How Can I Improve Self-Acceptance?
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson once complained to his physician that he felt depressed. The doctor recommended a long sea voyage. Emerson took his advice and at the end of the journey wrote in his diary: “It didn’t work; when I got off the ship in Naples, the first person I met was myself!”
Resistance Breeds Persistence
The uncomfortable or frightening thoughts, mental images, sensations, or emotions that arise naturally within all of us have the potential to do tremendous harm, but only if we try to resist or reject them. When we resist or defend against them, and employ strategies to avoid the discomfort they generate, instead of feeling relief, we feel more stressed out. Giving up the struggle to resist or avoid unpleasant thoughts, sensations, and emotions is not a nihilistic acceptance of suffering. In fact, acceptance of what we don’t want serves to reduce the suffering that results from the fear of experiencing those unpleasant thoughts, sensations, and emotions.
One of the most intelligent comedians in the last hundred years was George Carlin. He wrote a book entitled Brain Droppings. Our painful thoughts are nothing but brain droppings. Another way of viewing them is to think of them as just secretions of the brain; like the secretion of hormones, enzymes, and other information molecules, they are natural physiological processes. Once we recognize that uncomfortable thoughts, images, sensations, and emotions are harmless secretions of the brain, we can begin to allow ourselves to fully experience them. The more we do so and accept the experience, the stronger we become psychologically and physiologically. Self-acceptance can only be found when we are willing to live in full contact with our inner subjective experiences.
Mindfulness practice is inherently conducive to self-acceptance because self-acceptance is a byproduct of the mindfulness skill of recognizing thoughts as transient mental events or constructs. Applying recognition and acceptance skills, in turn, leads to mastery & wellbeing, and we become more willing to fully experience our inner subjective events. It is a self-reinforcing system. When we allow ourselves to accept our inner experiences, we gain confidence that we can handle them. This, too, leads to increased self-acceptance, mastery, and wellbeing.
Living Our Personal Values
If we’re involved in activities that aren’t in harmony with our personal life values or that seem meaningless, we become self-critical instead of self-accepting. But if we live each day so that at the end of it we feel good about how we lived it—if we have a sense of satisfaction that we made someone else’s life better, for example—it’s only natural to believe that our life has meaning. Self-acceptance and wellbeing are products of such a way of life.
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Berkelhammer, D. (2015). How Can I Improve Self-Acceptance?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 17, 2017, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/own-hands/2015/03/how-can-i-improve-self-acceptance/