Friday, June 17, 2011

Self Acceptance

Watching MTV Classic today I was reminded by Audioslave that "to be yourself is all that you can do". We hear it all the time... just be yourself... But what if you don't feel like yourself is OK?

I don't remember exactly when I stopped liking myself. I do remember distinctly deciding when i was an angsty 15 year old that I did not like people who thought they were awesome and that being negative was the way to be... but I know I was troubled before that age also. What did I not like about myself? I don't even know, I just haven't felt right, haven't felt OK, worthy, acceptable to myself for a long long time. I believe now that other people like and even love me - my husband and friends will vouch for that and I even believe them these days, but I still feel uncomfortable when I look inside myself. My past actions, decisions, thoughts, experiences, traumas, addictions and relationships all leave a bitter taste of disgust and shame. Therapists tell me it is not my fault, I made the best choices I could given the circumstances, I did what I did to survive and I can even believe them when they say that, but then saying it myself is another story. I have come along way sure in that I believe what they say, a good start, but a long way to go.

I drank myself into addiction and hospital but it didn't make the feelings of not-OK go away. I scarred myself but that didn't make them go away either. I starved myself and that didn't fix it and then I ate and got healthy but still I don't feel OK. I have tried to hide myself under tattoos and piercings and dyed my hair so many colours that it all fell out but I still felt not-OK. In health I got married, got a degree, became a social worker, a cat mother, an adult and still the feelings of needing to change, desperately needing to 'fix' myself, be something else stir and bubble under my skin.

Yesterday my therapist asked me what it would mean to accept myself as being 'fine'. I admit that I wish I felt OK with my weight since I know it is healthy. If I was OK with it and OK with my body image then I could stop all this silliness. To do that I need to accept that I am fine as I am. I thought about this a lot last night and frantically fired off several emails. My conclusions were that if I accept myself as fine as I am, then that means that I don't need help and that I am better. I still have so much mess inside me that I don't feel that I am better. I am scared that if I am fine as I am, then I will forever be troubled by the past. If I accept myself now then I accept all the things I think about myself, the good and the bad and to be honest I don't want a whole life feeling like this.

My dear friend said to me last night "perhaps acceptance is the key to recovery" and I imagine in my case that is the truth. I have fixed myself physically, what is left is to accept myself and who I am now - a very different person to who I was when it all went wrong. So what is self acceptance? I asked Google and the first site I found actually caught my attention - here are a few sections that resonated with me.


Self acceptance is being loving and happy with who you are NOW. Some call it self-esteem, others self-love, but whatever you call it, you'll know when your accepting yourself cause it feels great. Its an agreement with yourself to appreciate, validate, accept and support who you are at this very moment, even those parts you’d like to eventually change. This is important...even those parts you'd eventually like to change. Yes, you can accept (be okay with) those parts of yourself you want to change some day.

If acceptance feels so good and is so good for us, then why don’t we accept ourselves? The answer is motivation. We use our lack of acceptance (punishment - cause it feels bad) as motivation to get us to do, not do, be, and not be what we think we should. Many people believe that if they accepted themselves as they are, they wouldn’t change or that they wouldn’t work on becoming more of who they want to be.

Typically, we judge ourselves unfavorably with the hope it will motivate us to change. We hope if we feel bad enough about ourselves, that maybe that will motivate us to change. Does this work? Sometimes, but only short term. Most times all it does is cause us to feel bad which saps the energy you might have used to make changes. It can be a vicious cycle. It works exactly counter to what you wanted to do.

“Acceptance allows change. The 'acceptance mode' includes everything, even my judgments. It allows me to be okay now, even before I reach my goals.”

“When you begin to accept yourself the way you are right now, you begin a new life with new possibilities that did not exist before because you were so caught up in the struggle against reality that that was all you could do.”

- Traveling Free, Mandy Evans

So if it doesn’t work, why do we keep doing it? Because we hope it will work. And if you don’t know any other way to change, what options do you have? We’ve been trained to believe that in order to change, we need to first feel bad about it. That if we’re accepting and loving of that particular quality, that we won’t do anything to change the situation, which is not true! You don’t have to be unhappy with yourself to know and actively change those things you’d like to change about yourself. Acceptance is actually the very first step in the process of change. For more about this, see “an interview about acceptance”

Think of acceptance of yourself like being okay with where you live now. You may want a bigger house one day. You may dream about that new home. But there ARE advantages to living in a smaller home if you only took the time to think about it. It is possible to be happy with the home you're in now, while still dreaming and working to make your new home a reality.


You are always doing the best you can, based on your current belief system. Life has designed us with a built-in mechanism for survival. To repel from pain, and move towards feeling good. It's in all its creatures, big and small.

How many times have we heard, “if I had it to do over again, I wouldn't have acted any differently, based on what I knew at the time”? Precisely. Based on what you knew at the time.

There are reasons for the things we do. Most people have not investigated what those reasons are, but that doesn't mean they're not there. If you were to trace your thoughts from behavior back to belief, you would see a logical progression of reasons for each step you take.

Think of a person like a huge mainframe. You see the nice software interface, but be assured that there are millions of calculations taking place behind that pretty window. They're not necessarily subconscious, you can see them just like you can see code. The only way I've discovered to get to that code, is to identify those underlying ideas and beliefs.

Anyway, there is a lot of good stuff on the site and I will keep reading it... who knows, maybe it will help! Check it out Self

Have a good weekend all!

xoxo Serra


  1. Great post Serra. Thank you. I was talking to a friend the other day about this - challenging core beliefs of 'not being good enough' and how difficult it is to do because of the fear of 'if I accept myself as I am then I will end up EVER MORE CRAP than I already am' etc etc...

    So this post was good to read, thanks for finding the information and sharing it. I hope you can come to accept yourself as the awesome, caring, artistic, intelligent and individual lady you are.

  2. I wonder about the acceptance thing too. I see the body image blogs and I wonder what that has to do with my situation - I've never seen my problem as anything really to do with my body image, but more to do with control. But actually body image is about more that fat or thin, it's about feeling good about yourself as you are. And that does have a lot to do with my problem. I just don't ever think I'm good enough. So, no acceptance.
    But perhaps if I could work on that I could let go of all these other things I worry about.
    Made me think this post did...hmmmm


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