Self Acceptance

Self Acceptance. Psychology Fanatic article header image
Self Acceptance. (Adobe Stock Images)

Quit being a hater. We can dislike an action without disliking the actor. This is especially true when dissatisfied with a personal behavior. Quit being a self-hater. When we slip, fail, or act contrary to a desired character trait, we aren’t stupid or bad; we are human. Personal condemnation doesn’t promote growth. Deploring the self doesn’t motivate change. This just isn’t the case. We must offer self acceptance accept in the moment. This compassionate acceptance creates an environment amicable to growth,

The healthy development of a child depends on a loving, caring environment. A child constantly berated and peppered with insults becomes protective and defensive. The chaotic and dangerous world of these children is unpredictable, the message taught is stay safe, avoid the unknown. Security, on the other hand, encourages curiosity. The curious child’s explorations build a strong foundation for continued growth.

“Part of the real beauty of life is that it’s unpredictable. Nothing is permanent, everything changes, and of course, a lot of things can happen that will transform who you are and have an impact on your life. The problem is that we need to cultivate the ability to truly accept whatever comes and embrace it.”

~Tiny Buddha

Childhood Environments and Self Acceptance

​Each day delivers new information. The child’s curiosity motivates discovery. Fear thwarts natural curiosity. Fear warns of potential threats, like a turtle retract, pulling vulnerabilities inside the protective shell. When small events during development are chaotic and unpredictable—such as common with poor parenting—the world becomes dark and scary. Instead of expanding, the child retracts. Adults grow in a similar way; we also react to security and threats. A healthy safe environment nurtures growth; a harsh and critical environment demands self-protection. The people surrounding us are a significant part of our environment.

“Radical Acceptance is the practice of saying, ‘Okay. This is unpleasant, but it is what it is and it will pass.'” 

~Fort Behavioral Health

Andrew P. Morrison and Robert D. Storlow report that “when this quest for acceptance and recognition of our attributes by the caregiver is significantly fulfilled in infancy, a healthy core of self-love and self-acceptance results. When it is thwarted, self-hatred or defensive grandiosity (or both) emerge as an expression of pathological narcissism in later years” (2014, Kindle location 1,413).

Harsh Self Criticism

​​We should be selective. But safe environments aren’t entirely external. Internal thoughts also contribute. Critical thoughts destroy security. Harsh personal judgments—often a nasty remnant of the past—continue patterns of the past, making the world unsafe, unpredictable and approached with caution. Inner-criticism doesn’t make the world safe naturally encouraging positive change; we must challenge these harmful judgmental thoughts.

When the world is unsafe, we become overly prevention focused, too frightened to explore new opportunities.

​Self-criticism, expressions of personal disgust and self-directed contempt discourages growth. This harsh environment—even though it is self created—is unpleasant. Instead of curiously exploring, we pullback, we hide from experiences that may initiate an onslaught of self-directed criticism. Self-contempt is not only painful but destructive. Self-hatred leaves a destructive mark. Harsh self-criticism taints choices and sours relationships. We combat self-criticism with self acceptance.

Grounded in Reality

Like the timid child afraid to engage, the self-berated self loses curiosity for exploration of the unknown. To escape pain, the wounded soul responds defensively to new experiences, afraid of failure, damaging self-value, and the shame of losing, again.

“​When you refuse to accept reality, you get stuck in negative emotions such as sadness, anger, shame, or bitterness. You will also cause yourself more suffering if you try to change things that you don’t have any control over.”

~Emily Zeman  | Mindsoother

Dangerous environments encourage protective shields. Soon we begin to deny portions of the self. Almost as if, we see the self as too ugly to look at. None of us are. We possess great beauty. However, many of us judge beauty by the wrong criteria. When we create a kind inner environment through self acceptance, we can welcome enlightening discoveries about ourselves, seeing weakness and strength.

Brené Brown, research professor at the University of Houston, wrote that, “in order to examine where we are, where we want to go and how we want to get there, we must have a level of self-acceptance about who we are” (2007, Kindle location 3,667).

Self-Acceptance Softens Fears

Personal compassion shouldn’t mollify us into complacency. Self acceptance shouldn’t impede growth. A two-year old child praised for exhibiting self-restraint, isn’t being told he has reached a pinnacle and no longer needs to try. We still should engage in personal reflection, identifying weaknesses, poor choices and paths where we stumbled; but in a manner of identification allows for personal dignity.

We treat ourselves with care and concern. To do this, we challenging harsh and self-degrading thoughts, replacing them with gentleness, and a constructive plan for change.

“Acceptance does not mean suspending efforts to change what is. It does not imply that we’re giving up on reality becoming different.” 

~Nancy Colier LCSW, Rev.

Healing Through Self Acceptance

We constantly move through a cycle of hurt and healing. T. Franklin Murphy wrote, “this process of healing repeats throughout our lives, a natural part of the maturing process.” He continues, “An effective ointment to heal these wounds is compassion. Hurts given compassion heal” (2016).

Trauma specialist, Lawrence Heller, explains, “self-acceptance is an important part of the healing process. We invite the possibility of including or even embracing those parts of the self that have been condemned, expelled, and rejected.” He continues saying that patterns of “self-rejection will not change overnight, but we are planting a seed of possibility, a different way for this client to relate to herself. When real-life problems such as difficulty with weight are approached from a perspective of self-rejection rather than self-acceptance, self-hatred can be reinforced” (2012, Kindle location 3,702).

A Few Words by Psychology Fanatic

We long for love and acceptance. Part of the longing is satisfied through small internal shifts. Self acceptance inspires joy. Nurturing a compassionate inner-environment opens the soul to experience emotions. With Inner safety, we experience curious fascination with the human experience; rather than fear. 

​We expand our borders; rather than build barricades to protect against the unpredictable outside world. We won’t blindly ignore faults. Imperfection and acceptance peacefully coexist. These inner-shifts are difficult. We don’t simply change childhood programming; but we can recognize the faulty programming and the stifling feelings generated from the past, and courageously challenge and refute these damaging thoughts.

Our inner compassion creates a healthier environment. The fear of punishment subsides and we willingly explore beyond comfort zones. Personal compassion begins with self acceptance, allowing for the emotions—even the uncomfortable ones—not to carelessly direct our lives through powerful impulses but to be a part of our self-actualizing and fascinating world.

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Brown, Brené (2007). I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough.” Avery; 1st edition.

Heller, Lawrence; LaPierre, Aline (2012). Healing Developmental Trauma: How Early Trauma Affects Self-Regulation, Self-Image, and the Capacity for Relationship. North Atlantic Books; 1st edition

Morrison, Andrew P.; Storlow, Robert D. (2014). Shame, Narcissism, and Intersubjectivity. In “The Widening Scope of Shame.” Editors by Melvin R. Lansky & Andrew P. Morrison. ‎Routledge; 1st edition

Murphy, T. Franklin (2016). Healing Compassion. Psychology Fanatic. Published 3-23-2016. Accessed 5-4-2023.

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