Why is self-acceptance important for self-esteem? How are the two related and how do they impact one another?
When you meet a new person, the first reflex is to try to identify the other person. If you get along, you will get to know each other better and accept each other for who you are.
Often, we forget to do the same with ourselves. And yet, self-acceptance is one of the keys to self-esteem and personal growth.
Self-acceptance is highly related to self-esteem and is based on self-respect and pragmatism. Self-acceptance allows us to become aware of our value, improve our emotional well-being, and grow at a psychological level. On the contrary, non-acceptance of self can cause severe psychological disorders.
However, finding peace with yourself can be difficult and requires real work and effort.
Read on to understand the relationship between self-esteem and self-acceptance, the benefits of self-acceptance, the consequences of not accepting yourself, and a number of practical real-life scenarios to help you with acceptance in daily life.
Table of Contents
- 1 Why is self-acceptance important for self-esteem? Introduction
- 2 It is essential to accept oneself to value oneself
- 3 To change, you have to accept yourself
- 4 Acceptance is a way of life
- 5 Is it possible to accept everything?
- 6 The benefits of self-acceptance
- 7 Consequences of not accepting yourself
- 8 How to learn to accept yourself
- 9 Why is self-acceptance important for self-esteem? Conclusion
Why is self-acceptance important for self-esteem? Introduction
It is essential to know that the notion of self-esteem is intimately linked to that of self-acceptance. Indeed, it is easier to start accepting ourselves as we are when we have a positive opinion of ourselves.
One could also think self-esteem is a “foundation” on which self-confidence is built. If this foundation is solid, the pillars of self-confidence will be well supported. However, suppose your self-esteem is fragile or shaky. In that case, it will be more complicated to re-establish a balance when self-confidence is lacking.
Self-acceptance follows the same principle, so one of the first steps toward self-acceptance is to start by loving yourself a little.
It is essential to accept oneself to value oneself
The first question one might ask is how do some people achieve good self-esteem? Is it because they are better than others?
It is essential to understand that people with high self-esteem also have flaws and insecurities, experience failures, and sometimes feel fragile and in doubt. The only difference between people with low self-esteem is that they accept their shortcomings.
Of course, failures also affect them, but they know they are inevitable if they choose action over despondency. In addition, they are affected by criticism, especially if it is well-founded. Still, they can admit their wrongdoing without an excessive need to justify or deny it.
Sometimes their limitations and inadequacies bother them, but this does not make them shy away from social situations. Instead, their weaknesses push them to seek to learn and progress.
In summary, the most vital characteristic of people with good self-esteem is that they can tolerate and accept their imperfections.
Indeed, they have built a holistic image of themselves that they find acceptable. In addition, they assume that others will value this holistic image more than the little imperfections they may also have.
Moreover, they know not to let themselves be beaten down by malicious spirits and have learned that it is useless to base their life and behavior on them.
People with good self-esteem will follow their own opinions and interests and accept their own quirks no matter what others do to convince them otherwise.
To change, you have to accept yourself
Acceptance could be defined as simply saying “yes.”
We say “yes” to what exists, because it exists. The problem or the fear of the problem also exists, so we might as well accept and acknowledge that as well.
Instead of saying “no, there’s no problem” or “no, I’m not afraid,” we need to recognize that, for the moment, things are the way they are and not the way we want them to be.
Acceptance is not just tolerance. Nor is it resignation or giving up on the idea of change and taking action. Above all, acceptance is staring the problem in the face and saying: “yes, this problem exists.”
To progress in life, we must recognize and accept ourselves as imperfect. Unfortunately, accepting oneself is not that simple. It is actually very challenging. But, above all, it is the total opposite of the reflexes that, for years, have pushed us to pretend to be more beautiful, more efficient, and more intelligent than we are.
Acceptance is a way of life
Acceptance also means letting go. When you let go, you discover that many problems seem to disappear by themselves.
The notion of acceptance is actually a general philosophy of life.
For thousands of years, acceptance has been at the heart of Eastern wisdom and ancient philosophy: saying “yes” to what is and then facing it. Moreover, the Stoics and Buddhists have been teaching this for a long time.
Exercising our acceptance skills in our daily lives is a start to serene action for the eventual change in ourselves. But, of course, this is beyond the scope of self-esteem.
However, it also indirectly facilitates it. Namely, when we change our view of the world, it will change our view of ourselves. Therefore, accepting the world will help us accept ourselves and allow us to progress.
For us Westerners, used to fighting against reality and having the immediate reflex to want to change it if it hurts us, the concept of acceptance is difficult to understand and admit.
We are suspicious of anything that looks like passivity to us. And yet, acceptance is not a sign of submission, resignation, or renunciation of action.
Some examples of acceptance situations
I will miss my flight
You are going on vacation by plane and you are stuck in traffic on the way to the airport. Unfortunately, there is a good chance that you will miss your flight.
