What is Self-Acceptance and Self-Compassion?


In a century where social media dictates how you should express yourself and everyone seems to be perfect, lack of authenticity is a prevailing concern. In a way, modern society conforms people to feel safe within a herd and demands people to behave according to pre-defined norms. On the other hand, expressing one’s uniqueness feels like a taboo.

According to research conducted by the University of Hertfordshire, it was found that self-acceptance is closely related to one’s overall satisfaction in life. This is also the factor in which 5000 respondents scored the least. 

These values are not easy to foster. The conditioning you received during childhood more often than not does not involve cultivating these values. Self-acceptance and self-compassion have to be cultivated consciously with daily practice and mindfulness.

What is Self-Acceptance?

Self-acceptance is about being comfortable with all dimensions of your personality. It requires you to nurture your strengths while being aware of your weaknesses, without over-emphasizing on the importance of the latter. 

Self-acceptance and self-compassion are two sides of the same coin. You cannot accept yourself wholly as long as you do not show the love and compassion required to integrate all aspects of your personality. 

You may have noticed the vibrancy of a person who is comfortable in their own skin. It is magnetic! They exude sheer confidence while at the same time being extremely relatable. Magnetic people often do not care about other’s opinions and are completely comfortable embracing their quirkiness. 

On contrary, did you ever feel the dullness surrounding someone filled with self-loath? 

“We cannot change anything unless we accept it.” – Carl Jung

What is Self-Compassion?

The word compassion means to “suffer with”. When you feel compassion for someone you realize that they are suffering. Your heart then responds to their pain and you have the desire to help them alleviate it. When you experience warmth, kindness and relatability with other’s pain it indicates that you are compassionate.

Self-compassion is no different. However, it is not quite easy to feel compassion for yourself as you feel for others. It is because when people come across their not-so-positive traits, they find is far easier to ignore than accept them. Most people feel embarrassed about their shortcomings and hence prefer leaving them unaddressed. This is where self-compassion can assist you in accepting these traits. 

After all, you cannot have a holistic development as long as you are not compassionate enough to accept your flaws. Ignorance is never bliss. But how can you work on improving something when you don’t even know the problem?

How Is Self-Acceptance and Self-Compassion Key To Authenticity?

You can only be truly authentic when you know who you really are and accept yourself wholly. Most people only superficially know themselves and are oftentimes unaware of their blind spots. 

Blind spots are aspects of your personality that you are ignorant of. For instance, some people have an “I know” attitude, some tend to spend more than they earn, etc are examples of blind spots. 

No one is exempted from the pains and struggles faced during childhood. This consequently, may have given rise to feelings of unworthiness that you may carry throughout your life. Unless you are aware of these limiting beliefs, it will hinder you from fully expressing yourself. Beliefs such as “I am not good at making money”, “my luck is bad”, “my relationships never work out” etc are examples of limiting beliefs.

The process of transmuting the darkness into light is painful. The desire to dig into the depths of one’s psyche is “something that not everyone may undertake” as Nietzsche writes. He fears that it could possibly render a weak-hearted mad. The psyche according to Nietzsche consists of multidimensional layers and perceiving all aspects of it is not possible. The deeper you dig, the closer you get to your true self. Therefore, shedding these superficial ego-based layers through the exploration of your psyche will make you aware of your blind spots and limiting beliefs. 

Two possibilities exist upon the discovery of your blind spots. Either you will accept it or reject it. It is indeed difficult and absolutely natural to have feelings of guilt for questionable choices made in the past. But defining yourself by past actions and using it as a standard of behavior for present and future actions is self-limiting and stagnating. Oftentimes, it is difficult to feel compassion while evaluating such actions and is the primary reason why most people unsee their faults. When you are compassionate, forgiving, and you learn from your mistakes, you become more accepting of yourself.

As George Harrison rightly said, “We are the results of our past actions, and in the future, we’ll be the results of the actions we are performing now.” We have the power in the present moment to partake in actions that are at par with the best version of ourselves.

How to Become Self-Accepting and Self-Compassionate?

1. Learn from past mistakes:

Unpleasant past actions and behaviors are not definitions of your capabilities. Instead, these are points of information to be worked upon for self-improvement. However, to access this information you have to objectively determine why things turned out the way they did in the past. For instance, if you are facing problems finding love, you have to go back to your childhood and re-access your relationship with love. If in the process, a negative experience comes up, you should treat yourself with kindness and be compassionate. Only in this way, you will be able to integrate that aspect into your personality.

2. Let go of victim mentality:

Even for those times when others have inflicted pain upon you, you can take responsibility by realizing that what happened is not your fault. Victim mentality is one of the reasons for low self-worth and esteem. This change in perspective might seem difficult at first, almost like a paradigm shift but it is crucial to self-acceptance. By accepting this you are freeing yourself from the shackles of self-pity, blame, and depreciating thought patterns. In this way, you will perceive the situation from a new lens and will also be more compassionate. What happened in the past cannot be altered but the way you perceive it can be.

3. Practicing meditation:

When you meditate regularly you become mindful which in turn results in increasing your self-awareness. Meditation calms your mind and helps you develop an objective perspective when negative emotions come up. This will increase your self-acceptance and self-compassion as it decreases the right brain hemisphere activity which these negative factors are associated with.

4. Practicing resilience:

Resiliency is the ability to handle stress and bounce back quickly to a state of harmony. To become resilient, you have to accept the problems in your life and not perceive them as insurmountable. Either you can feel defeated by it or you can look at problems as challenges or opportunities to learn something new.

Oftentimes people over-analyze their problems and question their self-worth. Such judgment will only demotivate you and hinder you from growing. The goal is to practice more self-acceptance and self-compassion and objectivity in understanding why things went wrong.

5. Take time to discover yourself:

There is infinite potential in each one of you waiting to be discovered. Much of your potential is stifled by complacency. It is natural to feel satisfied in life but if growth has to happen, self-discovery is imperative. Engaging in creative endeavors like journaling, painting, singing, photography, etc are fun ways to explore yourself.   

Self-discovery also impacts your sense of self-worth which in turn increases self-acceptance. The more you discover yourself, the more self-love you will feel.

6. Understanding that you are a human:

People make mistakes, you will make mistakes, accept it. Once you accept your mistakes, awareness of their cause will seep in naturally. Consequently, you will learn more about yourself in the process. 

However, the key here is to be self-disciplined enough to follow through with the self-correction process. The idea is to non-judgmentally observe your actions and reactions to stressful situations and decipher the root causes of your problems. Once you do that more than half your problem will cease to exist. As George Orwell rightly said, “Happiness can exist only in acceptance.” 

What Does a Person With High Self-Acceptance and Compassion Look Like?

When you accept yourself wholly, you stop caring about others’ opinions. You begin to trust yourself and feel comfortable in your own skin. Your standards of self-judgment will change. You will no longer feel ashamed of your quirks and will accept them as a part of your personality. Self-acceptance will give you confidence and make you believe in your potential. It will eliminate the need to compare yourself with others. Your standards of comparison will be your past actions and accomplishments. You will then be striving each day to outgrow yourself and discover more about yourself in the process.   

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