Develop unconditional self-acceptance

Learn how to develop unconditional self-acceptance?

Image of a brain saying reset your mind and develop unconditional self -acceptance
Develop unconditional self-acceptance — Image by Pixabay

As a mental health nurse with specialist training, I learned how to develop unconditional self-acceptance. And you can too. Of course, we all want to feel good about ourselves and feel more self-accepting. Fortunately, there is a way.

Do you accept yourself? Or are you full of self-loathing at times? Do you experience self-dislike or even self-disgust?

You wouldn’t be on your own. Unfortunately, as humans, we have these innate and learned modes of irrational, self defeating thinking. Worse, some of us are afflicted with a hefty dose of self-downing too.

I mean it’s not much fun, is it? Waking up with that horrible self-loathing in the pit of your stomach. Ugh! And disliking yourself is bad enough, but hating the fact that you dislike yourself is even worse, and it’s not healthy. It can, and often does, lead to depression and anxiety, and vice-versa.

What is self-acceptance?

Rough sketch of character holding up a red heart
Unconditional self-acceptance — Image by Nick Fewings at Unsplash

No doubt you’ve heard about self-acceptance from people that study or teach personal growth methods. So what is it? Self-acceptance is exactly what it says on the tin name: the state of complete acceptance of self. True self-acceptance is embracing who you are, without any conditions.

A recent post explained self-esteem and while it’s closely related, self-esteem is how we value and see ourselves. It’s based on our opinions and beliefs about ourselves. Psychology Today wrote that “self-acceptance alludes to a far more global affirmation of self. When we’re self-accepting, we’re able to embrace all facets of ourselves—not just the positive, more “esteem-able” parts.

Unconditional Self-Acceptance

I've developed unconditional self-acceptance. Confident looking black female.
I’ve developed unconditional self-acceptance — Image by Unsplash

As such, self-acceptance is unconditional. We can recognize our weaknesses or limitations, but this awareness in no way interferes with our ability to fully accept ourselves.”

Unconditional self-acceptance (USA) is simply acknowledging and accepting that you are who you are. And you do not withdraw your self-acceptance if you do something wrong or make a mistake. You accept that you are a complex and fallible human being that gets things wrong and makes mistakes.

However, USA isn’t about giving into apathy or finding excuses for leaving everything as it is, and stay where you are. USA isn’t about resigning the self to the things we dislike about ourselves It’s more, we acknowledge that we have undesirable traits and habits before we start off on our journey to improvement. USA is said to be the first step to pursuing self-betterment in a healthy manner.

To begin working on yourself, the first step is not just self-acceptance, but USA. It’s quite easy to accept ourselves when we just did something amazing i.e. won an award, started a brilliant new job or got a First at uni. But accepting ourselves at our lowest, with our past bad behaviours, our faults and imperfections is the real mark of USA.

Conditional self-acceptance

Colour image of little boy wearing LGBT Rainbow flag, sitting on someones shoulders
Child not loved for person he is — Image by Max Bohme at unsplash

Conditional self-acceptance is where positive regard, praise, and approval, depend upon a child, for example, behaving in ways that the parents think correct.

Hence the child is not loved for the person he or she is, but only on condition that he or she behaves only in ways approved by the parent(s). 

At the extreme, a person who constantly seeks approval from other people is likely only to have experienced conditional positive regard as a child.

Develop unconditional self-acceptance

The goal of USA is to stop reproaching and condoning ourselves if we face failure or threat, even though we really dislike these negative situations. By removing any conditions upon which we determine ourselves, selecting USA lets us change and develop yet still acknowledging that we are fallible but worthy human beings.

“Big I, Little i” technique (Arnold Lazarus)
“Big I, Little i” technique (Arnold Lazarus), Journal of Human Development and Communication, Volume 7, 2018 [61-70] 63

While we looked at this technique in another post on improving your low self esteem, using it again here will serve as a reminder.

