The Psych Central Report

This Above All: To Thine Own Self Be True
Acceptance of Self

Tomi Inglis
July/August 2005

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Acceptance of self

One of the toughest things for anyone to do, especially those who have a mental illness is to accept themselves just as they are. In my opinion, acceptance is one of the first steps towards self-esteem. And don’t we all struggle with self-esteem! While growing up, I had virtually none. Maybe it was because I was so overly protected but the fact that I was never encouraged to think for myself and the fact that my mother always compared me to my thirteen cousins didn’t give me much of a self identity. I just knew that I was found very lacking.

It is my experience that almost everybody has something in his or her past that has caused us to think we are inferior or that we don’t measure up. On top of that, we’ve developed a mental illness. That, in itself, is extremely difficult to admit having; to us and to anyone else.

Something most of us forget is that our illness does not define us as a person. It does not own us; we own the illness. It is only a small part of who we are. We are made up of many facets, just like a precious stone. It only becomes a precious stone after much chipping, cutting and smoothing out the rough edges. Those of us who have a mental illness have a rough edge to smooth out while those with a physical disability have the same job. For some, it’s good manners, for yet others, it’s their physical health or appearance. We need to accept what we’ve been given and make the best of it. Fortunately, we don’t need to do this alone. There are many resources to be had that will help us. One of those resources is a website like Psych Central and the friends we meet and make here. One thing that only we can do alone and for ourselves only is to want to! To make up our minds that life is intolerable as it is and begin the change. Only we alone can take that first difficult step. No one will do it for us.

A key ingredient for improving our lives and our concept of ourselves is acceptance. We need to accept ourselves just as we are, not only the negative sides of ourselves but the positive parts, too. We need to accept the compliments we get from others as well as the constructive criticisms.

Below, I’ve written Webster’s definition for the word “acceptance.” I’ve found that it’s easier for me if I look up a definition, even to a word I already know. Seeing it in black and white makes it easier to apply in context. I’ve also looked up words that weren’t too clear to me or that could have different meanings, again, to get the full scope of the meaning of the original word.

ACCEPTANCE: to take or sustain without protest or repining –

PROTEST: 1 : a solemn declaration of opinion and usually of disagreement 2 : the act of objecting or a gesture of disapproval <resigned in protest>3 : a complaint, objection, or display of unwillingness usually to an idea or a course of action <went under protest>
REPINING - to feel or express dejection or discontent - to long for something
CONCEDE:  to accept as true, valid, or accurate
to acknowledge grudgingly or hesitantly

Synonyms: bear (with), endure, swallow, tolerate, tough (out);

Related Words: acquiesce (in), agree (to or with), assent (to), subscribe (to); respect; bow, capitulate, yield

Idioms: abide by, put up with.

In the beginning of my therapy, it was extremely difficult for me to accept or believe compliments. My thoughts were that it was the therapist’s job to say something positive about me to make me feel good. Then I realized that she was saying some not very nice things about me so I brought it up to her. She tried to convince me that I wasn’t paying her to say nice things, but to tell me the truth about myself.

One of the self-preservation coping mechanisms I learned was to believe that I was right in everything about myself. After all, who knew me better than me? One of the exercises she had me do was to carry a small notebook with me at all times. When someone gave me a compliment, no matter how small, I was to write it down. Would you believe that I started seeing the same things written down that my therapist had said about me? It still took me a while but, slowly, it started sinking in. There are still some things I don’t quite believe.

The second part of that exercise was to simply say “Thank you” to a compliment. No arguments, no excuses, no buts to the person who said it. Oh, I’d argue plenty to myself, then and later! Then there were moments that I’d say to myself “Really?? Me??” It’s in those moments when you need to grasp that compliment and try with all your might to accept that it’s a good part of you. One of the things I did was to repeat the compliment to myself. I made it personal. Instead of saying “You are…” I’d say “I am…” The more I said it, the easier it was to begin to accept it.

When and if I had one of those rare believable moments, it was time to nurture my inner child by picturing myself at whatever age seemed to come naturally. I’d share my new revelation with my inner child and “we’d” celebrate in almost any manner “she” wanted to.

Something else that worked was to ask my best friend if she saw the same thing in me that the other person saw. Most of the time it was such a shock to get affirmative statements! I also learned who and what not to ask! There are a few things I’ve discovered about myself that I like but don’t really want anyone else’s input to it. After a while, it became easier and easier to believe good about myself.


Last updated: 27 Jun 2005
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 27 Jun 2005
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