For many of us, self-acceptance is conditional. It’s based on transient, temporary things, such as accomplishing a certain goal, getting to a certain weight, staying a certain size. Which means that we never feel comfortable. We never feel fully at ease.
Instead, we’re forever trying to catch the carrot.
Self-acceptance also can feel abstract and nebulous. What does it even look like to accept yourself? Do you have to accept everything about yourself? How do you even start?
Accepting yourself can take time (and sometimes therapy). Thankfully, however, there are many small (but significant) steps you can take to get started. Below, you’ll find three clear, actionable strategies from the powerful book It’s Your Weirdness That Makes You Wonderful: A Self-Acceptance Prompt Journal by artist and author Kate Allan.
Honor Your Feelings
Accepting your feelings is a pivotal part of accepting yourself. Because when we dismiss our feelings, we might be dismissing important information. Feelings can serve as helpful messengers, telling us when we need to make a change. Also, when we ignore our feelings or pretend they don’t exist, we essentially neglect ourselves.
Feelings do come and go, and it’s helpful not to attach to them. And it’s also helpful to acknowledge them, to say, I hear you. I’m listening.
Allan lays out four steps for honoring your feelings. First, notice and name your feeling. Next, observe the feeling. “Where does the feeling show up in your body?” Third, try to sit with that feeling, and accept it, “even if it’s ugly or unfair.” Avoid over-identifying with that feeling. For example, change “I am sad” to “I am experiencing sadness.” Lastly, explore your emotion: “What’s the story behind this emotion? What thought triggered it? When has this emotion showed up before?”
Focus on Acts of Love
Allan believes that it’s more important to show acts of love toward ourselves than it is to feel love. The key, she writes, is to consider how you’d care for the kid version of you.
She suggests asking yourself these questions: “What would the child version of you need in the next two hours? Six hours? Do you find taking care of your needs to be stressful? If yes, why do you think that is? Can you think of small, actionable ways you can alter your day-to-day to make sure you get what you need?”
Give Yourself Kindness
The next time negative thoughts (or fears) arise, think about a kind statement that you need to hear—and give yourself this kindness. Allan shares these examples: “I am too emotional” becomes “Nah, you’re just tired and it makes things feel overwhelming”; “I feel like a burden” becomes “You are never a burden! You are doing your best with what you have, and it’s enough.”
Allan includes these additional self-compassionate statements, which she’s found to be helpful: “You are capable. You can do this.” “You don’t have to be perfect to be lovable.” “Whatever you manage to do today will be enough.” Jot down a list of kind statements that feel true for you, and use them regularly.
Self-acceptance might not be easy. But strategies like the above provide us with a helpful roadmap. And the good news is that we can walk this path every day.