The Paradox of Self-Acceptance

Remember last week when I wrote about “Radical Self-Acceptance“? Yeah. Well. That’s really hard. I mean, duh. I knew that. But besides being hard, something always bothers me about this concept of 100% self-acceptance.  How do we completely accept who we are, but also self-improve? This week, I asked my therapist this question. I asked him how to reconcile these two opposing ideas. He said that he gets that question a lot, which immediately made me feel better because clearly the answer (if there is one) is not obvious. Anyhow, I got kind of lost in his answer, but basically he said something about harnessing the energy of self-acceptance and “playing around with it.” Typing that now I realize it sounds kind of ridiculous, but in the moment it made sense. Or, some kind of sense. I think what he meant was that accepting ourselves give us the freedom to change things up and take risks.

Do you have any idea how to reconcile these ideas? I’m still working on formulating my own opinion, so I have nothing concrete to share at the moment.

Meditation has made me ponder these questions a lot more lately. A few folks have asked me where to begin with a meditation practice, and I’ve recommended this amazing app called Headspace. It’s free to start, and there’s a ten day free trial with 10-minute practices everyday. There are also neat little videos along the way that clarify complex concepts. The man who leads the meditations has an incredibly soothing, Australian accent and I believe he used to be the voice behind an app called Buddify, which I loved a few years back. It’s $12.95 a month after your free trial, but in my mind, it’s a small price to pay for solid, guided meditations.

To happy pondering and self-acceptance!



4 responses

  1. Maybe if we look at acceptance as separate from approval then radical self-acceptance can make sense. It’s like loving someone with their flaws and all, you accept who they are but there are still some habits that can be improved upon. Acceptance doesn’t have to mean 100% approval, perhaps? At least I try to look at it that way.


    • That’s one way to look at it for sure…but I wonder – if you’re not 100% approving of yourself, is that really being kind to yourself?


      • Hmmm…I think it’s unrealistic to be 100% approving of yourself, that’s like asking yourself to be a perfectionist, and asking yourself to like oneself 100% of the time. And, I just don’t think that’s possible.

        I accept that sometimes I’ll do things that’ll annoy the crap out of me, like procrastinate until my deadlines are looming in front of me. But, I’ve learned over the years to just accept it and work with it. I’ve learned how to manage that annoying bad habit instead of beating myself up mentally about it. Do I approve of my habit of procrastination? No. Am I constantly working on changing that habit so that it’s not my downfall? Yes. Do I accept that I’m an eternal procrastinator? Yes. And, sometimes I brag about it. I think once I resigned myself to acknowledging that procrastination is something I’m probably not ever going to completely eradicate from my person, I sort of embraced it and thought up ways to work around it. And, that was freeing. I no longer devoted mental space to the agony of wondering why I couldn’t change this non-productive habit of mine and devoted more time to making it work for me. I guess, what I’m saying is, acceptance is more about leveraging yourself to be the best you can be and not judging yourself so harshly. So, perhaps approval is the wrong word. The better word is judgement, having no judgments about yourself.


  2. I love your thoughts on this, Janice. Especially the idea of finding ways to work with what you call your non-productive habit. I was thinking that you kind of do this with your blog – I feel like I saw a cartoon about procrastination on there once.

    And yes, no judgements is probably the best way to put it. Though, it’s so hard.


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