“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change” (1995). “Taking a stance of non-judgmental awareness and actively embracing the experience of thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations as they occur” (Hayes et al., 2004)
What is acceptance?
Acceptance is a self-regulation strategy that involves an open and welcoming attitude toward one’s own emotions, thoughts, or external events.
Why is acceptance important?
It is important for our mental health because it can help us cope with difficult situations and emotions without resisting or denying them. Acceptance can also facilitate healing and recovery from various psychological problems, such as stress, pain, anxiety, depression, and addiction. Additionally, it is important nowadays because it can help us cope with the uncertainty and challenges of life.
Acceptance means consenting to the reality of a situation or a person’s choice without trying to change it. It can help us move from feeling any emotion to actually being that emotion, as we stop resisting and start embracing what is. Moreover, acceptance can foster our personal growth and development by helping us learn from our experiences and find the lessons in them. Acceptance can also enhance our relationships with others by respecting their choices and opinions without judgment
What can I gain when I accept myself?
- Being able to see yourself fairly accurately and recognize what you are and aren’t good at
- Embracing all the parts of yourself—even the negative ones—and being happy with who you are
- Accepting your values, preferences, resources, feelings, intuitions, and actions—both past and present
- Recognizing your strengths and accomplishments without being overly vain about them
- Learning to acknowledge your weaknesses and faults without beating yourself up over them or engaging in overly excessive negative self-talk
- Having a positive attitude toward yourself and holding yourself in high regard, without the need for others’ approval
- Seeing yourself as a whole human being, rather than defining yourself by any one characteristic, incident, ability, or weakness
- Being able to love and respect yourself
ACCEPT vs AGREE
Acceptance and agreeing are two different concepts that are often confused. Acceptance means consenting to the reality of a situation or a person’s choice without trying to change it.
Agreeing means having the same opinion or granting consent to something or someone. You can accept something without agreeing with it, and you can agree with something without accepting it. For example, you can accept that your friend has a different political view than you, but you don’t have to agree with it. Or you can agree that your colleague did a good job on a project, but you don’t have to accept that he deserves more credit than you.
Psychological acceptance is a term that refers to the process of not simply noticing but also embracing one’s experience without judgment or defense. It is different from accepting the status quo of one’s life situation, which may imply passivity or resignation. Psychological acceptance means taking a stance of non-judgmental awareness and actively embracing the experience of thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations as they occur. Psychological acceptance is important for our well-being because it can help us cope with difficult emotions and situations without resisting or avoiding them, which can cause more psychological harm.
How can I practice acceptance in life?
There are many ways to practice acceptance in life, but here are some common steps that can help you cultivate this skill:
- Notice your resistance. Pay attention to how you react when you face a difficult situation or emotion. Do you try to avoid it, deny it, or distract yourself from it? Resistance can be a sign that you are not accepting what is happening.
- Question your patterns. Ask yourself why you are resisting your experience. What are you afraid of? What are you trying to protect yourself from? What beliefs or expectations are you holding on to that are causing you pain?
- Be mindful. Mindfulness is the practice of being present and aware of your thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judging them. Mindfulness can help you observe your experience with curiosity and openness, rather than resistance and criticism.
- Consider your inner child. Sometimes, we resist our experience because we feel ashamed, unworthy, or unlovable. These feelings may stem from childhood wounds that have not been healed. Imagine how you would treat a child who is going through what you are going through. Would you be harsh and critical, or kind and compassionate? Try to treat yourself the way you would treat a child who needs your love and support.
- Embrace your uniqueness. Acceptance also means appreciating yourself for who you are, with all your strengths and weaknesses. Instead of comparing yourself to others or trying to fit in, celebrate what makes you different and valuable. Recognize your achievements and talents, as well as your areas of growth and improvement.
- Forgive yourself: If you’ve made a mistake, acknowledge it and learn from it, but don’t berate yourself for it repeatedly. Learn to forgive yourself for your mistakes.
- Avoid self-blame: Recognize that you are not the cause of all the negative situations you encounter. Try to be objective and evaluate other factors that may have played a role in the circumstances.
- Don’t compare yourself to others: Try to be a better version of your previous self, instead of making comparisons to others.
- Focus on positivity: Make an effort to see the silver lining in every situation. Rather than focusing on what you did wrong, try to identify at least one thing you did right. If you have a negative thought about yourself, reframe it and replace it with a positive one instead.
- Keep a journal: Maintain a journal where you note down your strengths and accomplishments, as well as your weaknesses and disappointments. If you are having difficulty accepting something, it can be helpful to note down your thoughts about the situation and what you could have done differently. This can help you implement changes in the future and act more in accordance with your values.
- Try loving-kindness meditation: Loving-kindness meditation is a form of meditation that can help you build positivity, compassion, and equanimity. It involves thinking positive thoughts for yourself, appreciating yourself just the way you are, and saying affirmations out loud.
- Seek help: It may be helpful to see a mental health professional, if you feel that a lack of self-acceptance is disturbing your peace of mind, causing you to experience symptoms of anxiety or depression, interfering with your ability to eat or sleep, affecting your work, or harming your relationships.
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Hayes, S. C., Strosahl, K. D., Bunting, K., Twohig, M., & Wilson, K. G. (2004). What is acceptance and commitment therapy?. In A practical guide to acceptance and commitment therapy (pp. 3-29). Springer, Boston, MA.
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