The concept seems so nebulous. Is it really possible to reach self-acceptance? And do you need to reach it before you can do anything else?
As the end of each semester nears, these are the type of questions, as a part-time college professor of Body Image, that I want to make sure my students can answer not just from an academic sense but so they can compel themselves to move forward on their own individual journeys in self-awareness and self-acceptance. And so, inevitably, a few weeks before the very last class, I ask them the ultimate question.
What does self-acceptance mean to you?
I posed this question just yesterday in class, and my students responded with brilliant insight.
“It means that I am accepting of myself in all forms, that I accept both my strengths and challenges, and understand that I am not defined by either of them,” someone said.
Yes! I enthusiastically answered.
Self-acceptance allows you to be in a more neutral place about who you are and how you are in the world. You understand you have gifts you bring to the world and you also have things you aren’t as good at and you know your gifts don’t make you better than anyone else nor do your challenges make you worse. In fact, your challenges just become information.
Using information in a self-accepting way
We all have things that either come easier or harder to us. The key is to figure out how to play to our strengths and how to learn from our challenges. Our challenges, in fact, can be some of the best information we have, and they don’t have to defeat or define us.
If you are disappointed with how you handled a situation with your child, for example, you don’t suddenly become the worst mother in the world. Instead, your disappointment is information that allows you to make a goal for the next time you’re in that same situation.
You walk away from that experience able to say, “The next time I am doing a science project with my daughter, I want to be less bossy and just let her figure out the way she wants to do it.” There’s no defeat because you understand that was just a moment in your mothering experience, and not all of it.
What is self-acceptance
Self-acceptance is a process, not a destination.
As I prepare my students for life after Body Image class, I always remind them that self-acceptance is a process, not a destination. We can’t just park in self-acceptance and never worry about self-doubt again.
Life changes and so do we, and so, building our identity on who we think we are (a teacher, for example) and how we think our body is (naturally thin, for example) can create a false sense of security.
If, instead, we build our identity around our values and our belief in ourselves, then we can develop the tools we need to operate from a self-accepting place and to put self-doubt into perspective.
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