NB: This article forms part of a series about habits for happiness to help you live your best life. The initial three habits focus on foundation habits of happy living. These set the framework for 12 habits of happiness.
last week, I wrote about self-compassion, which is an action we take when we make a mistake. This week I go deeper to a state of being, or a way we see ourselves. I am talking about how self-acceptance makes you happier.
There is a common message we pick up as we go about our lives, especially in a success driven world. It is stated overtly within culture, work and advertising or quietly in our heads. The message is; work hard, study, succeed at work, earn good money, live somewhere stunning and inside something stunning, achieve credentials for respect, and keep going no matter what.
There’s a part of me that loves goal focused living. I like to study, work and progress in life as much as anyone else. I enjoy my to do lists and weekly planning. Part of me survives busyness because of this planning. But there’s a problem with this. What happens when things aren’t going so well?
What happens when someone treats us badly or we just wake up feeling lazy or unmotivated (as we all do sometimes)? How do we bring the motivation back and feel ok to get going? We need self-acceptance to construct happiness and flourish in life.
We have self esteem from our accomplishments. We work hard and achieve great things. But to stay strong when life gets hard, we need self- acceptance. Self acceptance is constructed differently to self esteem. Much like two iconic buildings standing together, self esteem and self acceptance can live together. But self acceptance is a taller stronger construction that stands in the storms with less sway.
As I mentioned earlier, there is a proposed path to happiness we commonly see around us. This can be thought of as a simple equation:
Achievement + motivation + effort = Happiness and Success
But there are no brackets in this equation. To illustrate this, here’s the real equation we sometimes face as busy professionals:
Achievement + (overwhelm from tasks) + motivation + (tiredness and lack of sleep) + effort + (missed items and goals not met) = Happiness + stress + frustration + some success and some failures to meet goals + satisfaction + self doubt + guilt + worry.
High self esteem from our accomplishments + total acceptance of self = joy even in the stress + ability to pursue goals and press on despite the messes.
But what is self acceptance really? And how does it relate to greater success in life?
Courtney Ackerman wrote an article  about self-acceptance, including a definition:
Self-acceptance is “ embracing who you are, without any qualifications, conditions or exceptions”.
In other words, you make the daily choice to see yourself as having worth and value, despite what you achieve or don’t achieve.
Another article  at Psychology Today emphasises this unconditional acceptance of yourself as the defining feature of self- acceptance. Self esteem is different. Self esteem is essentially feeling good about what is good in us and our achievements. The trouble with this is, when we make a mistake or fail, or meet our shortcomings when we don’t feel like meeting them, what do we do then?
Self-acceptance is affirming your worth and value including your strengths, successes, innate worth, mistakes, personal values, and faults. This may seem a bit depressing to notice your downsides, but this is freeing and powerful. Here’s how…
First, before we look at four things to try, it may help to become aware of any unhelpful thoughts, emotions, or beliefs about yourself. It’s not suppressing them or being hard on yourself. Try instead taking a curious “this is interesting” outlook toward yourself.
For example, you’ve planned to be a more patient parent. The day has been stressful at work and you arrive home tired. One of your kids is being difficult. You snap an angry word or two. The thought comes… “I’m a bad mother. How could I do that?” Then comes the guilt. The alternative is “I’m a good mother. A good mother has good and bad days and i’m a bit prone to snapping when I’m tired. I can apologise”. You have a hug and everyone is happier, you included.
I want to encourage you this week to look at self-acceptance as a daily habit. Journaling is a great way to become aware of what we don’t accept in ourselves.
Join me next week to look a bit deeper into finding your strengths (an assistant to self-acceptance), and how this process helps you to do three things:
Pitch your tent, grab a drink and meet us by the campfire as we catch up on what it means to explore the wilderness of our wellness challenges.
When you join, you’ll receive the Campfire self-care ebook for free. Then each month you’ll get a love letter and exclusive field notes on living with hope, resilience and purpose.
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I’m the creator of Minutes to Happy and your go-to counsellor and wellness coaching companion.
I’m here to guide you in becoming your bravest self (no matter what wellness worries and chronic health challenges are plonked in your path).