The ability to accept ourselves exactly as we are, good and bad, directly effects our self-esteem and overall happiness. Some people tend to fixate on their more negative qualities or emotions while others may gloss over them entirely. Accepting something does not mean that we "like" it, it simply means we acknowledge that it is there and we are not struggling against it. All human beings have positive and negative attributes, thoughts, and emotions, and the more we accept our imperfect humanity, the more authentic we can be in our relationships and the more at peace we can be with ourselves.
An important aspect to self-acceptance is becoming aware of when we are judging ourselves. Ask yourself: what aspects of myself do I have difficulty accepting? For example, some people may judge their emotions harshly and find it unacceptable to feel angry or sad. Others may find it difficult to accept their propensity to procrastinate or their innate forgetfulness. Still others struggle with body issues or aspects of their sexuality.
Often times our judgmental inner critic comes from negative feedback we have received in the past from family or peers. We may have grown up in a household where expressing emotions was not acceptable or we may have been bullied about our appearance or abilities. This kind of feedback can distort our perception of ourselves and we can adopt a judgmental inner dialogue that is not based in reality.
Becoming aware of our inner dialogue, what we tell ourselves, and how we judge ourselves is key to self-acceptance. There are many ways to increase our awareness, including: working with a counsellor, doing CBT exercises, and practicing mindfulness. By practicing mindfulness we learn to observe our thoughts and emotions rather than judge them. When we can do this, we gain personal freedom and a greater sense of control over our thoughts and feelings.
Self-Compassion & Forgiveness
The ability to forgive ourselves is a powerful tool. All of us have done things we are not proud of or we wish we could change. Like acceptance, forgiveness does not mean that we "like" what has happened. Rather, it is a conscious effort to release ourselves from the suffering and resentment that we are holding onto, that is causing us harm. To forgive ourselves is an act of self-love and it allows us to move forward, try to do a little better next time, and accept ourselves exactly as we are.