The Importance Of Unconditional Self-Acceptance
Updated: Feb 6, 2022
What does it mean to accept yourself unconditionally? Read this article to find out more!
“Nothing I accept about myself can be used against me to diminish me.” - Audre Lorde
Self-acceptance means to refuse being at war with yourself.
It means to accept where you are at in life, in order to be able to take ownership of your shortcomings and to understand that it is part of your process of growth. When you understand that it is only natural to be imperfect, then you will grow in compassion and benevolence in the way you treat yourself.
The fact is that things will not always work out the way we want them to. This is the most basic and fundamental understanding of life that helps us to manage our expectations. In life, we are rarely disappointed by our experiences themselves, but we are disappointed by our expectations of the experiences.
We are individuals who deserve the autonomy to make decisions for ourselves. When we understand that everything is a choice, we start to experience freedom. When we decide that it is better for us to accept the fact that we are not as kind or academically intelligent as we hope to be, we are taking a big first step to becoming people of higher standards.
Why? Because we can never strive to improve or grow in an aspect that we pretend does not exist or find hard to accept. Someone who is in denial over his/her life outcome is not facing reality, but growth only happens when you have the courage to face reality no matter how hard it is.
If it was easy, then everyone would have done it. This is why growth is called growth.
Just like flowers don’t grow without rain, self-acceptance will not come easily.
Why do people fear failure so much?
Society has blown the concept of failure out of proportion. When we failed an exam as a child, we can only interpret it as bad because we got punished for it and we faced undesirable consequences that caused us to experience fear, shame and regret. We learned to negatively associate failure with bad experiences - no wonder people find it so hard to take ownership of their mistakes and imperfections.
Think of the people we know, including ourselves, who come up with a hundred excuses of why they did not succeed and why they could have done it better if circumstances were different. This is how we unconsciously reject our imperfect self, and the more we do it, the more our self-esteem diminishes.
Most of us are not aware of the ways we reject ourselves and why we do it. Thus, it might be good to become more aware of our thoughts and beliefs. Learn more about this in my previous article here!
“Acceptance is such an important commodity, some have called it the first law of personal growth.”
“Good Enough” Principle
No matter where you are in life or how poorly you perceive yourself, one thing important to know is that you are “good enough”. There is no one true way of determining whether someone is universally good or bad, smart or stupid, funny or unfunny. When you decide to understand that you are “good enough”, you are accepting yourself for where you are at life. You prevent yourself from feeling a sense of inadequacy or shame that you have to hide from yourself and others. You make peace with your insecurities. It doesn’t matter if you still don’t know your purpose at age 40 or if you had a bad day - it is what it is for now.
Some people think that acceptance means the end. “Since I am good enough, then there is no need to strive for more.”
This is flawed. Self-acceptance is not meant to give you an easy way out of your suffering. It is to help build a solid foundation from which you can work your way upwards and strive to become better.
Acceptance vs Denial
So how does self-acceptance help us strive?
Think of John, for example. John refuses to believe that he can be self-centred at times. He refuses it because it hurts his self-esteem and it threatens his pride.
How can John become better if he believes that he is not?
Think of James, for example. James has a fear that people might not like him and he often overthinks. But James accepts this part of himself. He understands that fear is normal and we all experience fear. He also knows that with better understanding and by putting his new values into action, he will be less afraid.
James starts to practice public speaking and offers to give speeches for his CCA. After many months, James develops genuine confidence around people.
As we grew up, many of us interpreted acceptance as something that is conditional.
When we do a good deed, our parents show love to us.
When we misbehave, our parents reject us.
When we do well for exams, our teachers compliment us.
When we forget to do our homework, they make us feel small and less worthy.
We inevitably start to behave in order to minimise pain and rejection.
When we do something well, of course we tell others that it is our doing. But when we do something bad, suddenly we start making excuses and defending ourselves.
We disown ourselves in this manner and of course self-love starts to feel impossible.
Thus, it is incremental that no matter what circumstance, even when life pushes us down, steps all over us, or when we perform badly, or we disappoint ourselves or others, to acknowledge that it is part of life and it is OK. You remain you and you are not defined by your results or actions.
Happiness and love are your birth-right and you deserve them.
Done By: Sugimoto Shoujin