Real self-acceptance occurs when we can accept every aspect of our self– “warts and all.” What leads to such self-acceptance? How can we come to accept the full range of our feelings and thoughts and needs? It begins when we are open to looking at the unacknowledged aspects of ourselves and can come to terms with them, integrate them, embrace them even. Here is another powerful and important use of active listening–which is the language of acceptance–just as we do it with others when they need empathy and understanding and acceptance, we can be a counselor to ourselves. Just as we help a co-worker, a child or a friend talk through their anger or frustration and get to their deeper feeling, problem or insight. When we lose the need to sit in constant judgment of ourselves, and can learn to accept ourselves, we open up the possibility of becoming more and more of what we are capable of being because accepting ourselves as we are actually allows us the freedom to change. We begin to discover the full extent of our own uniqueness and to feel free to express it and act on it.
We can also develop deeper self-acceptance by establishing, nurturing and maintaining therapeutic relationships with other people–people who accept us as we are. These are relationships in which each of us is free and willing to be ourselves, i.e. our words and behavior match our feelings–and in which we both can listen with empathy to each other. When both of us have the courage, the skill and the intention to relate to each other this way, our interactions make it possible for the unique persons we are to continue to emerge.