What Is Self-Acceptance?

person admiring themself in the mirror

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What Is Self-Acceptance?

None of us are perfect—we all have things we would like to improve about ourselves. However, some people are able to accept their shortcomings; whereas others fixate on them and become their own worst critics.

Self-acceptance is the ability to accept both your strengths and your personal faults without judgment, says Meghan Marcum, PsyD, chief psychologist at AMFM Healthcare.

This article explores the characteristics of self-acceptance, discusses its importance, and suggests some strategies that can help you learn to accept yourself.

Characteristics of Self-Acceptance

According to Dr. Marcum, these are some of the characteristics of self-acceptance:

  • Being able to see yourself fairly accurately and recognize what you are and aren’t good at
  • Embracing all the parts of yourself—even the negative ones—and being happy with who you are
  • Accepting your values, preferences, resources, feelings, intuitions, and actions—both past and present
  • Recognizing your strengths and accomplishments without being overly vain about them
  • Learning to acknowledge your weaknesses and faults without beating yourself up over them or engaging in overly excessive negative self-talk
  • Having a positive attitude toward yourself and holding yourself in high regard, without the need for others’ approval
  • Seeing yourself as a whole human being, rather than defining yourself by any one characteristic, incident, ability, or weakness
  • Being able to love and respect yourself

On the other hand, lack of self-acceptance can lead to a fractured sense of self deep within your subconscious, where one part of you is angry, upset, annoyed, ashamed, or disappointed with another part of you. These fragmented parts can only reconcile when you forgive and accept yourself.

Importance of Self-Acceptance

Below, Dr. Marcum explains why self-acceptance is important and the negative consequences of being unable to accept oneself.

Benefits of Self-Acceptance

When you are accepting of yourself you tend to worry less about what others think. This helps you view situations with more clarity and makes you less likely to take on harsh criticism of yourself.

How you feel about yourself can also play an important role in determining your overall well-being. A 2018 study notes that self-acceptance can help instill a sense of well-being, which in turn helps you build quality relationships with others and ensures personal growth and development.

Meghan Marcum, PsyD

Self-acceptance helps you feel better about yourself and makes you feel capable of dealing with life’s challenges.

— Meghan Marcum, PsyD

Potential Pitfalls of Being Unable to Accept Oneself

On the other hand, Harvard Medical School notes that lack of self-acceptance can be harmful to your health and your psychological well-being.

In fact, a 2014 study found that having low self-esteem and a negative view of oneself was linked to lower levels of gray matter in parts of the brain that regulate emotions and manage stress. This can increase one’s risk of emotional disorders and stress-related health conditions.

As a result, lack of self-acceptance can lead to:

  • Mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Low self-confidence and a fear of failure
  • Avoidance of people or situations that trigger negative feelings
  • Relationship issues due to a lack of firm boundaries
  • Self-hatred and a tendency to engage in negative self-talk (“Why did I think I could do this? I’m not good at anything—others are much better than I am”)

Meghan Marcum, PsyD

Without self-acceptance, people essentially devalue themselves and this often has a negative impact on all areas of their life, including their work, friends, family, health, and well-being.

— Meghan Marcum, PsyD

Learning Self-Acceptance

Dr. Marcum suggests some strategies that can help you learn to accept yourself:

  • Embrace your values: It’s important to identify, articulate, and embrace your personal values and beliefs. Thinking and acting in line with your values can help strengthen your sense of identity, improve your self-respect, and make it easier for you to accept yourself.
  • Set healthy boundaries: You may find that you need boundaries in various aspects of your life, such as your work, your relationships, your time, and your finances. Set boundaries and stick by them. Don’t let others infringe upon your boundaries or take you for granted. This can help prevent mistreatment, which you may find difficult to accept on a subconscious level.
  • Forgive yourself: If you’ve made a mistake, acknowledge it and learn from it, but don’t berate yourself for it repeatedly. Learn to forgive yourself for your mistakes.
  • Avoid self-blame: Recognize that you are not the cause of all the negative situations you encounter. Try to be objective and evaluate other factors that may have played a role in the circumstances.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others: Try to be a better version of your previous self, instead of making comparisons to others.
  • Focus on positivity: Make an effort to see the silver lining in every situation. Rather than focusing on what you did wrong, try to identify at least one thing you did right. If you have a negative thought about yourself, reframe it and replace it with a positive one instead.
  • Keep a journal: Maintain a journal where you note down your strengths and accomplishments, as well as your weaknesses and disappointments. If you are having difficulty accepting something, it can be helpful to note down your thoughts about the situation and what you could have done differently. This can help you implement changes in the future and act more in accordance with your values.
  • Try loving-kindness meditation: Loving-kindness meditation is a form of meditation that can help you build positivity, compassion, and equanimity. It involves thinking positive thoughts for yourself, appreciating yourself just the way you are, and saying affirmations out loud. 
  • Seek help: It may be helpful to see a mental health professional, if you feel that a lack of self-acceptance is disturbing your peace of mind, causing you to experience symptoms of anxiety or depression, interfering with your ability to eat or sleep, affecting your work, or harming your relationships.

A Word From Verywell

Accepting yourself can help you be happy and peaceful, and lead to a sense of well-being. On the other hand, lack of self-acceptance and a negative view of yourself can cause you to have low self-confidence and a greater risk of conditions such as depression and anxiety. 

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to promote self-acceptance. Focus on your strengths, avoid blaming yourself for things beyond your control, and most importantly, forgive yourself for your mistakes.

10 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Sanjana Gupta
Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.