You are enough - 6 tips for achieving self-acceptance
Our interactions with others, whether they be with our family in childhood, our peers in school, or our partners in romantic relationships... they all influence and shape the development of our self-concept and, as such, how we perceive ourselves as individuals.
If these interactions and relationships are affirmative, validating, and nurturing, it is likely they will contribute to a positive self-concept. However, if they are critical, dismissive, and harmful, they can all too easily lead to a negative self-perception.
Often counsellors will meet people who struggle with low self-esteem and a negative self-perception. They have spent several years feeling as though they are not good enough or that they are not worthy of being happy. They often come to counselling to 'fix' themselves or for the counsellor to 'fix' them. When the counsellor tells them they are not broken and don’t need to be fixed, it can be difficult for them to believe. An important part of the counsellor's role is to support people to truly believe that they are enough just as they are and to arrive at a place of self-acceptance. Once they get there, they often find a real sense of freedom and happiness.
Self-acceptance is no mean feat, however, especially if significant people in your life have repeatedly told you that you are not good enough, demanded more from you when you have tried your best, or treated you in ways that have left you feeling insignificant.
A child’s self-concept begins to develop from the moment they enter the world. The parental/caregiver relationship is so key to this development, and all too often those with low self-esteem have experienced a critical or detached caregiver. A child of an emotionally distant, neglectful or critical caregiver often internalises this behaviour and converts it to the message 'I am not loveable'.
In order to thrive and develop a healthy sense of self, children need unqualified love; not love that is offered only when certain conditions are met. They need nurturing, attention, and boundaries, not inconsistent and unreliable care. Without these things, they come to believe that they are not worthy of love, or that they are bad in some way. Every child is loveable, it’s just that not every parent knows how to love in this way, or how to show this love.
One of the most important things to remember is that the answer to why your parent or caregiver couldn't love you how you needed to be loved doesn’t lie within you - it lies within them. It’s time to stop taking responsibility for other’s behaviours and work towards accepting that you are loveable just as you are. As I have said, self-acceptance doesn’t come easy, but nothing worth having does. Putting in the energy and commitment to personal growth is so very worth the reward of loving and valuing yourself just the way you are.
Six tips for working towards self-acceptance
1. Challenge the critical voice. When you notice the self-critical voice, take time to stop and consider whose voice it actually is. Is it your own, or have you come to believe it is when it actually belongs to someone else? The messages it delivers are often adapted from what you were told as a child, or in your relationships, and not necessarily what you truly believe if you open yourself up to self-acceptance.
2. Live your life and interact with those around you in a compassionate way. When we are more compassionate towards others, this can help to foster a more compassionate mindset in general. When we begin to view ourselves through compassionate eyes, self-acceptance becomes much more possible.
3. Practice self-care. In order to practice self-care, especially on a regular basis, you need to show self-compassion. Allowing yourself to meet your own needs can support you to value yourself more and come to a place of self-acceptance.
4. Do things for others. Let someone out in the line of traffic, hold the door for someone, make your colleague a drink when you see they are having a busy day, compliment a friend, smile at a stranger, buy a homeless person a hot drink. They are all small gestures that can often mean a lot to the recipient. Doing things for others can help to build a positive self-concept, and others benefit also, so it’s a win/win!
5. Write a journal. Take time each day to write down something positive you have done that day or something you like about yourself. This encourages you to focus on the good stuff and helps you to ignore the critical voice. Done regularly, this can contribute to learning to accept yourself.
6. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Would you expect others to get it right all of the time? To be perfect, to never make a bad decision? I imagine you answered no to each of these because you recognise it is unrealistic to have this expectation. Afford yourself the same allowances you make for others. We are all human which means we are fallible. If we allow them to, mistakes can teach us lessons from which we can learn. Otherwise, they can easily become ammunition for criticising ourselves.
So the next time you find yourself questioning if you are good enough or feeling that you don’t match up to others, try to remind yourself that your uniqueness is what makes you amazing. Tell yourself you are worthy, you are wonderful, and you are good enough just as you are.