Imagine your boss asked you to complete a task by the end of the week and you miss the deadline. So, you’ve made a mistake. What normally happens to us when we make a mistake, is that we make an over-generalised self-appraisal of ourselves like “I’m useless!” That “I’m useless!” is a negative self-statement that implies zero value in all areas of our lives. We’ve crossed out the whole of the Big I.

However, we only made a single mistake so that’s one little ‘i’ but what we do instead of crossing off that one little ‘i’, is cross our whole selves out. Essentially we’ve crossed out the whole Big I.

This Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) technique, the Big ‘I’ and Little ‘i’ worksheet, acts as a tool to help you accomplish self-acceptance.

The Big I is you, in total. The hundreds of little i’s are all the various parts of you; your thoughts, actions or characteristics like your empathycompassion, kindness, honesty, and caring nature. The self refers to the millions of characteristics. It cannot be measured by fewer than all the traits which go to make up the self.

So whenever you make a negative self-appraisal, cross out only one little ‘i’. You can continue in this way all day and for every ‘error’, cross out another little ‘i’. I doubt you’d even be able to cross out a whole line of little ‘i’s let alone the whole Big I, which is you. So the Big I (you) remains intact because you’ve only crossed out one line of little i’s.

Healthy techniques to develop unconditional self-acceptance

Grey scale image of youth wearing a blue hat and grey hoody, sitting with his elbows on his knees, hands covering his face
Unconditional Self-acceptance — forgiving-sets-you-free Image by MotivateUs com
  1. Put yourself first — stop neglecting yourself. You won’t be much good to others if you don’t look after yourself. Learn to say an emphatic “no” to people and don’t let them interfere with your time and energy.
  2. Treat others with kindness, curiosity, forgiveness and gentleness, and many will respond in kind. If they don’t, understand that they’re not bad people, they’re fallible human beings who make mistakes. However, because you’ve developed your USA, you won’t allow them to put you down or abuse you.
  3. Accept yourself with your perceived failings if you can’t change them. Or seek support and guidance to help you reduce any flaws so that you can enjoy life without negative thoughts interfering. Be open to and prepared to improve your skills and weaknesses.
  4. Always give yourself the care and attention you would give your loved ones.
  5. Don’t let the world and his wife drag you down. You have your own perceived flaws to be getting on with.
  6. Take pride and be proud that you have the wherewithal and resources to fulfil your wants or needs, even with any perceived limitations.
  7. Be a role model, set an example of USA in yourself and help others develop unconditional self-acceptance.
  8. Remember, you can’t please all the people all of the times, it’s not necessary and it can be detrimental to your mental health. Not everyone in this world is going to like us or find us acceptable. Our demand that everybody must, creates a perfectionistic, unattainable goal. So we’re setting ourselves up to fail.
  9. Encourage your children to seek not perfection but unconditional self- acceptance.

As I’ve said many times when I’ve offered any self-help techniques, you must practice them, often. There is no point reading something once then putting it away, never to be seen or used again. I’m sure most of you wouldn’t pass your driving test if you only practised once.

Over to you

Clipart.com

I’d love to know if you think some of these self-help techniques would be useful and even more so, delighted if you tell me you’ve practised some of them. I’m really interested in how you get on. I’m looking forward to your comments and any questions.

Author: mentalhealth360.uk

Mum to two amazing sons. Following recovery from a lengthy psychotic episode, depression, anxiety and anorexia, I decided to train as a Mental Health Nurse and worked successfully in various settings before becoming a Ward Manager. I am a Mental Health First Aid Instructor and a Mental Health Awareness Trainer, Mental Health First Aid Youth and Mental Health Armed Forces Instructor. Just started my mental health from the other side blog.

35 thoughts on “Develop unconditional self-acceptance”

  1. Self acceptance is a tough one for me. What helps me is using coping statements, especially after I make mistakes. I’ve jotted them down as a note on my phone.

