People ask me all the time what true happiness looks and feels like. My answer is always self-acceptance. The truth is that our happiness requires our acceptance – especially of parts of ourselves we like the least.
If you don’t have much context for self-acceptance, then you might not know what it’s all about. Let me put it into some concrete terms.
When you accept yourself, you’re okay with who you are. You’re also okay with you are not. You’re always on your side – no matter what happens in your life.
Self-acceptance definitely takes some practice. We all can get carried away with thoughts that are self-shaming, self-judging or self-criticizing. When you catch yourself thinking these kinds of thoughts, I suggest that you douse yourself with self-acceptance because it really is the best antidote to feeling cut down or simply not good enough.
You can get a sense of how self-accepting you are by asking yourself the following questions:
Am I at peace with all my decisions?
Do I love myself –even my not-so-great parts?
When faced with information that supports a less than noble view of myself, can I love myself and also challenge myself to be more?
When in a disagreement, can I respect my own view while respecting the other person’s?
Do I know that no matter what I discover about myself that I’m truly good?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, you’re not alone. Self-acceptance is a continual pursuit that’s just as much about your relationship to yourself as it is about your relationship to others.
If you want to work on building your ability to accept yourself, you can start with these exercises that come from my book Real Answers.
Ask Powerful Questions:
The following prompts help you shed some light on the areas of your yourself and your life that would benefit from some self-acceptance.
Complete these statements about yourself:
• One thing I have a difficult time accepting about my life, but deep down know is true, is:
• Some of the things I feel I need to accept about my life are:
• The reason I know these things are difficult to accept is:
• I will know that I have fully accepted these things about my life when:
• This stops me from accepting these things about my life:
• I would accept these things about my life if only:
• I am afraid that if I accept these things about my life, then:
• What I need to do to accept these things about my life is:
Speak Your Truth:
One of the ways we move into a deeper level of acceptance is by speaking our truth about our lives. This reinforces our sense of our experiences and makes them more real for us.
When we acknowledge what’s real for us, we’re better able to accept what might have been difficult in our past as well as in our present.
For example, after a fight I once had with a friend I created a self-serving story that my friend was unfair and overreacted. This story, however, was really a set of judgments that kept me from accepting my friend’s perspective and healing each of our bruised feelings.
I realized that if I spoke my truth from my perspective, I could build a bridge of understanding with my friend. Phrases like: “What I saw was …,” “What I felt was …,” “What I experienced was …” helped me to break down information according to my truth and allowed me to see the situation in its more complex reality.
Talk to Someone Who Was There:
If someone has gone through a similar experience ― or, as is often the case with family members, the same experience ― sharing it with those who understand helps us build acceptance. This is part of the reason why group therapy works so well.
When we talk about a shared or similar experience, we’re better able to process what happened and recognize its impact.
People who suffer trauma often minimize its effect or simply don’t recognize it at all. They might not realize that their depression or their angry outbursts are related to their trauma. Talking about life events that we struggle to accept helps us see how these experiences connect inside of us and how we live them out.
Acceptance of your personal experience radically changes the way you approach almost every aspect of your life and ultimately allows you to engage the world in a more positive, productive way.
Want a step-by-step guide to find and live your life purpose? My Morning Mindset Life Purpose is an inspirational daily video series that delivers tips, insights and exercises straight to your inbox for three weeks. Morning Mindset will help you step-in your purpose and live your life to its fullest. Learn more here!