This is the essence of Unconditional Self-Acceptance. You separate yourself from your actions and qualities. You accept that, as a fallible human being, you are less then perfect. You will often perform well, but you will also err at times. When you do perform well, you take pride in it, but you don’t deify your whole self. When you act badly, you may prudently criticize your actions, but you stubbornly refuse to flog yourself. You always and unconditionally accept yourself without judgment. Russell Grieger, PhD
The survey in question was conducted by an organization called Action for Happiness. Their site’s list of scientifically determined “10 Keys to Happier Living” includes, of course, acceptance. See it at number 9 below. (When you take the first letter of each key, it spells out GREAT DREAM):
- Giving: do things for others
- Relating: connect with people
- Exercising: take care of your body
- Appreciating: notice the world around
- Trying out: keep learning new things
- Direction: have goals to look forward to
- Resilience: find ways to bounce back
- Emotion: take a positive approach
- Acceptance: be comfortable with who you are
- Meaning: be part of something bigger
What people practiced more than any of the other 10, per the survey, was giving. The least? Acceptance.
How can we increase our self-acceptance? The researchers associated with the above-cited survey suggest the following:
1. Be as kind to yourself as you are to others. See your mistakes as opportunities to learn. Notice things you do well, however small.
2. Ask a trusted friend or colleague to tell you what your strengths are or what they value about you.
3. Spend some quiet time by yourself. Tune in to how you’re feeling inside and try to be at peace with who you are.
A couple other viewpoints are presented below.
In a post titled “The Path to Unconditional Self-Acceptance,” psychologist Leon Seltzer makes an important distinction between self-esteem and self-acceptance. “I regularly tell my therapy clients that if they genuinely want to improve their self-esteem, they need to explore what parts of themselves they’re not yet able to accept.”
Whereas self-esteem refers specifically to how valuable, or worthwhile, we see ourselves, self-acceptance alludes to a far more global affirmation of self. When we’re self-accepting, we’re able to embrace all facets of ourselves–not just the positive, more ‘esteem-able’ parts. As such, self-acceptance is unconditional, free of any qualification. We can recognize our weaknesses, limitations, and foibles, but this awareness in no way interferes with our ability to fully accept ourselves.
His recipe for building self-acceptance involves three main components:
- Cultivating Self-Compassion
- Letting Go of Guilt
- Learning to Forgive Ourselves
Psychologist Russell Grieger has his own plan with five different steps. To be able to do the first, refer to his definition of unconditional self-acceptance at the top of this post.
1. Give yourself a letter grade with regard to the degree to which you live by the principle of unconditional self-acceptance. Are you satisfied with your grade? What grade would you prefer?
2. Name two situations in which you tend to judge your whole self. What could you tell yourself in these two situations to help you unconditionally accept yourself, despite any mistakes you may make or flaws you may possess?
3. Make a commitment to spend two minutes six times a day (breakfast, mid-morning, lunch, mid-afternoon, supper, and bedtime) drawing the distinction between your self and your performances. Remind yourself at these times to not judge yourself – as either all good or all bad – from that time till the next rehearsal.
4. Practice applying unconditional self-acceptance to others. That is, practice only rating their behaviors and traits as good or bad, but never them as a whole person. This is Unconditional Other Acceptance.
5. Identify one person you know that could benefit from learning about unconditional self-acceptance. Plan where and when you could meet this person to explain it. Teaching others a truth helps us to learn it ourselves.