    1. Hi Nick, thank you for reading and commenting. I understand, it’s a tough one for many people, and well done for have systems in place. See how you might work with the Big I, little i, everything’s worth a try 🙂 Caz

  2. I’m still working on number 1: put yourself first. Practice practice practice is key. You’re very right that just reading this won’t help but it can be the first step. Very interesting post 🙂

    1. Thanks Kacha 🙂 Hmmm, that’s often a tough one for us empaths — putting everyone else first. I still do it but less often these days. I do look after me sometimes. Caz

      1. That’s good to hear! I like how you put emphasis on saying ‘no’ to protect energy and time. I would add (for me) mental space or just space. I imagine a circle around me that is mine and I decide who or what I invite at a certain time. Sometimes things or people need to stay out of the circle as I focus on other things.

      2. That’s a great idea Kacha, I could work with that circle 🙂 I’d be doing visualisation in my (invisible) circle on a beach, golden sands, heat of the sun and the sound of tiny waves (I like to be safe – big waves would spoil it lol) lapping along the shore……….

        Oh my, I can feel it now, I’m off to enjoy 5 minutes more x

  3. I get hard on myself due to failed relationship patterns, because i know the only common denominator in all my failed relationships is ME! Ugh. I don’t know if it’s self-loathing or massive frustration, though. This blog post has loads of great tips!!

    1. Hi Meg, me and you both — with failed relationships! I get that you’re the common denominator but it doesn’t mean that the flaws in the relationships were all down to you.

      Perhaps you’re like me and attract the wrong type of men?

      Maybe try some of the coping techniques above. I’d love to know how you get on. And how about using the Big I, little i,?

      Thanks for commenting Meg. Caz

  4. Amazing words, its been hard and I believe its a very long process. Mantras help me alot, and remembering times when I felt proud of myself❤

    1. Thank you Eve. Self-development is never easy is it? Lol. Mantra’s are an effective technique. When I write about coping techniques, obviously I can’t fit them all in. I believe that we pick the one that works best for us. Not everyone gets along with all the techniques.

      It’s worth trying the Big I, little i. If you do, I’d love to know how you get on.

  5. I really love this one: “Encourage your children to seek not perfection but unconditional self- acceptance.” — In an ideal world, kids growing up would know their worth and value. Having a healthy foundation from an early start definitely creates a much smoother, more assured path in life. I know it’s no use in wishing for what I never got – but I do wish my upbringing had been one of loving acceptance and not perfectionistic performance.

    The big I and little i technique really is helpful. What a powerful reminder that we are more than our mistakes. Growth is (or should be) a part of life. It reminds me of the old saying, “I may not be who I hope to be, but at least I’m not who I was.” Self-acceptance is something I’m admittedly bad at but your post has certainly given some food for thought. Living with low self-esteem and a lack of self-love permeates every single aspect of our lives.

    Thanks for all you do here! You are making a difference! ♥

    1. Hi Holly, yes, unfortunately no matter what, sometimes we just don’t get that unconditional acceptance from our parents. Sorry to hear you didn’t have that loving acceptance.

      I’m really happy that you found the Big I, little i useful — I believe it is a powerful and eye-opening tool to use. Patients like this especially. I taught self-acceptance to groups of 12 when I was working in the Mental Health Day Hospital.

      I like that old saying too Holly. I’m glad that you found this post useful and I’d love to hear if you use any of the techniques.

      Thank you for your kind words Holly, much appreciate. Caz

      I’ve said for years, that all this stuff should be taught in school so kids would know their worth and value. Then hopefully, they wouldn’t have as many problems as the previous generation. The world would be a better place.

  6. All of this makes sense, I just don’t know how to put it into practice. None of it means anything to me when it’s important. And, honestly, I think part of the reason I have such a hard time accepting myself is because the rest of the world doesn’t accept me, and I don’t accept most of them.

    1. Hey Greg, let me just rephrase or argue some of what you’ve said here.

      The world is a big place with many billions of people so how can it be possible that ‘the rest of the world’ don’t accept you and vice versa. You’ve just globally rated yourself as opposed to using at the Big I, little i. You’ve just crossed out the Big I, the whole of you because ‘everyone doesn’t accept you’. Whereas, even if that were true, it’s only one little i. to cross out. I hope you can see how this works.
      You look after yourself.

