When I am working with clients, self-acceptance is one thing I always want to teach them. Regardless of the primary issue they walk into therapy with, I want them to learn to like themselves …because no matter where you go; there you are.
Self-acceptance is key to growth, fulfilling relationships, and self-esteem. It unlocks our ability to face our struggle head on and reach our individual goals. True self-acceptance is not about turning your back on the challenges you face but about compassionately turning toward the parts of yourself that you want to improve. This is very different than the “tough love” approach I hear so many clients refer to in therapy. The idea that if you beat yourself up about something enough you will find the motivation to change it will only lead to more negative self-perception and suffering.
Below find 4 practices to welcome more self-acceptance into your daily life.
In a commercial culture that is often trying to convince us that we need to be more or better than the current version of ourselves, it can be easy to forget what we actually want. I encourage all of my clients to notice the “shoulds” that implicitly put pressure on us. Messages such as “you should establish a career by 25”, “you should start a family by 30 (or at all)”, etc. Instead, focus on developing the path that feels authentic to you and aligns with your values.
Perfectionism is the secret killer to success. It stops us from being present in our own growth and convinces us that we aren’t good enough. Try to notice when you are engaging in comparison thinking and challenge it by honing in on the parts of yourself you are proud of. Move past the notion that you will be happy if you reach the ideal in all areas of life.
Mistakes are a beautiful opportunity for growth. Practice self-forgiveness and think of how your “failure” re-defines how you want to move forward.
Activity: Voice of Confidence Journaling
Draw a line down a sheet of paper creating two columns. In the left column, name your self-critical inner voice. This can be anything you want. I have clients call it “mean girl”, “negative Nancy”, “inner bully” or simply the “self critic”. In the right column, name your voice of inner confidence. For each message of negative self talk, provide an example of how the voice of inner confidence would challenge these messages.