How to Accept Yourself:7 Steps to Healing Your Self Image
Learning how to accept yourself and heal your self-image is a worthy intention with big benefits for your mental and physical well-being.
A little negative self talk may be natural and sometimes useful, but a steady diet of self loathing and put-downs is abuse. Fortunately, even if you suffer from a long term sense of low self worth and esteem, you can begin shifting to better feeling thoughts and healthier ways to treat yourself right away.
7 Steps: How to Accept Yourself
This seven step process will help you become more loving and compassionate toward yourself. It will help you accept your self in body, mind and spirit.
Note: Even though this process of learning how to accept yourself is listed as steps in a certain order, it is more helpful to approach it as a spiral. Revisit the steps as often as you like, in whatever order works best for you as you make shifts and root out deeper aspects of low self-worth.
Step One: Realize you have a Self and a self.
Your Self is the real you, the authentic you sometimes so hidden and suppressed you don’t even know it’s inside you. The Self is perfect, perhaps even divine. Some call it the soul or spirit of a person. This Self is loving, kind, compassionate, supportive, pure, unspoiled. You get in touch with your Self through contemplation, meditation, stillness, and connecting with nature. The words, “Let your light shine”, refer to the Self.
The self refers to your body and ego. The ego gives you an individual identity separate from others, complete with accompanying personality and beliefs. It can be the loud, critical, spoiled, self-serving, haughty part of the human psyche. Contrary to popular opinion, the ego is not bad. It helps you survive and live in the material world. But sometimes the ego needs taming and a reality check. An inflated ego is usually a sign of poor self esteem.
The Shadow is also part of the self. It is the subconscious parts of you that have been repressed or denied. These are usually the parts of yourself you do not want to acknowledge because you learned they were bad or dangerous to your well-being. An example would be that you learned to be “seen and not heard”. Speaking up for yourself is a good thing, but you were punished for it so you suppressed that part of yourself. Or perhaps you learned to deny your meanness toward others and act sweetly instead. Shadow parts may be “bad” or “good”. They are called shadow parts because you are not aware of them even though they still are part of you. A clue to your shadows is that you project and react to traits in others that you disown in yourself.
Recognizing and practicing how to accept all parts of yourself are important for mental and spiritual well-being.
Step Two: Cultivate awareness of your inner talk.
An important step in learning how to accept yourself is to become aware of how your Self and your self talk to you. It is helpful to discern the difference between the ego and the true Self expressing itself. Awareness and practice help you do this. It is always part of any healing or personal evolution process.
The Self speaks to you kindly. It is truthful and not wishy-washy. It has authentic love for you and others. The Self encourages you to be compassionate, kind, loving, accepting, grateful, forgiving, and truthful with no expectation of getting something in return.
The ego-self may speak to you kindly or harshly. It can tell you the truth, half-truths, opinions, or lies. The ego is self-serving. Even when it suggests you do or say something nice, there is often an agenda attached to it. The ego is the voice that perpetuates self-loathing and low self-esteem. It is also the voice that makes you feel superior to others (although this often comes from low self-esteem).
- Listen to your inner talk without judging. Check in and ask yourself, “What am I thinking right now?” Be an observer of your thoughts and the feelings, emotions and behaviors they produce. Listen to what you say and how you say it. What are your favorite put down phrases and patterns? Can you hear the quiet loving voice of Self? What does it say?
- Can you graciously accept a compliment from someone else? Do you ever compliment yourself?
- Observe how you look at yourself in the mirror. What does your body language say? Note what positive and negative comments come to mind about how you look. Can you look in the mirror and say, “I love you.” Try it and see how you feel. Say it from your Self, which truly does love you.
- What do you believe about your ability to heal and/or achieve your goals? Do you believe you are important, good enough and worthy of these good things just the way you are?
- Notice what you say and think about others. This is an excellent way to become aware of the less obvious shadow parts of yourself that you don’t like or acknowledge. You will tend to zero in on them in other people. Are you more accepting of their imperfections and foibles than you are of your own? What character traits do you admire in someone else that you wish you had? You probably do. Nurture it and let it shine.
- Discern whether you are accepting yourself or a situation or resigning yourself to it. These are entirely different mental states. They both acknowledge what is, but resignation gives up and settles while acceptance is positive and empowered to make the best of things.
Step Three: Mind how you approach self-improvement.
Your Self is already perfect, but your body and egoic self can evolve into the next best version of yourself. Your shadow can be brought to light and integrated for a greater sense of wholeness.
Here is a major mindset shift to make. Instead of approaching self-improvement as something you are doing to fix yourself or make yourself more acceptable, choose the mindset that you are making upgrades that are in your best interest because you love and accept yourself and you are worthy of them. That is very different than approaching change from the mindset of fixing something because you loathe yourself for it.