  7. Perhaps use the exercises I’ve offered or look online to find more. I’m sure you’ve tried other techniques? Maybe they haven’t worked for you. So, try some more – there’s something for everyone out there, as no one exercise works for everyone.

    Work on yourself, your communication skills, self-acceptance, self-esteem so that you feel good about you! Perhaps you’ll feel better and not think that ‘everyone’ dislikes you.

  8. You put out a lot of high quality content. I’m impressed!

    I love the curated lists and bullet points, it makes it a breeze to scan for the information that I find most useful.

    I’m learning a lot from your writing for how to structure my own writing. Thank you!

  9. Hi from a newbie!
    I’m an outwardly confident, recently-qualified (one year) hypnotherapist aged 63.
    I practise meditation, mindfulness and other Zen stuff, but I only realised this week in a class giving myself loving kindness that I only THOUGHT I knew how to put myself first. I truly believed that spending an afternoon reading, eating cake or chocolate, or spending hours with friends were acts of kindness to myself. I suddenly realised that they are all sticking plasters over feelings of inferiority, laziness, inability to lose weight Blah blah blah.

    It has just dawned on me, reading this one blog, that my childhood was lived in fear of a dominant easily-angered mother, whilst trying to please my father who was more receptive, but ineffectual as a parent. I was only happy when my parents were proud of me and I worked hard to achieve that (excellent school results, honours in ballet exams, great on the sports field et al)

    And still I seek constant approval and reward from all quarters, whilst believing I’m failing.
    Yet I’m in the perfect second-time-around relationship, have several good friends, lovely home and stimulating profession.

    I need therapy!!

    Gwen

    1. Hi Gwen, thank you for stopping by and commenting. Well, we have one thing in common – I trained as a hypnotherapist in London some years ago and got to use mild trance-like state it my mental health nursing practice. I’m a great believer in self-hypnosis 🙂

      The concept of self-care is never easily understood is it Gwen? And it’s hard work remembering sometimes lol.

      I’m sorry to read what a tough time you had in childhood and it’s only later, as we get older, that we understand where some of our ‘issues’ stem from.

      I’m also a great believer in therapy, if you get the right therapist, as a means of self-care and it’s probably one of the best investments in yourself that you’ll ever make.

      I gave up on the approval-seeking some years ago, dropping several ‘friends’ who tried to’keep me back’ from my self-development journey. Now I know I’m good enough and don’t need the approval of others to make me feel good.

      It’s not easy Gwen, but it’s worth a try if that’s how you’re feeling. Or perhaps, doing some online stuff first, to see how you get on. Reading some of the blogs on here are great. There’s no judgment, everyone’s really friendly and supportive.

      I’m really glad to hear you’re in a perfect relationship. It took me a few relationships to find the right one lol. But this time it’s for keeps lol.

      You look after yourself Gwen and I’m here if you need 🙂 Caz x

      1. Thanks Caz! I took the plunge and entered therapy today!
        I should say I had a great childhood once I learned how to respond to my mum – I was a quick learner from my older sister’s mistakes!
        Here’s to autonomy 😊

  10. That “unconditional” part is so important yet also so difficult to practice. No one should have to be a star all the time just to merit acceptance. Unfortunately, many of us have been taught directly or indirectly that we are only “good” when we do things “right.” When we can move beyond that conditioning, we can finally hold ourselves through the rough times.

    On a different note, I nominated you for a Sunshine Blogger Award, with the updated link!

    1. Hhmm, yes, it does take a while and lots of practice to have that unconditional self-acceptance. I think I dip in and out of it sometimes lol.

      It took me years to get over teachers making a fool of me and my different accents, calling me ‘thick’, numbskull and stupid, along with many other put downs!

      Aawww, thank you so much for the nomination – I’ve just woken after a few days of being unwell physically – and you’ve made me smile 🙂 Caz x

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