When a person has high self-acceptance, it’s as if they’ve exchanged the traditional marriage vows – with themselves. A person with high self-acceptance accepts and acknowledges their whole self, “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health”. They are not self-critical or confused about their identity, and do not want to be someone other than who they are.
The Psychological Benefits of Self-Acceptance
Self-acceptance offers a number of psychological benefits. These include better mood regulation, fewer depressive symptoms, and more positive emotions. In fact, a 2014 study on personality profiles concluded that self-acceptance and environmental acceptance (accepting the world as it is) might help people change from being self-destructive to becoming self-fulfilled and in harmony with their lives.
The mental health benefits of self-acceptance include:
* A sense of personal freedom, including freedom from the fear of failure
* An increase in self-worth and self-esteem
* An increase in independence, autonomy, and a sense of directing one’s own life
* Less of a desire for others’ approval
* An increased desire to live life for one’s self and not for others
* Increased kindness toward oneself when mistakes happen
* Less self-criticism
* An increased ability to take risks without worrying about the consequences
The Effects of a Lack of Self-Acceptance
Why does self-acceptance bring such benefits? A key reason is that the absence of self-acceptance causes problems both internally and in your interactions with others. Without self-acceptance, you can waste a lot of time listening to the negative voice in your head, the one that says you are inadequate, bad, stupid, or whatever other negative comments you have internalized.
Your negative internal voice can stop you from trying new things, meeting new people, and embracing new challenges. That negativity can also lead to self-destructive behaviors. If a person can’t accept themselves, their flaws, and their mistakes, then self-destruction or self-punishment can seem like a good option.
When one accepts oneself, wholly and completely, there’s no need for such negative emotions. Simply being is enough. Of course, self-acceptance doesn’t mean you don’t wish to improve yourself or strive toward goals — but it’s not contingent on achievement, either.
A lack of self-acceptance can also lead to dysfunctional relationships. If one doesn’t accept oneself, then an intimate partner who constantly criticizes can seem like they are speaking truth when in fact they are being abusive.
An Example of the Power of Self-Acceptance
Here’s an example of how self-acceptance helps. Everyone — every single person — can be awkward in social situations. We all say dumb things from time to time, misread situations, or forget details (like someone’s name!) to our own embarrassment. However, some people accept the risk of being awkward. They don’t let fear stop them from going to a party and introducing themselves to new people. At the same time, someone who can’t overcome their fear of talking to new people will miss out many potential connections that could lead to jobs, friendships or love.
The journey towards self-acceptance isn’t always along a smooth or short road, but it is one that brings immense benefits.