Generally, the first reflex reaction that threatens you will be that of stress. Indeed, you do not accept the idea that you will miss your plane and not go on vacation.
All the subsequent troubles and annoyances take hold in your mind, causing a cascade of negative self-beliefs and thoughts. The source of all this is missing the plane.
But how do you accept something so unpleasant?
The disadvantage of this attitude of non-acceptance is that the stress caused will not solve your problem of delay, and may even add to it:
- you will get angry,
- risk an accident by driving too fast, or
- quarrel with people who seem to be delaying you…
On the other hand, the attitude of acceptance would be to say:
“Ok, I might miss my plane, it’s annoying, but that’s the way it is. I’m not the first or the last person to have this problem. What can I do right now to avoid missing it?”
The purpose of accepting the facts (in this case, the delay) is not to give up taking action. On the contrary, the goal is to take action in the best way possible.
I disagree with my friend’s opinions
In the evening, you discuss politics with a friend. However, his opinions seem silly, lame, and stupid to you. And that’s where your problem begins. Your friend’s words irritate you because they are opposite to yours.
Non-acceptance is telling yourself:
“He is wrong. It is idiotic to think that way. How can he be so naive and blind to reality?”
Therefore, it is likely that this non-acceptance of your friend’s words may:
- worsen your emotional state
- reduce your ability to maintain an intelligent dialogue, and also
- deteriorate, at least for the moment, the quality of the relationship with your friend.
All this seems to be a lot of inconvenience.
But what is the right attitude to adopt in this case?
An attitude of acceptance will consist of trying to accept what he thinks even if you disagree.
The fact that you disagree and that you may be right and your friend is wrong doesn’t exclude the reality that he simply doesn’t think as you do. So what? No big deal, you can accept this and agree to disagree amicably.
Instead of denying your friend the right to think that way, have a more positive attitude and start asking yourself more profound questions, such as:
- “Why does he have these ideas?” or
- “How would I feel if I were in his shoes?” or
- “How can I make him understand my position?”
Acceptance does not conclude and end the dialogue. On the contrary, it allows for uninhibited conversation in both directions.
To accept is to try to understand each other. This does not necessarily mean you have to agree with the other.
Is it possible to accept everything?
We can agree to accept ourselves and our defects. We can also decide to accept the faults of others, the big and small hassles of daily life.
But what about racism, injustice, and genuine tragedy? Must we also accept all that?
We must understand that acceptance is not necessarily about tolerating or approving.
Let’s take the example of evil. It is out of the question to endorse it. But, on the other hand, we can ask ourselves the following questions:
- “What state of mind should I put myself in to fight it?” or
- “What attitude can I adopt that will be the most effective?”
The world is best changed by first accepting it for what it is.
This will prevent:
- Revenge: For example, accepting that there are murderers and thieves on Earth allows for justice to be done, not for retaliation to be applied.
- Violence: For example, accepting that children are children avoids the temptation to be angry and violent towards them. Instead, we continue to educate them and sometimes even punish them.
Whatever we think about violence, racism, or injustice, we must realize that they exist. Whether we get angry or resign ourselves to these facts, they will still continue to exist.
Unfortunately, we can only accept this.
However, this is not an excuse not to act. Instead, see it as an opportunity to act more consciously.
Acceptance is not resignation! Accepting it is rather a preliminary step before effecting change.
The goal of acceptance
The purpose of acceptance is not to substitute taking action but to avoid futile gesticulation (saying that it is scandalous, unacceptable, showing strong emotions, but then going home quietly without doing anything about it).
To accept is to choose to give yourself more clarity and strength to make a change.
However, the concept of acceptance is difficult to apply in psychology, especially for people with low self-esteem.
In fact, therapy often reveals very intimate and painful phenomena related to self-image. For example, people who feel bad about themselves don’t want to accept themselves as “inferior” to others.
Even though we often feel inferior, in reality, we don’t want to accept it. And in a way, it’s good not to accept it because, in the end, we are not inferior to others!
Well, at least not as much as we fear or in as many areas as we dread. But, in the end, everyone is different and has their own qualities and flaws. So, we can all be considered inferior and imperfect in something, but that’s totally normal!
Another example of an acceptance situation
Suppose some guests at a party talk animatedly about a subject they know very well. However, you don’t know anything about it.
If you accept this situation, you will have an interesting time, learn things, and even dare to ask questions.
It will be easy if you accept that you don’t know and if you admit this to everyone. This kind of attitude is precisely what good self-esteem allows: to accept oneself at certain times and in certain areas.
This is called “flexible acceptance.” You can even play with it a bit, and it’s fun and always comfortable, after all.
On the other hand, if you don’t accept your “ignorance,” you’ll have a bad time: you’ll pretend to know while shaking your head, and you’ll tremble and stress at the thought of being asked for your opinion.
You will also be annoyed with those guests who expose their knowledge. In the end, you will go home irritated or tired.
