also accept criticism in a positive way. This helps one evolve into a more confident and secure person.
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