Self-acceptance refers to accepting all parts of ourselves unconditionally, both positive and negative.
If as children, we received unconditional love from our caregivers, we often learn to love and accept ourselves as we are, without any conditions or expectations. If you have had parents or caregivers who have been highly critical, and they criticised you as a person instead of your behaviour, you may have learnt to deny or reject the parts of you that are undesirable. Despite your childhood experiences, self-acceptance can be developed, so that you can have an emotionally and psychologically healthier and happier life.
Regular mindfulness practice leads us on the path towards self-acceptance.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program, describes mindfulness as intentionally paying attention to all our moment-to-moment experiences without judgement.
As we learn to focus our attention on our present experiences within ourselves and around us, we become more self-aware. When we can do this without judgement or self-criticism, we learn to accept ourselves fully.
Living mindfully enables you to become more authentic - acting from your true self, and allowing others to see the most authentic version of yourself.
We tend to assess ourselves based on how others perceive us, which lead to critical self-evaluation. Being mindful helps us become aware of the labels and judgements we put on ourselves and re-evaluate how we would like to express ourselves.
We are often disconnected from our internal experiences. Mindfulness practice can help you connect deeply with yourself. Becoming aware of your internal thoughts, beliefs, feelings and sensations open up different perspectives to perceive situations, rather than rigid ways of viewing yourself in challenging situations.
We tend to push uncomfortable feelings aside, numb them out, or distract ourselves from negative thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness teaches us to accept all parts of ourselves as valid and allow for their experience without judgement. By allowing yourselves to experience difficult emotions, you can process them effectively and develop healthy behaviours.
Thoughts are not reality - mindfulness teaches us to observe and notice our fleeting thoughts, without getting attached to them as our entire reality, hence we have an objective view of our cognitions, allowing us to choose our actions wisely instead of engaging in unhelpful behaviours to distract our negative thought patterns.
Mistakes and Failures don't define you. When we get stuck with our past mistakes we develop a critical self-view, which inhibits healthy self-expression. Fostering forgiveness and compassion towards yourself is essential for developing self-acceptance, and helps us to view our failures as lessons for growth.
Although mindfulness was developed from Buddhist traditions, it can be practised by anyone and is not a religious practice. Mindfulness is not the same as meditation. Unlike meditation, mindfulness can be practised informally in our everyday activities.
Here is a simple way to be mindful of your moment-to-moment experiences:
Notice when something difficult is triggered within you
Allow yourself to experience it, acknowledging its presence
Tune in to your body sensations, emotions and thoughts as they arise in the moment
View these experiences with open curiosity and a non-judgemental attitude. In this way you don't identify yourself with these passing, ever-changing experiences, instead, learn to become equanimous to them.
If you struggle with self-acceptance, due to past trauma and childhood experiences, therapy can help you to unpack and heal the different parts of yourself, to live a more authentic life.
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