Self-Acceptance for Dummies

If the title had read Chess for Dummies, you wouldn’t think twice about reading the article.

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I’m guessing your initial thought was why anyone would need a guide on how to accept yourself unconditionally? Isn’t it obvious?

Self-acceptance is a simple concept to understand but incredibly complex to internalize and live daily.

As a transformational coach and trainer, my experience has taught me that a failure to accept oneself unconditionally is usually the underlying cause of chronic stress, anxiety, and neglected self-care.

When you can accept yourself unconditionally, you make decisions in your own best interest.

By no means is this article meant to be condescending. Self-acceptance has been a massive part of my journey; it has been a letting go of habits and behaviors that no longer serve me and creating better practices to replace them.

All personal growth begins with self-awareness. As you read, identify the mindsets, habits, and thoughts that resonate with you the most and ask yourself if perhaps these have contributed to the challenges of the past year?

Drop the carrot and stick approach.

In his brilliant TED talk, The Puzzle of Motivation, Daniel Pink reveals how science has proved that the carrot and stick approach to motivation does not work. A big reward will not drive greater productivity; it sabotages it.

Why do you use the same approach for yourself?

The current mental chatter is, “If I work hard in the week, then I will earn time to relax on the weekend.”

But what happens if you don’t finish all your work? Not because of lack of effort but most likely unexpected circumstances, or you are slave-driving yourself with unrealistic deadlines.

Are you going to deprive yourself of your recovery time?

You do not need to earn the right to be friendly and have compassion towards yourself — drop the carrot and stick approach.

True self-acceptance means you do not need to earn your kindness. All you can do is make progress, acknowledge your wins, and remind yourself you are doing the best you can with the resources available to you now.

Adopt an attitude of unconditional friendliness.

I know self-acceptance is a vast concept, so if I throw in unconditional self-love on top of this, you will stop reading.

Unconditional friendliness is more palatable and easier to digest. If you think about your best friend or partner, what is it about them you love? Certain traits like unconditional love, acceptance, trust, dependable and non-judgment may come up for you.

The challenge is, can you flip this and treat yourself with the same warmth? The way you show this is by making decisions in your own best interest. If you are tired, do not grind through your fatigue. If you are sick, give yourself some space to recover.

Ditch the guilt, take the time for yourself with no conditions, and you will experience gentler days.

Show up as your authentic self, not your perfect self.

When you wake up in the morning, is your first thought — what should I do today? If you answered yes, this is a warning bell.

The word ‘should’ implies that you are trying to please someone else; for a simple word, it comes with baggage. There is anxiety attached to ‘should’ because what if it’s the wrong thing? What if I fail? What if I’m not perfect?

When you reframe the question to ‘what do I want to do?’, you operate from your authentic self. It’s a place of creativity; it’s not fear-driven.

When you ask yourself what you want to do, it permits you to tackle the project in your unique way. This ability to trust yourself is the most authentic sign of self-acceptance.

Do not link your self-worth to external factors.

“What if we stopped celebrating being busy as a measurement of importance? — Greg McKeown

I love this quote because this is how most of us measure our self-worth. It’s a known myth that if you are perpetually busy and running around, it must mean you are productive.

This is why stillness and relaxation are so difficult for most people. The thought of doing nothing is incredibly uncomfortable.

Often we link self-worth to something external such as money, a title, or material possessions. This is referred to as an external locus of control, and we do it all the time.

How often do you link your self-worth to numbers? The number on the scale, the number in your bank account, the number of friends on the socials, or the number of sales you made.

This is not sustainable because you cannot control any of this, and it becomes an internal narrative of ‘When I make X amount or reach this target, then I’ll be successful or even worse — then I’ll be happy’.

Instead of seeking approval from external factors and people, start to turn inwards.

Consider the different roles you play — how can you link your self-worth to other areas of your life instead of just work? Your role as a partner, parent, friend, teammate, community?

Helping your kids with homeschooling and keeping a calm household is as essential as your work commitments. When you can generate self-worth from these activities, you will not perceive this time as wasted but a crucial part of the day.

Once you can grant yourself the approval you crave, despite external factors, your self-acceptance becomes unconditional.

Drop the ROI approach to your time.

In business, measuring your return on investment is critical to success. However, this strategy doesn’t always translate well into your personal life.

Self-acceptance is crucial because it is a significant factor determining how you decide to spend your time.

Working from home has escalated a time scarcity mindset, so the thought of doing something for the joy of it can feel you’re cheating or wasting time.

If you can link an outcome to your time, you feel better about how you invest it. For example, time spent reading a business book can be linked to your job.

But what about reading a fiction book, painting, or scrapbooking?

Self-acceptance is about unconditional kindness and permitting yourself to recharge by doing things you love and enjoy, even if the only outcome is the pleasure it brings.

This habit is quite sneaky because you can easily justify why you shouldn’t indulge in ‘wasteful’ activities. It is a form of self-sabotage and another way you are being conditional on yourself.

What would you love to do if you had a day to yourself — no family or work commitments — just a day for yourself?

Now schedule time into your calendar this week to begin, even if it is fifteen minutes. How you schedule your days is how you spend your life. If you are not showing up in the calendar, it’s time to practice self-acceptance.

Strive satisfied.

We all have goals we want to achieve — financial, career, spiritual, health, etc. On the journey to the outcome, you get to choose your attitude you want to take with you.

