Ten Keys to Happier Living – 9. Acceptance
Acceptance – Be comfortable with who you are.
“Learning to accept ourselves, warts and all, and being kinder to ourselves when things go wrong, increases our enjoyment of life, our resilience and our well-being. It also helps us accept others as they are.”
In our penultimate blog series of 10 Keys for Happier Living, we explore the difference between self-esteem and self-acceptance, the power of vulnerability, our strengths and weaknesses, and accepting no-one is perfect so don’t try to be!
Self-esteem vs. Self-acceptance
Self-esteem reflects an individual’s overall subjective emotional evaluation of his or her own worth. It is the decision made by an individual as an attitude towards the self.
Self-acceptance is an individual’s satisfaction or happiness with oneself, and is thought to be necessary for good mental health. Self-acceptance involves self-understanding, a realistic, albeit subjective, awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses.
The difference between the two is self-acceptance expands the concept of self-esteem to understanding both our strengths (positive things that increase self-esteem) and our weaknesses alike, importantly self-acceptance doesn’t mean ignoring things we don’t do as well or mistakes we have made, but rather working with them. Coming to terms with these whilst feeling good about ourselves means we can have overall self-acceptance.
Self-esteem is typically based on judgements of how good we are within specific areas of our lives, for example our appearance or our performance at work, school or at a particular activity e.g. a sport or painting. Because these judgements are dependent on how well we are doing in that area, how good we feel fluctuates based on our latest success or failure.
This definition emphasises the importance of accepting all facets of the self. It’s not enough to simply embrace the good, to embody true self-acceptance, you must also embrace the less desirable parts of yourself.
It’s not easy to accept the things that we desperately want to change about ourselves; however—counterintuitively—it is only by truly accepting ourselves that we can even begin the process of meaningful self-acceptance.
In other words, we must first acknowledge that we have undesirable traits and habits before we start off on our journey to improvement.
So, what does self-acceptance look like?
Now that we know what self-acceptance is and how it can benefit us, we can move on to another important question: What does self-acceptance look like? How do we know when we have “reached” self-acceptance?
Marquita Herald (2015) from the Emotionally Resilient Living website puts it this way:
“Can you look in the mirror and truly accept the unique, wonderful work-in-progress person staring back at you?”
You will know that you have achieved your goal of self-acceptance when you can look at yourself in the mirror and accept every last bit of what makes you who you are, and when you no longer try to mitigate, ignore, or explain away any perceived faults or flaws – physical or otherwise.
Self-acceptance also closely relate to mindfulness and guided meditation, which you can find out about in the 4th key – Awareness.
Think of a close friend or partner who is struggling with something like a job knock back. We don’t tell them “you’re no good” or “you’ll never get anywhere”. Chances are we’d say “you can try again next time” or “maybe you should look for a new job that will make the most of your skills.”
We are compassionate. We give them the empathy, the delicacy and the love that in the same situation we may not give ourselves. So the expression ‘treat others as you would wish to be treated’ perhaps needs to be reversed to give real gravity. We give ourselves a hard time for things we would be compassionate towards in others.
Self-compassion is defined as having three overlapping parts:
- Being kind and understanding to ourselves in instances of suffering or perceived inadequacy.
- A sense of common humanity, recognising that pain and failure are unavoidable aspects of life for all human beings.
- A balanced awareness of our emotions-the ability to face (rather than avoid) painful thoughts and feelings, but without exaggeration, drama or self-pity.
(Taken from ‘Self-Compassion: An Alternative Conceptualization of a Healthy Attitude Toward Oneself’ by Kirsten Neff)
Kirsten Neff’s studies also bring up that self-compassion promotes self-improvement and reduces comparison to others (which is very detrimental to our happiness). It helps put our own issues in perspective and so reduces self-pity. Because self-compassion is about caring for ourselves it motivates us to work through challenges and learn from mistakes. It has been shown to work positively in developing new skills and knowledge.
We have to lean into our vulnerability to enable us to accept and appreciate who we are.
This enlightening and powerful talk courtesy of Brené Brown encapsulates this perfectly. We urge you to find 20 minutes with a cuppa and watch!
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
We asked some lovely friends of ours to tell us what they thought their strengths and weaknesses are. (BIG thanks to them for having moments of self reflection in their busy days! I have had fun changing their names too for privacy sake 😆)
Ctrl Alt Delicious says:
Strength: “My personable nature that helps me to get by in lots of different situations both professionally and personally.”
Weakness: “I can be self critical underneath it all which can lead to a lot of indecisiveness and self doubt.“
Da Real D3Al says:
Weakness: “I can be stubborn and take a while to accept something.“
Bizzy Ritzy Jewel says:
Strength: “I vent when I’m upset or frustrated about something, rather than keep it bottled up.”
Weakness: “I don’t always recognise that unloading those feelings onto someone else can be hard for them to deal with.“
Smooth Stacks says:
Strength: “My ability to love.”
Weakness: “My lack of confidence.“
Em-C Trouble Curves says:
Strength: “I am hardworking.”
Weakness: “I can be ignorant to others needs.“
Tenacious TD Sugar says:
Strength: “I am trustworthy, patient and respectful.”
Weakness: “I am analytical, worry about what people think of me too much and take things to heart without actually talking about them!“
LN Cubes aka Lucious Nugget says:
Strength: “I care a lot about people and how they feel, and look out for opportunities to make them feel looked after. “
Weakness: “I can be socially insecure and paranoid that people don’t like me, which can turn a bit self-obsessive/destructive. I ask for a lot of reassurance from my friends with this which can put pressure on them.“
Wicked JJ Stylez says:
Strength: “I’m a positive, happy natured enthusiast with a cheerful outlook on life. Also very organised! “
Weakness: “I’m not great with spontaneity. I also expect everyone else to be organised and can pressure people when I don’t mean to, to reach my standards.“
Triple BK Jiggy Soul says:
Strength: “I give good advice and am supportive with my friends and family, some might say sensible, and I am pretty emotionally intelligent. “
Weakness: “I doubt/worry that I am not of importance to people/teams and therefore need constant reassurance/affirmation.“
Want to find out more about your own character strengths? The VIA Institute on Character is a non-profit organisation dedicated to bringing the science of character strengths to the world through supporting research, creating and validating surveys of character, and developing practical tools for individuals and practitioners.
Take their character test here!
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