Published on 10/8/2022
Self-Acceptance is an Action
Imagine you are standing naked in front of a full-length mirror. You are asked to stare at yourself for two minutes.
Now take a quick inventory of the feelings this suggestion evokes. Did you feel curious or afraid? Interested or hesitant? Willing or unwilling? Or did you reject the whole idea as something you would absolutely never do? Imagining the experience gives you an indication of your level of self-acceptance; actually doing it will tell you even more.
Self-acceptance is an action. It is something we do, not just something we feel. To say “I value myself” is an act of self-affirmation that provides a base from which self-esteem develops.
When practicing self-acceptance, we don't have to like everything about ourselves. In fact, we almost certainly won't. What it really means is that we acknowledge and accept that our thoughts, actions, emotions, bodies, dreams, etc. (that is, everything about us) are our own.
“But I don’t want to be insecure (or afraid or judgmental or angry or fat or old or alcoholic or any of a dozen other things),” someone might say. “If I accept that about myself, it means I don’t want to change. Or I won’t change.”
Here’s the paradox: without acceptance of what is, it is impossible to change.
When we deny any part of ourselves, we see that part alien or outside. To say, “I don’t want to be _________, therefore I won’t accept that I am,” is self-rejection, the exact opposite of self-acceptance. To say, “I don’t want to be ________, but I am and I am willing to change,” is the kind of self-acceptance that gives birth to transformation.
Healing and growth can only come in when awareness and acceptance open the door. Someone said, "Nothing boosts a person's self-esteem more than being aware of and accepting that part of oneself that is not valued."
Here’s another exercise: Try on any emotion that is difficult to face — insecurity, jealousy, anger, fear. Try it on as if it were a sweater or a pair of shoes. Breathe into it and focus on it; feel your feelings. Notice how, as you accept and experience it, the feeling begins to melt away.
If you are resisting — tightening your muscles, holding your breath — accept your resistance. If you deny the resistance, it will only gain in strength. But, like the feelings themselves, if you embrace the resistance, it will dissipate.
It’s not only negative feelings or thoughts we sometimes don’t accept; we refuse our positive sides, too. In fact, some of our bright side can seem more frightening than the dark. What a loss to refuse to accept our excitement or joy, our charm or our beauty. How sad it is to be afraid of the talents, visions or dreams God has given us.
It has been said that the greatest crime we commit against ourselves is not that we deny and disown our shortcomings, but that we deny and disown our strengths or being different.
At its lowest point, self-acceptance is what keeps us alive. It is the strength that keeps us moving; it is what gives us the courage to finally say “No!” or “Yes!” It is the hand that reaches out for help.
To be self-accepting is to be for yourself, not against yourself. This is the birthright by grace for every human being.
"I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me." (1 Corinthians 4:3-4)
Author's content used under license, © Claire Communications
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Winnis Chiang, LMFT and founder of ParentingABC.com, is passionate about helping Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking parents to get along with, enjoy, and positively influence their American born children.