The Power of Self Acceptance

By Beth O'Hara, May 2012

What would it take to love you more and feel more loved by others? Self-acceptance is a powerful practice that allows the ego to be transformed. Self-love allows the ego to loosen while resistance to the ego only feeds the ego. Judging yourself keeps you from accepting love from others. Through self-acceptance you can experience more love in your life.

To learn to accept yourself, you first have to be aware of how you reject yourself. Think about the parts of yourself that you wish you could change because you think it would make you more acceptable, more lovable or more worthy. Maybe it is your judgmental mind, your neediness, your craving for recognition, your sadness, your isolation, your doubts, your avoidance of pain, your intensity, or your desire to be selfish. What do you reject the most in yourself?

Another way to become of aware of how you reject yourself and separate from others is by taking note of the people that seem to irritate you and ask yourself: What is it that they are mirroring for you? What you reject in others is what you are rejecting in yourself.

Resisting yourself uses a lot of energy and traps you in automatic habits and patterns. You end up unconsciously sabotaging what you really want because you believe you don’t deserve it.  What would you be doing if you weren't rejecting who you really are and what you really want?

I interviewed people of each Enneagram type about rejection. See if any of these forms of rejection resonate with you.

Type 1 – I reject myself when I didn't do something as well as I could/should have.

I reject myself for not trying hard enough or trying very, very hard but still not being perfect.

Type 2 – I reject myself when I perceive that others don’t like me. I decide whether I’m lovable or not by what I perceive others are thinking and feeling about me without checking it out with them.

Type 3 – I reject myself when I am afraid that I will not be admired unless I do a certain something or accomplish a certain something.

Type 4 – I reject myself through longing, the perception that everyone has what I do not. These days, it is particular to relationships: a life mate, a friend, a lover.

Type 5 – I reject myself when self-doubt creeps in and I doubt what I know to be true, freezing my thoughts and actions. Trusting myself to take action with no second guessing can be a challenge for me.

Type 6 - I reject myself when I believe that others will provide me the security I seek.

Type 7 - I reject myself when I'm not the center of attention and when I feel inferior in any way.

Type 8 –I reject myself when I’m judging others which causes me to be critical of myself. Also I reject myself when I feel like my actions/behavior may be selfish and cause hurt or harm to others.

Type 9 – I reject myself when I encounter confrontation in my life. I don’t like confrontation and I find myself saying yes to avoid it.  Then I get angry and resentful at both myself and someone else. 

Take a moment to be aware of the situations that trigger you to reject yourself and make a note of them. The ego may tell you when these situations happen, it means you are unworthy, unlovable, and unacceptable. Is this really true though? Is your self-acceptance and self-love dependent on others? Is it dependent on a set of circumstances? What determines your worth and value? And most importantly, who determines your worth and value?

In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu says “Care about people’s approval and you will always be their prisoner”. This doesn’t mean you can’t take in what others say. It simply means  others’ beliefs about you are always projections of their own internal world. It may or may not portend any truth about your personal reality and it is up to you to decide.

The truth is each one of us is acceptable, worthy and loveable just because. That’s it. No need to be anything else, do anything, know anything, have anything.

So how do you be with these feelings of rejection and transform them into self-acceptance and love?

Thich Nhat Hanh teaches in his book Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames that mindfulness and compassion are powerful means for transforming strong emotions. He says to hold your anger like a mother would hold a baby, being mindful and present to the emotion with compassion just like you would comfort your own child. You can apply this to anything you experience about yourself: Any pain, any emotion, and any sensation. The next time you find yourself in one of the triggering situations you identified earlier or you find you are rejecting an aspect of yourself, immediately allow yourself to be with the feelings. Be mindful and present to your pain and simply hold it with compassion. You can create an affirmation like “I am willing to love and accept my pain”.

As you learn to fully accept yourself, you become empowered to make life choices. You can choose to surround yourself with people who support your self-worth and mirror to you your value. You can choose whether or not to believe what others say about you. You can discern whether the words of your inner critic are true or not while holding your inner critic with compassion and love.

Acceptance of self allows us to accept others more fully. Love of self deepens our capacity to love one another. As you practice loving yourself fully, your relationships will naturally grow through the choices you make and the love you radiate.

*Credit and appreciation from my heart go to the School of Conscious Living students who helped with this article by sharing their vulnerabilities.

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