Shifting our Mindset from Self-Love to Self-Acceptance
Controversial Opinion: what if we strive for self-acceptance rather than self-love?
Striving for self-love can be A LOT of pressure! How can we be expected to love every part of ourselves? Especially when there are so many conflicting messages in society about how we're supposed to act, look, feel, and think. We’re human and there are going to be things about ourselves that are not our favourite.
The downside to striving for self-love
We all come with self-stories that have been formed based on our experiences and temperament – in other words, both nature and nurture. Some of us may have grown up in high achieving environments, where we only received praise due to our accomplishments. This can lead to a self-story in adulthood of “I am only worthy of love if I achieve something” or “I need external validation to feel good enough.” Therefore, an enormous amount of pressure to achieve and an attachment to validation from others to feel loved, accepted, or enough. Acknowledging our self-story is the first step. When we strive for self-love, it may result in us fighting with ourselves; bringing up thoughts like, "why can't I just love myself?" "Why am I so negative?" "I can't get this right” or blaming others - “If it weren’t for my parents, I wouldn’t feel this way.” The last thing that we want when trying to be more self-compassionate is to create conflict within us.
What we can do is focus on self-acceptance. Trying our best to see ourselves fully with kindness and compassion - knowing that insecurities and pain are just a part of our experience. Not letting these thoughts, feelings, or parts of ourselves that are not our favourite stop us from doing the things that we value.
Strategies to move towards self-acceptance
Ask yourself, what do you look for in a friend? Would you want someone who is perfect or someone who is genuine, authentic, and has flaws?
Lean into your values. Become clear on what your 10 core values are and focus on activities that help you live your life guided by them.
Practice gratitude: get into the habit of ending your day acknowledging 3 positive things that happened and/or starting your day identifying 3 things that you are grateful for.
Separate from your thoughts: Name your self-story (ex. the perfectionist story). When you notice it present, acknowledge it as this story and then engage in an activity that aligns with your values. Don’t let it pull you in. Another strategy would be to imagine your self-critical thoughts as words on a word document. What color font, size, and type are they? How are they placed on the document? This separation makes it easier to behave in ways that align with how you want to show up in the world rather than getting sucked into your self-story.
Extend yourself self-compassion when your inner critic is present.
Ask yourself, “what would you say to a friend who told you they were saying these things to themselves?” Say that same thing to yourself.
Notice your thought, observe how it feels in your body when that thought is present, thank your mind (typically there is a reason behind our self-criticism such as, trying to motivate us to change), engage in an activity that we value.
Write down a list of your imperfections, then write yourself a letter from the perspective of a loving friend. Read the letter back to yourself
When emotional pain arises, don’t run away from it. Acknowledge it, breathe into it, and then nurture yourself with self-compassion. An example of this would be, remind yourself that being human means having flaws – being imperfect. How boring would we be if we had no quirks? Or that “this is just a moment of suffering” (Kristin Neff).
Take time in your day or week to do activities that allow you to recharge and feel happy. This is different for everyone, but some examples could be: practicing yoga, engaging in a mindfulness practice, watching your favourite television show, walking your dog, spending time with friends/family or having a hot bath/shower. When our cup is full, it is a lot easier to practice self-acceptance.
Engage in a daily mindfulness practice. Apps like, Insight Timer, Calm, and Headspace are helpful for this or you can practice tuning into your 5 senses during daily activities such as, eating and walking.
If this is something that you want to focus more on or need more support in, I’d love to help! Feel free to contact Tri Lotus Psychotherapy a free 15 minute phone consultation to see if we’re a good fit.
Neff, K. Exercise 2: Self Compassion Break. https://self-compassion.org/exercise-2-self-compassion-break/
Oliver, J. & Bennett, R. (2020). The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Self-Esteem. New Harbinger Publications