This kind of attitude is the low self-esteem reflex: not accepting one’s limits and not understanding that they do not make us any less valuable in the eyes of others.
This is called “rigid non-acceptance of self.” The less you accept your limits, the more you are a prisoner of your limits!
Self-acceptance can be nuanced and flexible and is very different from that rigid mixture of resignation and stress, which are characteristics of the non-acceptance of self and low self-esteem.
The attitude to adopt
The attitude of acceptance is based on two aspects:
One must be convinced:
- of one’s value as a human being,
- that one’s flaws and imperfections do not condemn a person, and also
- that one’s value lies beyond the existence of one’s weaknesses.
What use is anger or sadness towards what is wrong with me if it only hurts me more?
It is better to accept what is causing my anger or sadness first and save my energy for more useful actions than complaining or being annoyed.
The benefits of self-acceptance
Learning how to be our own best friend and learning to accept ourselves brings benefits to our daily lives. These benefits are twofold:
- Self-acceptance improves emotional well-being.
- Self-acceptance facilitates personal change.
The first benefit of self-acceptance is the emotional well-being obtained.
Namely, we can achieve emotional well-being once we give up all these useless struggles with ourselves in the toxic search for imaginary perfection.
Accepting one’s flaws and weaknesses also helps to build self-esteem.
The second benefit of self-acceptance is perhaps paradoxical: it is easier to change by accepting ourselves.
This can be explained by assuming that psychological change is more about the laws of learning (practicing new styles of behavior and thought) than the laws of self-discovery (discovering the cause of our suffering).
Namely, tension and dissatisfaction will become toxic and immobilizing because they disrupt learning.
We learn best in a serene and caring environment.
The best teachers don’t stress out their students or make them feel inferior by constantly reminding them of their shortcomings and inability to make progress.
Indeed, if they do this, they will disgust the majority of students, and only a few hardy gifted will survive such teaching.
Most students’ progress is based on acceptance of their limitations from a teacher who maintains “friendly” pressure to change.
This is what happens in psychotherapy, for example. The therapist just tries to be a good teacher. He accepts his patient without giving up on gently pushing him forward.
He does this because he knows that change is easier in an atmosphere of emotional calm and self-respect.
Consequences of not accepting yourself
Most self-esteem problems are related to the non-acceptance of who we are: our weaknesses, limitations, etc.
It is also the non-acceptance of our difficulties to change. We get annoyed. We despair when not progressing, when not doing with our life what we would like to do, or when we are not who we would like to be.
All these problems of non-acceptance have been identified in many forms of psychological suffering. For example, the three most frequent families of psychological disorders are depression, anxiety, and alcohol abuse.
Concerning anxiety and phobic disorders, patients’ difficulties in accepting fear within themselves and facing their worst fears are considered the primary sources of these fears becoming chronic.
In depressive disorders, patients cannot accept that they must stop making excessive demands of themselves.
In alcohol problems, many symptoms exist that underlie the inability to accept significant aspects of reality. Alcoholics will seek this ability in alcohol, their elixir of acceptance.
Many studies in psychotherapy show that working on self-acceptance, emotions, and thoughts is an efficient way to help people with severe disorders.
- Hayes, et al., Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, The Guilford Press, 2011
- Orsilla, et al., Acceptance, mindfulness and cognitive-behavioral therapy: comparisons, contrasts and applications to anxiety; Marlatt, et al., Vipassana meditation as a treatment for alcohol and drugs use disorders; in Hayes, et al., Mindfulness and Acceptance, The Guilford Press, 2004
- Morgan, Depression: turning toward life, in Germer, et al., Mindfulness and Psychotherapy, The Guilford Press, 2013
How to learn to accept yourself
Do you have to be wise to be able to appreciate yourself? Yes, undoubtedly, in a certain way. Through acceptance, we can cultivate the clarity and serenity that our doubts and fears often take away from us.
But, in addition to being wise, we must be receptive to the small imperceptible movements of our soul.
As with all learning, self-esteem begins with attention to the smallest things.
Why is self-acceptance important for self-esteem? Conclusion
People with good self-esteem can tolerate and accept their imperfections because they have built and integrated a good overall image of themselves.
Acceptance can be defined as:
- recognizing that, for the moment, things are as they are and not as we would like them to be
- letting go
- not resigning, tolerating, or approving
- choosing to give yourself more strength and clarity to change.
An attitude of acceptance will rely on two things:
- On the one hand, self-respect. One is convinced: of one’s value as a human being, that imperfections do not condemn a person, and that one’s worth lies beyond the existence of one’s weaknesses.
- On the other hand, pragmatism. It is better to accept what causes my anger or sadness and save my energy for more important things than complaining or being annoyed.
Self-acceptance has dual benefits for our lives: it improves emotional well-being and facilitates personal change.
Self-esteem and self-acceptance are two highly related concepts because it is by accepting oneself with one’s weaknesses and faults that one acquires good self-esteem.