Self-acceptance: The key to happiness

Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.

Beene Brown

True happiness is in understanding self and accepting your imperfections. We all experience discontentment, frustration or anger in life for various reasons. The common reason however is non-acceptance and not being able to come to terms with one’s imperfections, conflicting desires, and challenging emotions.

Most of us go through our lives like sleepwalkers, never really present in what we are doing, never fully alert to our environment, and not even aware of what motivates us to do and say the things we say. A lack of awareness also is one of the reason why we get taken over by negative emotions which leads to a variety of emotional difficulties, including anger and depression.

When we lack awareness, we struggle to accept what is as it creates resistance and tension with the present moment. We get caught up in self-evaluation rather than self-acceptance and devote most of our attention on how to compensate our perceived personal deficits. Also, sometimes, when we can’t let go of our past unpleasant emotions, we tend to withheld kindness and goodwill toward ourselves and others which makes it difficult to let go of our past imperfect selves. It is a misconception that self acceptance is being passive or giving up because of which we tend to disregard negative or unfavourable experiences, emotions and behaviours.

Non acceptance of self accentuates harsh inner voice that dominates our limiting thoughts, behaviours and negative emotions. To accept what is and who you are takes practice especially when you don’t like your imperfections or negative emotional states. You have to work effectively as best you can with the circumstances you find yourself in and with the resources you have to heal, redirect and change what can be changed.

Self acceptance and self-improvement
Self acceptance is having an awareness of your perceived imperfections and shortcomings, whilst knowing you are worthy and deserving. It is not about fixing any imperfections or flaws in ourselves. Accepting ourselves to improve is what makes it conditional. Whereas self-acceptance is oriented in “here” and “now” and is not future oriented. This does not mean that we should ignore or deny our faults or failings. It is just that we view them as irrelevant to our basic acceptability. Also, accepting ourselves doesn’t mean we will be without motivation to make changes that will make us more effective. With greater self regard, changing our behaviours becomes a matter of preference than a prerequisite.

Instead of thinking, we are only as worthwhile as our latest achievement, by unconditionally accepting ourselves, we are reaffirming who we are with whatever strengths and weaknesses we possess. Instead of assessing and reassessing ourselves, we can then strive to understand our past behaviours nonetheless accept ourselves as we are today. With unconditional positive self regard, we put ourselves in better position to begin improving and commit ourselves to a lifetime of personal growth.

Self-acceptance determines your level of happiness
Happiness is simply a way of being and is based on inner peace. But, too many try to change themselves for other people and this leads to inner conflict. You don’t need to accept yourself. If you crave acceptance and recognition and try to fit into other peoples’ version of perfectness, you will struggle to be at peace with what you are. Self acceptance is what keeps you at peace. Therefore, the more you accept of your perfect and imperfect self, the more happiness you will allow yourself to receive and enjoy.

Self-compassion leads to self-acceptance
Only by developing self compassion that you can let go of things that earlier you assumed must be your imperfections or shortcomings. It is through self-compassion that you can learn to like yourself more and view yourself as deserving of love and respect.

Reflecting on your feelings of guilt, self-criticism, self-rejection or denial, you gain understanding of what compelled your past actions or behaviours and you will be more likely to be able to excuse yourself for such behaviours or imperfections and avoid repeating it in the future. We can be more self-accepting by taking responsibility of our imperfect actions or behaviours whilst simultaneously being compassionate and forgiving towards ourselves and others.

Mindfulness improves self-acceptance and self-compassion
One of the simplest method to naturally reduce self-evaluation is to develop a habit of mindfulness. When we are mindful, we can be present to both context and perspective. Willingness to let others see one’s true self and being fully in the moment helps you explore the situation you are rather than trying to win approval of others or impressing others. When you are not mindful, you enter a mindless state, where you begin to behave the way others think you should behave thereby distancing yourself from you honest feelings and your ability to be in the moment.

Live mindfully without pretence and without concern that others are judging you negatively. Being mindful leads to flexible and open mindset in which one is less judgmental and rigid. The state of mindfulness encompasses a state of self-acceptance, where one focuses on the acceptance of present experience rather than on self-judgment and self-criticism.


True happiness is in understanding self and accepting your imperfections. Pay attention to your thoughts to learn one or two things about your attitude toward self.

  • We all struggle with challenges or uncertainty. We all want to be loved and want to feel good enough. And we all wish some parts of our personality are different. These are all parts of human experience. Bringing to your awareness that you are not the only one helps you to keep up with your imperfections and shortcomings.
  • Take small steps to accept your true self. Try to listen and act on your own internal preferences, needs and wants rather than making choices and living your life from a place of ‘should’.
  • Avoid comparison. It is impossible to have all of that which we admire or appreciate in others. Comparison reduces the value of your unique self. Acknowledge your own accomplishments and achievements.
  • Develop gratitude towards self, contemplate your efforts, achievements and joyful moments. If you feel you don’t have many positive qualities, successes or experiences, remind yourself that it is likely to be the negativity bias of the human nature.
  • Make peace with part of the self that until now you may have been denied or avoiding. Let go of unpleasant past memories. No matter what hurts and deprivations you experienced in the past, you can now reframe your limiting beliefs as rather empowering.
  • Develop self-compassion by focusing more on your positives than negatives. Forgive yourself for your faults, as well as your need for others’ approval. Remind yourself that your weaknesses are part of what makes you human.

To be happy means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. When you allow yourself to be as you are, you can begin to be at peace with things that you are in resistance with and change for better.

An attitude of embracing our perfect and imperfect self rather than resisting is what makes us more receptive and open to the joy of living.

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