What is Self-Acceptance and How is It Impacting My Mental Health?
I came across a recent meditation on self-approval written by Melody Beattie from her book, The Language of Letting Go. In this meditation, the message suggested that for some of us, there is a desire to seek and experience the validation and approval of others, which serves to fulfill needs of being accepted, liked and welcomed. In this way, we seek external validation and acceptance to reflect our own value, which can often be a fragile foundation for our own self-worth.
The logic follows that if someone compliments us, praises our accomplishments or approves of our decisions, then that in some way confirms that we are loveable, worthy of love and acceptance, and worthy of being held onto. We may start to believe thoughts that suggest “If I become a doctor, a profession that my parents highly respect, then they will continue to love and support me. We may also start to make decisions that may serve to appease others as a way to ward off criticism, judgment and feelings of shame.
The logic then also follows that if someone does not approve of how we look, dress, talk or act, does not see our efforts as valuable or does not accept our life choices, then we must not be loveable, likable, worthy of love, worthy of acceptance, or worth maintaining a relationship. In a way, our thoughts that may stem from feelings of shame, can impact and shape our core beliefs about our belonging, core value and worth.
In this way of thinking, we may start to believe that if I do not become a doctor, then I will not make enough money and therefore I am a failure to myself and to my family. In the same vein, we might also believe that this object of our desire, say money, becomes our proof of our value. “As long as I have this amount of money, I will matter and I will be important.” With this line of thinking, there is a lot of pressure to continuously uphold this expectation and living standard, while also diminishing our core worth, as unique and special beings that exist right here at this very moment.
Self-depreciation aligns with this idea that if we don’t live up to our standards or other people’s standards, then we are a failure, needing to be fixed and somehow flawed. These thoughts can reinforce and intensify feelings of shame. When we experience feelings of shame, we may use this feeling to reinforce core beliefs that we “are not good enough”, “are destined to fail”, “are a failure” and “are worthy of abandonment”. Intense feelings of shame can be linked to chronic depression and anxiety, as well as other health related issues.
What would it mean to accept yourself? What does that look like? Perhaps, it could be a shift in how you respond to conditioned feelings of guilt that may surface if you do not complete a task that someone asked you to do in a certain amount of time, or when you want to decline an invitation to a friend’s event.
Perhaps, it may be a shift in your thoughts and evaluations about yourself, your mistakes, your physical appearance, your habits, your goals, and your life journey so far. To allow yourself to be human, is to accept that you will make mistakes and that is okay. That you will make mistakes, and you will still be worthy of love, forgiveness, comfort and understanding. That you will not know all of the answers, and you will continue to learn and grow.
Consider how self-acceptance can improve your mental health and lead not to suffering, but to relief. Relief in knowing that you are connected to this human experience of being genetically unique, psychologically unique, unique in your own ways of knowing, unique in your own ways of learning and growing.
You exist and therefore you are incredible and infinitely valuable by just being you. There is freedom in knowing that you are expected to make mistakes and that does not disqualify you from love, nurturance, peace, connection, support, and/or any other emotional or physical need. You deserve to know and see your strength and resilience.
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