Learning to be OK with all the pieces of you can be hard, but with some practice, you can learn the art of self-acceptance.
While there are always ways to improve and better ourselves, in the end, we are who we are.
After all, who doesn’t have good qualities they’re proud of and flaws they could do without? And we each experience success or failure at different times in our lives.
Learning to accept yourself for who you are can bring peace and calm to your life.
How to accept yourself
- Forgive yourself
- Practice self-compassion
- Use present moment awareness and mindfulness
- Acknowledge and love your abilities
- Ignore your inner critic
- Connect with loved ones who appreciate you
- Move on from disappointments
- Gain perspective on your limitations
Self-esteem refers to having confidence in your qualities and abilities. A person with higher self-esteem might feel worthy of good and positive experiences and feel able to handle difficult situations.
While self-esteem and self-acceptance are connected, self-acceptance refers to the act of embracing every aspect of yourself — strengths and weaknesses.
You might think of it this way: Self-esteem is the quality of fuel you use, and self-acceptance is how you drive on that tank of fuel.
From the moment we’re born, how we fit into the world is determined and highly influenced by our caregivers.
This gives them a lot of power in terms of how we understand and see ourselves. For instance, if your caregiver encouraged, loved, and accepted you, your self-acceptance will often be much different from a child who experienced the opposite.
When we start school, we’re measured by how well we perform on tests and in class, as well as how we assimilate with our peers. All this can contribute to self-worth and acceptance.
As we get older, life circumstances, relationships, and how we’re treated by others can influence how readily we accept ourselves.
It can be hard for many of us to accept ourselves if:
- diversity, equity, and inclusion are low where you live
- imposter syndrome has been at play in your life
- you’ve engaged in harmful behaviors that had consequences
- trauma has made it difficult to embrace your past or present
No matter how your self-acceptance was shaped up until this point, there are practical ways to work on accepting yourself, right now, just as you are.
There are several ways you can work on self-acceptance:
If you’ve hurt people in the past or acted in ways you’re not proud of, forgiving yourself can feel hard. But doing so does not mean you condone your behavior. Instead, it means you accept what you’ve done, take responsibility, and are giving yourself permission to move on.
Self-compassion involves giving yourself warmth and understanding during difficult times or when you feel inadequate.
Some ways to practice self-compassion include:
- Talking to yourself like you would to a friend.
- Writing down how you’d like to help yourself.
- Putting your situation into perspective.
- Engaging in self-care such as meditation, exercise, and healthy eating.
Lean into mindfulness
While we often cannot control life’s circumstances, it is possible to wake up each day and try to live more mindfully.
For instance, each night you might try creating a purpose for the following day. Something as simple as setting a time to wake up and going on a walk before you work can give you direction.
If you want to tackle a bigger purpose like finding your dream job, you might try adding in job searching or updating your resume to the day.
Applaud your abilities
Maybe you make a great apple pie or are the person your friends turn to for a listening ear. Or perhaps you’re a hard worker or have a green thumb.
Whatever your strengths are — no matter how small or big — you could write them down as a way to applaud yourself.
Whenever you’re slow to see what’s praiseworthy about yourself, you can read the list aloud.
Ignore your inner critic
It’s easy to be your own worst critic and listen to your negative thoughts.
But when you feel self-criticism coming on, you can try to put it on hold, take a step back, and think about what you would tell a friend who was thinking that about themselves.
Cultivate your inner circle
There’s nothing like family and friends you can trust and share your deepest thoughts, concerns, and funny stories with. Surrounding yourself with people who welcome you for who you are is a great way to feel accepted.
Like-minded people can be found in online support groups or forums as well.
Mourn and move on from unsatisfied aspirations
When your hopes and dreams aren’t met, it’s easy to feel disappointed. However, allowing yourself to feel disappointed is healthy. Moving on when you’re ready can also help.
You could try memorializing the effort to strive for that vision in life, and closing that chapter mentally in favor of a new goal.
Realize acceptance is not settling
Accepting your flaws and failures does not mean you’re settling for less. In fact, knowing your limitations can go a long way for mental well-being.
For instance, instead of focusing on how impatient you are with children, embrace how well you connect with older individuals by visiting your grandparents often or volunteering at a nursing home.
Learning to accept who you are can be challenging, especially the parts of you that you believe are not your “best.”
If you’ve had a hard time with self-acceptance in the past, know that there are ways to embrace the present, gain perspective on the past, and love everything in-between.