Accepting Yourself: The Benefits and Challenges of Self-Acceptance

By Val Silver

benefits of accepting yourself, imperfection is beauty Marilyn Monroe quote

Accepting yourself just as you are is a vital spiritual practice that comes with benefits and challenges. Only with unconditional, honest, compassionate self-acceptance can you truly feel good about yourself and others. Only by accepting your reality can you joyfully embark on your path of personal growth and fulfillment. Just like scientists, you must face the reality of 'what is' and work with it as the foundation and starting point for creating a better world for yourself and others.

Unconditional self acceptance may not be easy,but once you experience its benefits, you will want more of it. Being okay with who you are is essential for mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.  Truly accepting yourself is often a far cry from what you think and feel as you look in the mirror and judge the person looking back at you.

What is Unconditional Self Acceptance?

Acceptance is nonresistance to reality. You cannot swap out your genes or your body. You cannot undo the past, including the choices you made or happenings that shaped who you are today.  You can choose to accept these things or to resist them.

Accepting yourself  will foster understanding and peace with all aspects of yourself - you body, your soul and your ego. When you accept yourself, you understand that your core authentic Self is perfect just as it is; your ego-self is natural and necessary for surviving on Earth; and your body has parts that are and are not within your control. 

Your authentic Self is your soul or spirit. It is the eternal part of you that stems from Source energy. It is your innate goodness that manifests as agape love of self and others. The Self may get denied or hidden to some degree. It is often subdued by the ego. As you learn to accept your Self, you are free to let it shine more and more. 

Your ego-self has personas and masks, human desires and needs, self-interests, strengths and weaknesses. This is the part people often judge, demean, try to puff up or get rid of, and make up stories about. The ego is also the part that acts out and judges oneself and others.

It is sometimes difficult for people on a spiritual or personal growth path to make peace with the ego. Sometimes, they want to get rid of it. This is a mistake. The ego can be lovingly accepted while it is cultivated under the authority of the Self. That is the key. The ego belongs under the authority of the heart, not the other way around. 

The benefits of accepting yourself

Self-acceptance has far-reaching benefits. You can tell yourself the truth without recrimination. You develop authentic self-esteem and confidence. You feel more relaxed and at peace with yourself and the world. It is easier for you to manifest and become the person you want to be in all aspects of your life. You feel more at ease in the world.

You tell yourself the truth with love

When you accept yourself, you can tell the truth about who you are as a being. You can also assess aspects of your physical and mental self which you would like to improve. You can be okay with yourself in the moment while recognizing that you can mature and evolve into the next best version of yourself.  When you accept yourself, you do this with an attitude of love, not from the attitude that you have to fix yourself. This allows you to make decisions that will serve the highest good of yourself and others in the long run. 

Accepting yourself offers a soft place for assessing aspects of your life without being unduly hard on yourself. It offers no energy for self-loathing and harsh judgments. What is, is. What was, was. You are at peace regardless of perceived flaws and short-comings because your Self is not those things.

Personal evolution is easier

When you accept yourself, you make decisions about change and personal transformation, or not, under the guidance of the Self more than from ego. As a bonus, desired transformation springing from your inner being can be a breeze compared to trying to achieve something aligned with a false image. It is the difference between being freed of a heavy weight and forcing yourself to be and do.

Consider this statement...

"Even though I have this problem, I deeply and completely love and accept myself."

Those words are the opening setup statement of the Emotional Freedom Technique. It is an acknowledgement of your true nature as one free of self-judgment. The words act as a reminder, consciously and unconsciously, of a deep untainted relationship with our spirit, whether they feel true to the ego and personality or not. 

Extending love, grace and forgiveness to yourself feels good. And another bonus, when you genuinely accept yourself, warts and all, you are likely to extend those gifts to others. 

unconditional self acceptance, this is the miracle quote, Eckhart Tolle

Unconditional self acceptance opens you to your true nature as a loving, compassionate person. It frees up energy for healing and puts you in tune with inner guidance and intuition. It fosters your sense of connection with others and 'all that is'.

When you love and accept yourself unconditionally, you are naturally motivated to seek personal evolution and spiritual wellness, not because there is something wrong with you, but because you are worth it. Your decisions and goals will align with what is in your best interest. And it certainly feels better than beating yourself up with negativity.

You feel more positive and relaxed

How you feel about yourself affects more than your self-esteem. Feelings of low self-worth create an undercurrent of stress that makes physical and mental healing difficult. There is a scientific reason for this. Negativity is discouraging and stressful. It can make you feel anxious, angry, sad, or depressed. You can be sure the message makes its way to your cells. The chemical changes created by all these kinds of emotional and mental distress reduce cell repairing DHEA levels and elevate cortisol.

You really gain nothing positive when you are hard on yourself, except perhaps a temporary boost of motivation. Even this is not the lasting nurturing kind of motivation that fosters long-term, meaningful personal transformation and health. 

After all, why should your mind and body take care of someone you reject?

On the other hand, freeing yourself from the grips of self-condemnation is a big relief. Forgiveness and release are powerful healers of mind, body and spirit. Even in difficult situations, being okay with what is and who you are lets you relax and creatively seek solutions.

