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“True self-acceptance is embracing who you are, without any qualifications, conditions, or exceptions” (Seltzer, 2008)

Intro

Intro

What do we accept

Be honest with yourself for a moment: is there a part / parts of yourself that you don’t like?

 

Perhaps it’s an unwanted emotion, or a character flaw of sorts, or maybe even a physical feature...can you think of something? Don’t worry, take your time :)

Now I know, this part, among many other undesirable parts, can hurt a lot to think about, and so typically, we don’t. Instead, we try to avoid directly dealing with it by adopting certain coping strategies like: 

  • wallowing in self-pity and feeling so discouraged by its existence Or 

  • actively trying to avoid it.

Do you have the tendency to turn to any of the coping strategies listed above? Tell me about it: 

Well whichever it is, unfortunately, it doesn’t work. If you don’t deal these emotions or parts of yourself face-on, you probably wouldn’t know what exactly went wrong and end up making the same mistakes again.

Does this happen with the coping strategy you use? Take a moment to think if this has been a recurring thing in your life. 

Ok so now you’re probably wondering what “accepting” or “self-accepting” means. And essentially, self-acceptance is taking a certain part of myself that I don’t like and 

1. not denying it, but instead 

2. experiencing it and attempting to understand it 

3. without identifying with it. 

Take a while to try and process this but it’s okay if you don’t completely understand this yet, we will slowly decipher this together in the following paragraphs.

What do we accept?

This might be a good time to clarify what exactly we should be implementing this idea of self-acceptance on. Generally, any fact, behaviour, external event, character flaw, physical feature…as long as it causes any negative feelings or discomfort, it should signify a certain dislike towards that thing.

 

And that is when we will need to self-accept.

Why?

 

Because then you can move towards change. If you’re avoiding finding out what the problem actually is or refusing to acknowledge that the problem even exists, then how do you expect yourself to learn from this and change?

 

Avoiding the truth won’t do you any favours. Hence, self-acceptance is the first step towards actual change.

And being one of the pillars of self-esteem, self-acceptance will also help to increase your self-esteem! There are countless benefits to reap if you are able to self-accept so I would recommend you to continue reading and try the exercises out for yourself. 

Step 1: Acknowledging that it is a part of you 

The core idea behind self-acceptance is to fully acknowledge that something you don’t like is indeed, an expression of you, at least right now. It’s the truth, and refusing to admit that will not make it any less of a truth. Note that this is an acknowledgement of current reality that does not bear any implications that the future will forever remain the same.

 

In fact, as we have established earlier, self-acceptance is the first and necessary step towards change. 

 

Not denying our flaws

So now what can you do to acknowledge this fact? Say to yourself “This is a part of me, not necessarily one that I like or admire, but a part of me (perhaps one that I want to change) nonetheless, at least right now.”

Try it now, thinking of the part of you that you have problems accepting from earlier questions. Then, type the above sentence in the text box below. Take a moment to really sink in the true meaning of the words. 

Step 2: Experiencing the emotion without identifying with it

The next step is then to experience the emotion evoked - because experiencing would mean recognising and validating its existence. I will now describe how exactly to do that.

 

(You can try it now and follow along if you want to but I’d suggest you give this and the following paragraphs a read first then try it so that you understand the process better:)

 

  1. Tell yourself, “I am going to explore the world of [emotion].” 

  2. And take a long, slow, and deep breath, maybe even close your eyes 

  3. Concentrate on breathing gently and deeply into the feeling, direct air to it

  4. This is difficult at first and may remain difficult for some time; but persevere;

  5. Allow the feeling to be there, don’t resist it, maybe even imagine welcoming it 

  6. If you feel your body tensing up, think of giving your muscles permission to let go of their tension

  7. Continue to experience the feeling and watch it, become a witness to it, without identifying with it, without allowing it to define you 

  8. If you feel the feeling intensifying or feeling way worse than before, I’m really sorry but just stay with me here, keep on breathing and imagine opening yourself up to the feeling

  9. But remember that it is not all that you are and that you are more than that 

  10. Practice saying to yourself, “I am now feeling [emotion] and I accept it fully, but I am more than my [emotion].”

  11. Keep doing this until you feel better, which really, you will, once you have fully accepted it:)

 

I’m sorry if there’s quite a bit of repetition but this is quite hard to describe so I’m phrasing it a little different so that it may help you to understand the process better. Though I wrote these in steps, there’s actually not really an order, it’s essentially just breathing into the feeling and allowing it to exist, but having that separate from your entirety.

 

Just experiment around with it, and see what works for you each time.

 

Now maybe after you do it a few times, you may develop a defense mechanism against this process, if say the feeling is way too intense and you really really don’t want to get into it. It happened to me yesterday, but remember that no matter what, there is no running away from the truth.

 

As much as you don’t want to experience the feeling, you need it more than anything. So you don’t have to do this exercise immediately, but after some time, please come back to this exercise. I assure you it makes a huge difference. 

 

Step 3: Attempting to understand it by letting it “speak”  

During the process of self-accepting, you can choose to try and understand it by letting it speak. It is not mandatory but I find that if you don’t know the cause of the feeling, understanding it and the reason behind it can be helpful in helping me accept it.

