How to accept myself for who I am? Try these six steps

Registered Nurse and Mindfulness Expert at Bupa UK
09 February 2018

Self-acceptance is about taking the rough with the smooth, embracing all the different parts of yourself – both the good and the bad. It’s about not expecting life to be perfect (or yourself for that matter) all the time. And it’s something a lot of us in today’s world are trying to find.

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But for many people, self-acceptance is difficult to achieve, even on a good day. And on a bad day, when we’ve made a mistake or two, we may not like how we feel and self-acceptance seems even more unattainable. We put ourselves under a lot of pressure. So when things aren’t going to plan, we often need to take some time out. We may need to look at ourselves, our situation and the people around us, and accept how things are before we can move forwards.

But how do you do this? You can practise acceptance in all areas of your life. You may want to start with the six steps below.

1. Practise self compassion

Try and be compassionate with yourself. We all have an inner voice that comments on what we do and say. Think about yours for a moment. If things go well, do you mentally congratulate yourself or are you dismissive? Are you overly critical of yourself? Lots of us don’t talk very kindly to ourselves.

Try tuning in to your inner voice and noticing how it speaks to you. If you recognise that it isn’t caring towards you, try practising talking to yourself in a way that you would to someone you care for. It might feel strange to do this at first, but give it a try and see if you notice a difference.

Being kind to ourselves helps us to accept our mistakes, value our strengths and live with the whole range of human emotions and sensations. In accepting ourselves we begin to accept others alongside their strengths and weaknesses. Because underneath all the things we see, hear, judge and believe as fact, we are all still human beings.

2. Give yourself time and space

Try not to be hard on yourself if you make a mistake or if things go wrong. No one can get everything right all of the time. Unfortunately though, it’s easy to get into negative and unhelpful thinking and then before you know it, it’s become a habit. If you sometimes find it difficult to cope when things go wrong, it may help to learn to look at your thoughts and feelings in a different way.

Explore what you’re thinking before you make a decision on how to react. It can help to try and observe your thoughts and feelings with curiosity rather than judgement. It might also help you to focus on your breathing, to slow things down in your mind and become more present. Sometimes giving yourself time can be a helpful way to stop getting caught up in thoughts that often drag you down.

3. Accept and be proud of your strengths

Focus on your strengths and understand your weaknesses. Aim for realistic goals and celebrate every milestone. We’ve got some more information about successful goal setting in our blog: How to set a goal and be successful: seven simple tips.

Acknowledging your strengths can be quite difficult to do if you’re not used to doing so. Try answering these questions to help you build up a list of your strengths.

  • What are some of the positive characteristics that you like in yourself?
  • What are some of your achievements?
  • What are some challenges you’ve overcome?
  • How would a close friend describe you?
  • Which milestones have you celebrated in your lifetime so far – education, family, work, hobbies, activities etc?
  • What do you get complimented on the most?
  • What are some of your unusual skills?

Write them down and keep them close for when you’re feeling low. The idea is to build up a picture of yourself that’s based on truth and evidence, which you can turn to for reassurance.

Equally with the things you’re not so good at, it’s good to be aware of them, but don’t dwell on them. You’re only human after all.

4. Accept others

You can’t control how other people react, think and feel. But you can control how you react towards them. This can help improve your relationships at work and at home.

Just because you disagree with someone doesn’t mean you have to change how you interact with them. Learn to forgive and move on – remember others have strengths and weaknesses too. There are several ways to be more accepting of the people around you.

  • Look for the positive in other people – focus on why they may have different views.
  • Put less pressure on them to do things the ‘right’ way, according to your own views.
  • Realise the world isn’t always black and white – there isn’t always a right or wrong way to do things.
  • Think about whether you can learn anything from their way of doing things.
  • Spend less time worrying about getting other people’s approval – focus on whether you’re being true to yourself when you make a decision and stick with it.

One way to be kind to yourself and to others is to try out a practice called loving kindness meditation (LKM).–Read my article to find out how it works: Kick-start your week with kindness.

5. Accept your situation

Acknowledge there are some things in your life that you can’t change. It’s part of normal life and the human experience to go through times of pain, loss and grief, or frustration. You may not be able to change how other people behave or avoid a particular commitment in your life. But changing how you feel about these will help you move on.

Pausing for a moment and focusing your attention on your in breath and out breath, gives you a moment to notice your experience in that moment. Developing awareness can help you to embrace uncertainty, difficulty and what you can’t control, and view it from a different perspective, perhaps responding with conscious choice rather than with automatic reaction.

Top tips for letting go

  1. The beauty of life is its unpredictability. Begin to accept uncertainty. Remind yourself that nothing is permanent.
  2. Distract yourself. Do something that you enjoy, perhaps knitting, sewing, exercise, reading a book, watching a film. Do anything that you enjoy as this will release happy chemicals and give your mind respite from your thoughts. A rest from inside your head can change your perspective.
  3. Call a friend. Talking is good therapy and a friend can offer an alternative viewpoint. They can help you to decide if you are ruminating over something you can’t change, or problem solving something that you can!
  4. Have a set time to worry and stick to it. Schedule time into your day to worry. When the time comes, write down what you are worrying about in a book and when the time is over, put the book away. This may help you to notice patterns to your worries, which in turn may help you to let go of what you can’t do anything about.
  5. Last and not least, pause for a moment and breathe.

Equally important is to recognise areas of your life that you can change – and to take action. Even a small step towards something you want to achieve or change can bring you reward and confidence.

6. Accept the ‘here and now’

One of our mind’s favourite things to do is to dwell on the past or worry about the future. But try to look at what’s happening around you and in your own life in the present. This can help you make the most of opportunities that come your way, and can help to reduce stress and worry.

A great way to learn to live in the present moment is to start practising mindfulness.

A quick exercise that you can do at anytime anywhere – while your computer starts up, when you’re on the bus, before you go to sleep – is to notice:

  • five things around you that you can see
  • five things that you can hear
  • five things that you can feel or touch

The very act of noticing, being open and curious, and not judging, brings you into the present. You may find this helps change the way you relate to yourself and to your experiences.

We’ve got lots of tips and advice about mindfulness to help you get started.

Try some specific mindfulness-based therapy

If you need some help, you could try some particular types of mindfulness therapy that is recommended for helping manage stress or recurring bouts of depression. Ask your doctor about mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) or mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) to see if this might help you. We have an article about mindfulness and depression that you may find helpful.

Mindfulness is a great way to nurture your mental health. Our health insurance allows you to skip GP referral in some cases, and speak straight to a consultant.

Jane Bozier
Registered Nurse and Mindfulness Expert at Bupa UK

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