The Radical Power of Self-Acceptance

The Radical Power of Self Acceptance: In recent blog posts, we’ve delved into the transformative powers of mindfulness and self-compassion, essential components for not merely surviving but thriving in life. Now, we turn our attention to another invaluable tool: self-acceptance. By embracing mindfulness, self-compassion, and self-acceptance in unison, you pave a path towards healing and wholeness.

So, what is self acceptance? Self acceptance doesn’t mean giving yourself a free pass to be a jerk to others, to be greedy, to be rude. Self acceptance doesn’t mean you think you’re better than others, or more valuable than others. However, self acceptance means you have a deep tolerance and flexibility for your feelings, thoughts, states of mind, foibles, humanity. Self acceptance means going through life feeling like ou are OK, not deeply flawed. You are OK, not worse than other people (or better). 

The Role of Family Dynamics in Self-Acceptance

Many individuals grapple with self-acceptance due to inadequate support from their parents or family environments. Growing up, they received messages suggesting they were “too much,” their emotions were “too intense,” or certain feelings were unacceptable. For instance, some children were discouraged from expressing anger, especially girls, leading them to believe their emotions were invalid, thus fostering a sense of inadequacy.

Others faced punishment simply for being themselves or for deviating from their parents’ expectations. They learned to tiptoe around volatile or unsupportive parental figures, often sacrificing their own desires and needs to please others, ultimately developing people-pleasing tendencies and codependent behaviors.

Self-acceptance necessitates a process of self-reparenting for individuals from such backgrounds. It involves acknowledging and validating one’s emotions and experiences without judgment. This practice, rooted in curiosity and kindness towards oneself, mirrors the principles of self-compassion.

Controlling religious environments can cause a lack of self acceptance too

Other people grew up in controlling religious environments – this describes many of the clients I work with. In those circumstances, people are often taught from an early age that they are sinners who deserve hell and who will only be saved if they act in a certain way, say the right things and “believe” in a certain dogma. Not all religious organizations teach this, but unfortunately the ones who do can leave a lasting negative impact on individuals’ ability to feel a sense of love and belonging no matter what, which is a basic human need.

Instead of self acceptance, they are taught self-hatred and self-mistrust. They are taught that they should trust the leader who speaks for God, rather than themselves, their own intuition and gut feelings. Over time, they can become so cut off from their bodies they don’t even know what they feel. And if you don’t know what you feel or want, it’s hard to know who you really are. It’s hard to accept yourself when you haven’t had the chance to develop a sense of self in the first place.

A poignant example of how controlling religious groups can damage self acceptance is their treatment of LGBTQI youth. In some conservative groups, LGBTQI youth are taught that there is something wrong with them, and encouraged never to act on their (totally natural and normal) desires. This shaming can go deep and be hard to overcome, even years later and far away from the group. It’s very hard to accept yourself when an influential group of people once indoctrinated you to believe that a fundamental part of yourself is sinful.

Steps towards increasing your self-acceptance

  1. Get in touch with your thoughts and feelings without judgment. Pay attention to what happens in your body when you have a feeling, like anger. Be kind and non-judgmental towards yourself as you explore how you really feel.
  2. Review negative messages you received about yourself or who you are from others in your past, whether your parents, a religious group or another social context. Do you still believe these messages? Do they still impact how you think and feel now? Which of these messages do you want to continue to believe, and which do you want to let go of?
  3. Consider working with a therapist. Over time, with lots of space to express your thoughts and feelings, your sense of self-acceptance and self-love can blossom.

How Self Acceptance Heals Relationships

Perhaps surprisingly, accepting yourself for who you are, warts and all, can improve your relationships too. People who radically accept their thoughts and feelings struggle less with defensiveness, for example. They’re able to take and integrate feedback, even critical feedback, because they don’t harshly judge themselves for perceived shortcomings. 

Also, when people accept themselves, they can be more accepting of others. The generosity that you show to yourself is an endless resource you can then give to others, who also need love and compassion, even when they’re not perfect or they’re having Big Feelings or big reactions.

Therapy can help you harness the radical power of self-acceptance.

Therapy can help with self acceptance. Over time, you get to know yourself in a deeper way. You have the opportunity to say everything in the presence of a caring witness who is non-judgmental and accepting of whatever you think and feel. Slowly and with effort, you can get back in touch with your body, with your heart, with your own mind. You can regain the ability to think critically and to come to your own conclusions rather than accepting someone else’s dogma or answers for you.

If this resonates with you, please feel free to reach out for a free consultation. You can also reach me directly at 585-294-4776.

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