 

Of course you can try to talk about it to another person, or even just verbalize it to yourself, but something that I found helpful earlier today was using sentence stems as mentioned in the

                                           section.

 

Perhaps the plain act of wanting to understand the feeling validates the existence of the feeling itself, hence aiding the process of self-accepting.

 

I find that our feelings often contain messages and insights to the self, and accessing that would often give us a direction for a “solution” (i.e. what to do from here on out) afterwards.

 

You’ll see what I mean really soon but let’s quickly go through the last step now.

 

Step 4: How would you know if you did it right?   

In my experience with this, it is quite obvious to tell when you have truly accepted that certain part of you. You should feel much better than before. Relaxed and more comfortable. Anything else would mean that you probably have not truly accepted the feeling.

To  illustrate this, as well as to share with you my process, let me recount for you an incident this afternoon… 

My story

After spending an afternoon with my friend (who was also my classmate), my parting words to her were, “okay, see you in a week? 2 weeks? Oh- actually it’s a week and a half ahhhh” it then became apparent to me that in about 10 days, I would have to return to school. 

 

And that scared me. 

 

I felt anxious, like a feeling at my chest that inside me, was something that is actively moving backwards and trying to hide - I realised that this was a phenomenon that would happen whenever I feel anxious about something. My brows tensed up slightly, and I felt an obvious up and down motion of my heart beating. 

 

I tried to breathe into the feeling, to locate it and feel it, but not to become “one” with it. But I couldn’t make it subside. So I tried to understand it through sentence completion stems, because I didn’t understand why it was there. Here’s what I did:

 

(the bullet points are my endings to the stems and the bracketed stuff are some of the thoughts that crossed my mind as I said out loud my endings) 

 

One thing good about staying in the holidays forever is- 

  • That I can make mistakes in not planning and there won’t be much consequences 

  • I have more freedom, I can choose to do anything I want at any time 

  • Even if I don’t plan my time, it doesn’t matter! 

  • There are little responsibilities 

  • I dun have to be forced to do anything 

  • There is no structure, any day can be anything 

  • At least if i fail to plan properly, there will always be more time 

 

One thing bad about starting school again is- 

  • There will be a lot of consequences if i fail to plan everything properly 

  • I'll have a lot less freedom 

  • There will be a lot of work to do 

  • I'll have to study again 

  • I'll have more responsibilities and have to be responsible 

  • I'll have to grow up and manage stuff 

  • I'll have to get it together to do stuff all the time  

 

If I give myself the right to make errors in planning- 

  • I would be more willing to plan 

  • I'll just learn from that 

  • Maybe I won't be afraid anymore 

  • I’d be okay with making such errors 

 

It is starting to slowly dawn on me that- 

  • I am afraid of having so many responsibilities and hence having to be responsible 

  • Maybe i dun think i can be responsible 

  • I am worried that i will fail to plan everything properly and end up life crisis-ing and spiraling like i did this year 

  • Im afraid of being mature and doing things i dun like 

  • I hate or am scared of the structure in school life 

 

(forgive my lack of consistency and terrible English here but this is the way I talk to myself so I wanted to portray that accurately) 

 

And then I felt enlightened, still a little anxious so I kept breathing into the feeling, but I suddenly felt much more open to allowing the feeling to be there.

 

As you can see, your feelings can really be a gateway to understanding more about yourself. Like my anxiousness about school restarting represented my fear of responsibility which comes: 

 

  1. from my worry that I won’t be able to handle my responsibilities well and 

  2. from fear that I'll be overwhelmed by the many things after not being able to plan effectively and get things piled up. 

Just experiment around with it, and see what works for you each time. Open yourself to the feeling and remember not to over-identify with it. For the bulk of this year, I made the mistake of just wallowing in the sadness and lying around for hours (essentially moping haha).

So remember to follow the process carefully and while experiencing the emotion, don’t let it take over you completely. Just watch it, feel it but not become it (i.e. embodying it).

And yea, that’s self-acceptance. Hopefully you were able to fully self-accept, and if you did, congratulations. It’s not an easy thing to do at all. Great job for persevering and reaching this stage.

If you didn’t manage to fully self-accept, I know it can be really hard and difficult to try and do, but nevertheless, great job for trying! Just keep trying, and you’ll be able to do it eventually.

There’s actually more written on the practice of self-acceptance by Nathaniel that is not here, including more exercise you can do to accept parts of you, so if you are interested in finding out more about self-acceptance, you can check out “The Six Pillars of Self-esteem” or some of his other works that write about self-acceptance.

And that was one of the pillars of self-esteem! If you have successfully implemented self-acceptance, try to observe your level of self-esteem or your general feeling about yourself. Hopefully, it will have helped to increase your self-esteem, and also set you on a path of growth and change:) 

 

Thank you for reading and if you want to work on creating an action plan or solution or sorts for your problem now, check out                                       next! See you around!

Step 1: Acknowledging
Step 2: experiencing
Step 3
Step 4

Do you have the tendency to turn to any of the coping strategies listed above? Tell me about it:

Does this happen with the coping strategy you use? Take a moment to think if this has been a recurring thing in your life

Try it now, thinking of the part of you that you have problems accepting from earlier questions. Then, type the above sentence in the text box below. Take a moment to really sink in the true meaning of the words.

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