Healthy self-acceptance is accompanied by good self-esteem minus the puffed up ego, confidence, assertiveness, and a commitment to taking care of yourself.  Because you accept yourself for who you are, you can extend acceptance to others.

Challenges with Accepting Yourself

Challenges with unconditional self acceptance are common. Some people can't even speak words of love and acceptance for themselves.

Why is this?

Your beliefs shape your self-concept.

For better and worse, your beliefs control how you think about yourself.

Your self-concept begins forming at birth and possibly earlier. Along with inherited genetic make up, observations about your world and what you were told shaped your beliefs about your world and yourself. They made you who you are right down to the cellular level. Some of us have even been taught that accepting yourself is egotistical and sinful!

Unfortunately, because of the wiring of the human brain, negative messages carry more weight than positive ones. We tend to discredit the good and focus on the bad. The media capitalizes on this. Advertisers spend billions convincing us we aren't good enough unless you are like this or have that. We compare our bodies with unrealistic retouched images and our material possessions with the rich and famous. We compare our spiritual lives with religious figures and our intelligence with the class genius. 

When you 'buy what they are selling', you feel dissatisfied. You judge and reject yourself in whole or in part.  At least to some extent you  believe, "I'm not (important, smart, good looking, talented, rich) enough" to be worthy of love and acceptance.

For better or worse, your personality combined with those messages, create your sense of self-esteem, which gets confused with your innate value. Fortunately, with education comes power. You can take back control of your mind.

Resignation versus Acceptance

Another challenge with accepting yourself, situations, and even other people is discerning the difference between acceptance and resignation. These two mental states have a totally different energy and attitude even though you may still have to tolerate a condition or situation. 

When you resign yourself to something, you give up. You acknowledge defeat. It carries an energy of being the disempowered victim. There is no hope in getting what you want or being how you want to be so you give up and settle.  We tell ourselves it's okay, but it really isn't. Oh well, I have to put up with this. Poor me. 

Accepting yourself is an active, ongoing choice. It takes courage and wisdom. It is empowering and full of positive energy. You may acknowledge that a situation is beyond your control, but you exercise choices in how you handle it and make the best of it. I choose to accept what I cannot change because changing someone else in not my job or at this time the circumstances cannot be changed. I choose to be okay with it and adapt to meet my needs and wants another way. 

God grant me the serenity prayer Reinhold Niebuhr quote

Low self worth shows up in sneaky ways.

Be aware: low self-esteem shows up in sneaky ways.

For example, you might say, "I'm fighting depression (or cancer)". Does that feel like accepting yourself? Does it feel peaceful or stressful? This can get tricky. A statement like this may feel positive at times, perhaps when your body is literally fighting an invading virus. At other times it zaps your energy. Tune in and check how those words feel for you.

On the other hand, some conditions such as arthritis and depression are created by conditions in your mind and body. To fight them means to fight yourself. Try an affirmation like this instead, "I'm thankful for what this illness is teaching me about myself and I'm cooperating with my mind and body to get well."

Instead of saying, "I hate my fat thighs," genuinely say "I appreciate that my legs let me walk and go where I want, even though I've put extra weight on them. What wonderful legs they are."

Notice how different the statements sound and feel. Which statements inspire you to love yourself and take positive steps to change and wellness? Even if your ego doesn't believe it, can you feel the soothing balm of those words in your soul?

Accept yourself always 

Accept yourself always, even when it feels counter-intuitive. 

Accepting yourself with an illness, disability, or troublesome character flaw may seem counter-intuitive. You may even resist it because you don't want to be like that or have that condition. Being okay with yourself as you are doesn't mean you like everything about yourself or your situation. It doesn't mean you let a bad attitude, poor choices, or harmful behaviors slide. It means you permit yourself to be an imperfect human being living an imperfect life without condemning yourself for it. Having this attitude creates a sense of inner peace in your mind and body.

I know from experience how important unconditional self acceptance is at these times. For years I struggled with limitations and pain from a ruptured disk. Just getting through the work day was difficult and exhausting. When I resented the lingering effects of this condition, I became more and more depressed and inactive. Once I decided to make peace with my body and the situation, the tension in my mind and body eased. Almost miraculously without making many changes, the discomfort lessened and my quality of life improved. To this day, set-backs and flare ups serve to remind me that I need to listen to my body and accept what is. When I do, all is well in my mind and spirit.

Even when you acknowledge your part in creating poor health, poor relationships, or a less than desirable living situation, forgive yourself and let the bad feelings go. Valuing yourself as you are is not always easy, but you are worth it. Discern what you like about yourself and what you want to  improve without being judgmental. Then, you will make peace with what is and love yourself enough to create a healthier, happier life.

Continue Reading: 7 Steps to Healing Your Self Image

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Accepting Yourself page updated 11/2022

For Educational Purposes Only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult with your health provider before using natural remedies and/or complementary therapies if you are pregnant, nursing, or you are being treated for a medical condition. Be aware that certain herbs and supplements interact with medications.

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