Making changes in your life because you love and accept your self is empowering and healing. So is deciding to live in harmony with your limitations, flaws and less than perfect attributes that make you who you are. Does it really matter if you have a a little cellulite or a few wrinkles? You may not like them, but is it really a reason to wage war on yourself? And what if you did make a mess of things? Will suffering and self-loathing make it right?
How to Accept Yourself Exercise
This exercise will help you love and accept yourself, imperfections and all. Send love from your heart to all parts of yourself – mind, body and spirit. Bathe yourself in the energy and light of love. All parts of yourself deserve acceptance.
In this short video titled, “You Can Heal Your Heart”, Louise Hay shares several tips for validating yourself and showing love to your inner child with the help of a mirror. This is simple, profound work that just may change your life or at least your attitude toward yourself.
Step Four: Stop the criticism.
Make a commitment here and now to stop criticizing silently and aloud. Let go of the negativity. Attacking yourself is destructive. It wastes your precious energy and perpetuates a downward spiral into feelings of anxiety, depression, anger and low self-esteem. It keeps you stuck and unhappy.
- If your ego wages war on you because you make mistakes, or don’t like something about your body or personality, stop. Don’t even finish the thought. Do not go there.
- Watch out for put downs and limiting thoughts that appear helpful or protective. You really may need a healthier diet or more exercise, and you know it, but you can say it to yourself in a nice way.
- Accept that you are in charge of your thoughts and your words. Choose to make them work for you, not against you.
- Assess or evaluate a situation or behavior honestly without being judgmental or critical. Use neutral words like, “I see, feel, hear, sense, want, observe…”
This step takes a lot of awareness and effort, especially if you tend toward negativity and criticism and are surrounded by people like that. Be patient and forgiving of yourself, and be persistent. It gets easier with practice.
Step Five: Make peace with yourself.
A big part of learning how to accept yourself is being okay with who you are in body, mind and spirit. This is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Like many people, I had to learn this from experience after years of suffering from beliefs and thoughts about myself.
My story: Back in my teens and twenties, I relentlessly and mercilessly attacked myself by reliving an incident and hurling verbal insults at myself for weeks. Usually it was just for saying something silly or the wrong thing will no ill intent.
Even though I didn’t know why I treated myself that way or how to stop, I knew it had to stop. It felt like I was driving myself crazy.
Fortunately, I got this idea for how to accept myself. I decided to notice my response to other people when they said silly things. Usually, I would find it amusing and forget about it. I did not judge them at all. So why was I being so hard on myself?
I had to teach myself to stop the self attacks and grant myself the same grace. I decided to cut myself the same slack as everyone else. Those words became my mantra.
Finally, after several months of committed practice, my self-berating happened less and less. I was even able to laugh at some of my foibles, which was a miracle for me.
As I learned how to accept myself and handle even my big mistakes with grace, not only did I become happier and more peaceful within, but I became more accepting and compassionate towards others. We are human. We make mistakes and do hurtful things, sometimes even on purpose. Forgive yourself. Make peace with yourself.
Step Six: Practice gratitude.
When you catch yourself criticizing a part of your body or something you did, try this exercise. It will show you how to accept yourself even when you don’t:
- Firmly stop the negative self-talk immediately. Tell yourself, “Just don’t go there!”
- Then, express gratitude for and to that part of your body or personality instead.
- Say it like you mean it even if you don’t. Eventually you will.
For example, when you criticize the cellulite on your thighs with disgust and start calling yourself fat and disgusting, STOP. Immediately. Then, thank your thighs for faithfully carrying you around, for bringing you where you need to go, for bearing the weight you put on them without complaining. Tell them, “I love you, thighs, thank you. I’m sorry for criticizing you. Forgive me.”
The goal, of course, is to avoid this behavior all together. That takes practice. Shifting to thankful, appreciative words is quite effective at silencing the critic.
Step Seven: Use emotional healing tools.
We are lucky to live in a time when topics like how to accept yourself are important.
Holistic energy healers and mental health professionals have developed a variety of emotional release techniques to help you release feelings of self-loathing and negative self talk. Although results vary, these methods are often quite effective. Do sample them.
Knowing how to accept yourself is key to spiritual well-being. When you free yourself of self-loathing and unproductive criticism and embrace a spirit of self-support and positive encouragement, you will feel much more at ease and at peace with yourself and others. It will feel easier and more natural to act in truly loving ways toward yourself. And that translates into a greater sense of physical and mental health as well.
How to Accept Yourself page updated 02/2021