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What Does Self-Acceptance Actually Mean?

Self-acceptance refers to recognizing your imperfections and accepting them for what they are. Rather than condemning yourself, you can stop obsessing about yourself and what people think of you. You can then focus on making changes that will help you feel happier.

It might all seem easy enough. But when you do a self-analysis and consider the question, "Do I accept myself?" it might feel odd. After all, what does accepting yourself even mean? And don't we already accept ourselves as we live every day?

But it might surprise you to know that self-acceptance doesn't happen automatically. Many people struggle to accept themselves for who they are, even when they're delighted with their lives.

Self-acceptance isn't about loving yourself. It doesn't mean that you're saying, "I'm wonderful." It means you accept the way you look and the way you behave. It means you admit that others might not like you because you're different from everyone else.

The Meaning of Self-Acceptance

People define self-acceptance as accepting themselves for who they are, regardless of their weaknesses. They believe that this is the fundamental aspect of self-love. This definition is a widely agreed-upon definition of self-acceptance, but many people disagree.

Think about the young people around you. How often are people saying, "I accept myself." It's rare. Some people don't accept themselves because they don't understand what it means to accept themselves.

They believe that it means being happy, but they don't know what happiness means. They don't realize that self-acceptance isn't the same as happiness. Accepting yourself involves realistically understanding yourself as a person.

And when it comes to the fields of clinical psychology, researchers state that accepting yourself is the first significant step towards change. To accept oneself, a person needs to accept their inner qualities, strengths, and imperfections. They need to resist the urge to criticize themselves.

What Self-Acceptance Is Not

When people talk about accepting them for who they are, some assume it means staying where you are without improving. That's one misconception about self-acceptance. But accepting yourself doesn't mean not trying to improve at all.

It means admitting your shortcomings and then proceeding with self-improvement. Of course, accepting yourself is a good first step. It allows you to focus on your good qualities to feel better about yourself.

It also helps you rid yourself of feelings of guilt and lack of self-esteem. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't do anything about your life. It doesn't mean resigning yourself to your fate and leaving it alone.

It means recognizing your mistakes and then correcting them. It means being aware of your weaknesses, so you can learn how to overcome them. And all of that comes from self-acceptance.

So what steps can you take to better accept yourself?

1. Become more compassionate about yourself. Before embarking on this journey, many people find themselves in a cycle of berating themselves and wishing they were different. That can be stressful and highly detrimental.

  • Instead of constantly comparing yourself to others, take the time to appreciate the qualities you possess and don't mind that you don't have the others yet. Be gentle with yourself when you go astray.

  • Avoid beating yourself up. Show yourself compassion and understanding and use your mistakes as motivation to increase your self-awareness and act.

2. Love yourself more than you do now. Just like showing compassion to ourselves, many people struggle to love themselves. They feel loving themselves makes them selfish, shallow, and self-indulgent. That couldn't be farther from the truth.

  • Being selfish and shallow isn't loving yourself, and being self-indulgent isn't loving yourself either. If you don't treat yourself with the same respect and kindness with which you treat your best friend, you're not loving yourself very well.

  • Loving yourself is not something that you can make happen overnight. It helps to built up an appreciation and understanding of who you are and why you're in the world. Once you have that knowledge, it will make it easier to learn to love yourself.

Self-acceptance isn't something that you can achieve instantly. It’s important to learn to love yourself even if you don't always feel comfortable doing so. It's not a matter of feeling happy with who you are and what you have. It's a matter of accepting your imperfections without feeling bad about them.

When you do that, paradoxically, you become happier because when you accept who you are, it helps set the tone for self-improvement and growth.

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