Your attitude is a choice, and it is the lens through which you view the world and yourself. When you are grounded in self-acceptance, you can adopt the lens of contentment on route to your goal.

Self-development expert Brendon Burchard calls this striving satisfied.

When you are entirely at ease with yourself, you can be content with where you are at. It means you can continue to strive but with recognition for who you are becoming. It is being comfortable in your skin now and not something you need to earn.

Ultimately, self-acceptance enables you to focus on your inner cheerleader instead of your inner critic while working towards your desired goals and outcomes.

Let go of the known.

When you decide to shift to unconditional self-acceptance, you have committed to making decisions in your own best interest.

Remember, there was a previous version of yourself who didn’t play by these rules.

Self-acceptance begins by letting go of your former self. This is not easy because you like the known even if it sabotages you.

Marie Kondo is a Japanese organizing consultant, author, and TV show host. In her clutter clearing process, she says you must pick up each item and ask yourself if it sparks joy.

If it sparks joy, then you keep it. If it doesn’t spark joy, then you thank it for its service and say goodbye. This permits you to finally donate that hideous ornament of your mother’s you have been keeping out of pure guilt.

Now that you have tackled this self-acceptance thing full-on, you need to tell your former self that she/he no longer sparks joy. They served their purpose but are no longer in alignment with who you are becoming.

You thank her/him for their service, say goodbye, and let them go along with all the old behaviors, mean comments, and judgments.

Own your micro choices.

Unconditional friendliness and self-acceptance are not switches that you turn on, and automatically everything has changed overnight.

There are deep routines, patterns, and habits that are etched into your subconscious, your modus operandi.

Science shows us you can change these neural pathways and create an alternative way of being. Think about when you drive to work; you know the route without thinking. Some days you can’t even remember how you arrived because you are on autopilot.

One day, you decide to use Waze or Google Maps, which shows you a more efficient route. At first, you need to concentrate closely, and over time you no longer need the app to direct you because it has become your new normal.

Occasionally, you take the old route and realize how inefficient it is and wonder how you used it for so many years. It is the same with your new mindset.

You will fall off the wagon and make some bad choices for yourself. The way to get back on track is to view your day in micro choices. If you veer to your old destructive ways, focus on doing the right thing next time.

It takes time to create new neural pathways, but you will move into this kinder version of yourself with consistent and deliberate effort.

Choose yourself.

The prerequisite for unconditional self-acceptance is to choose yourself as your why. If you want to make changes in your life genuinely, you need to permit yourself that you are worth making an effort for.

No one else can energize you or fill your cup. When you choose yourself as your why, you will make better choices and allow yourself to spend time on things that matter most, and stop wasting time on things that drain you.

It will feel uncomfortable at first because you are used to pushing through a lack of sleep; it will feel unnatural. You’ve heard the phrase to treat yourself as you would your best friend.

This not only applies to the words you tell yourself but through your actions. Committing to choosing yourself will give you the permission to do things differently.

Forgive yourself.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you” — Lewis B. Smedes

We all have aspects of our past we are not proud of or regret. Forgiveness of self is critical to self-acceptance. It is taking accountability and ownership for your actions, but then letting them go.

If you do not forgive yourself, you are walking around with a backpack filled with boulders. It will only weigh you down but prevent your future progress.

It is a form of self-sabotage because you feel justified in making poor choices based on previous actions. You are punishing yourself unnecessarily instead of putting the bag down and starting fresh.

I would recommend using a journal to write out what is holding you hostage to your past, acknowledging it, and forgiving yourself. You can say it out loud in front of the mirror. This is a profoundly personal exercise, but necessary.

If you would like to dig deeper into this, I would suggest Radical Forgiveness by Colin Tipping or Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach.

Have self-compassion.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” — Maya Angelou

Self-compassion is the compass to unconditional self-acceptance. When you reflect on your past, a perceived failure or mistake — let go of using harsh judgment and ruminating on how you could have done things differently.

Instead, tell yourself that ‘I did the best I could at the time with the tools and knowledge available to me’.

Instead of approaching the experience with blame and shame, look for the lesson and the growth and ditch the story and emotions attached to it.

Acknowledge your wins.

Self-confidence is born out of action. When you are riddled with self-doubt and self-judgment, take a moment to reflect on your past wins.

Think back to the last few years and identify your proudest moments. A great talk, pitch, presentation, or the way you handled a challenging moment with the kids.

You cannot wait for the vast outcomes to give you confidence; it goes back to striving satisfied.

No matter how small, recognizing your achievements gives you the validation and evidence you can achieve your future goals.

Final thoughts.

Self-acceptance is a choice. You can decide to do things differently right now.

These practices have worked for me on my journey and there are still days where it still feels like a work in progress. Choose one area that resonates and ask yourself what you can do differently?

  • Drop the carrot and stick approach
  • Show up as your authentic self, not your perfect self
  • Do not link your self-worth to external factors
  • Drop the ROI approach to your time
  • Strive satisfied
  • Let go of the known
  • Own your micro choices
  • Choose yourself
  • Forgive yourself.
  • Have self-compassion.
  • Acknowledge your wins

Imagine watching yourself on a giant TV screen and viewing your actions with objectivity to see how you are showing up for yourself.

Once you make decisions in your own best interest, you will own your days and not feel like they own you.

Instead of the feeling that you are living at work, you will have more harmony and joy in your days.

The choice is yours.

Here’s to self-acceptance.

Warm wishes


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