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How to find self acceptance

We often hear buzz words such as “happiness” and “self-love” thrown around without context or considerations for the foundations that they rest on.

We all want to be happy and feel assured of our own circumstance but too often the process of getting there is neglected. One of the most basic paths to self-fulfilment and happiness begins with something called self-acceptance.

Consider self-acceptance as the on-going process of experiencing reality as a fact, and check out these 6 scientifically-based suggestions for ways to improve the relationship you have with yourself.

1. “Accepting” reality does not equal “liking” reality

Take a moment such as standing in front of the mirror, for example. For many of us, our brain immediately begins focusing on all the parts of your body you wish you could change. Next time this happens, focus on accepting your body for what it is. Speak the affirmation out loud, take some deep breaths, and fully accept that the person in the mirror is you. This does not mean you can’t wish that you looked slightly different, or that you will magically master self-love in a day, but you’re not doing yourself any favours by rejecting the image of your own physical self. Understand that in order to change something you must stop denying its existence; self-esteem can only be built upon when you accept your reflection as, at the very least, an accurate one. This goes for all aspects of you.

2. Practice Gratitude

It can be hard to accept the things we struggle with, and often a re-framing of our shortcomings can be beneficial. It’s psychologically impossible to experience both anxiety and true gratitude simultaneously. Thank you failures, thank you fundamental issues and thank you future for letting me try again tomorrow. Being grateful for where you are will help you get where you’re going.

3. You are not your emotions

Work on separating yourself from your emotional reactions, and accepting them as they are. Try and observe your feelings as an event happening outside of yourself, and remove their ability to have power over you. By acknowledging, I’m feeling angry, and allowing our separate (calmer!) selves to figure out why we have these feelings we provide ourselves with the tools to increase self-efficacy. This doesn’t just work for anger, but for all emotions. And keep in mind that practice makes perfect!

4. Be “for” yourself

If we spoke to our friends the same way we sometimes speak to ourselves, we wouldn’t have any friends left! It’s important to remember that we should be first in line to offer support to ourselves when we need it. Give yourself that pep-talk, laugh at your own jokes and be one less person trying to put you down.

5. Let go of comparisons

Being different is what makes the world go round! Nothing positive or “accepting” ever came from comparison, and we are always our worst critics. Personal value is a zero-sum game, meaning that one person’s positive attributes do not detract from the value or attributes of any other person’s. There are much more productive ways to spend time than comparing, and the most significant part of self-acceptance is reflecting on behaviours or bad habits that are no longer serving you. Take notice of this and reject the rating systems.

6. Forgive and forgive again

Last but not least is to remember to forgive yourself. We are all only human, and it’s natural to have highs and lows of self-love. At the end of the day, don’t hold it against yourself if you make mistakes and fall off the acceptance wagon. Accept that failure is also okay, and be thankful for it; the best part of a practice is that you only get better with time. You already made it this far!

Posted in Lifestyle and tagged Self-acceptance, Self-care, Motivation, Mental health.

Self-acceptance and self-esteem are often used interchangeably. But they are significantly different concepts that can have powerful impacts on your wellness.

Self-acceptance is a broader and more all-embracing personal philosophy that can help you live a balanced life. Let’s look at how self-acceptance can serve you and how to make it a part of your life.

Self-esteem leads to temporary happiness.

Having self-esteem is associated with feeling good about yourself. This feeling is often based on achievements and positive experiences. The more you accomplish things in life, the better you feel about yourself.

According to Dr. Albert Ellis in his book The Myth of Self-Esteem, it’s not possible to have consistently high self-esteem because you cannot always meet your goals or have positive experiences all the time.

For example, if you’re an entrepreneur, you may feel good about yourself when you make money. But you may develop anxiety and believe you’re a failure if you lose an important client. Constantly rating and evaluating your self-worth based on transient events and actions can lead to general anxiety.

Instead, consider adopting self-acceptance as a way of life. You’ll have a balanced perspective of what matters and will be able to sail through both bad and good events.

Self-acceptance is a life-affirming concept.

Self-acceptance means that you embrace your entire being. That includes your flaws as well as your successes. It means that you are at peace with both your failures and your accomplishments.

When you accept yourself fully, you recognize that you’re a multifaceted human being. You’ll be able to face challenges with equanimity because you’ll realize it’s not representative of your entire life.

With self-acceptance, you’ll move on faster when you make mistakes at work. If you’re a business owner, you’ll be able to look at the bigger picture and endure minor problems when trying to grow your business.

How can you develop self-acceptance?

Accepting oneself completely can be challenging because the norm is to self-criticize when you make a mistake. The idea behind this is that if you judge yourself harshly, you won’t repeat the same mistake.

However, this is often detrimental to your mental health and can prevent you from being productive. You may become less willing to make changes to your work and personal life, and you won’t take any risks.

It is possible to make self-acceptance a core part of your thinking with some effort. You need to pay attention to your thought patterns and keep challenging yourself when you become negative and judgmental.

Let’s look at some helpful techniques that will give you the ability to develop self-acceptance.

Keep a journal.

Keeping a journal allows you to track your thoughts and reflect on them. Writing daily in a paper journal or a private blog will help you document your thinking when you judge yourself.

When you write down your thoughts, you can become more aware of unhelpful patterns. Simply becoming aware of judgmental thoughts can be an eye-opener. As you go through your journal, you’ll be able to look at your life from a broader perspective. You can then tackle such thoughts by practicing mindfulness.

Practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness is about staying grounded in the present moment. It creates a necessary gap between your rational self and the desire to rate and label experiences as successes and failures.

Practicing mindfulness can be as simple as taking a seat and breathing while letting thoughts happen. With time and practice, you’ll build the ability to allow unhelpful thoughts to arise without reacting to them. From here, you can develop an attitude of self-acceptance that leads to peace of mind.

Remember, practice makes perfect.

All things improve with practice. This is true of self-acceptance as well. It’s difficult to stop judging or rating yourself cold turkey, but it’s a mindset that anyone can build over time.

We need to approach the process of changing as if we’re doing regular homework. By this, I mean that it’s essential to set aside time every day just to focus on developing a new mindset.

You could set aside 10 minutes for meditation and 20 for journaling, or you could work with an online coach to keep you accountable. Creating a well-defined plan for making an internal change will lead to better results than if you plan it in your head.

What’s the takeaway?

When you have complete self-acceptance, you’re more likely to feel balanced and happy. You don’t have to experience extremes of high self-esteem and self-loathing when your actions and circumstances vary.

Focus on developing self-acceptance to embrace the fallible nature that’s endemic to everyone. You’ll get the courage to continue taking more risks in your business and work, and you’ll be able to bear life’s vagaries with confidence.

Happiness is determined by our level of self-acceptance. That’s something I’ve been learning and believe more and more, and as I’ve learned, it affects everything in our lives.

We talked about self-acceptance in the last Uncover Your Awesomeness webinar, but then the question is: how do you actually learn self-acceptance?

As promised in the webinar, I’m going to share some techniques that will help you learn how to accept all of yourself — the “good” and the “bad”. A couple of notes, though:

  1. You don’t need to do all of these techniques all the time. Try one or two out, see if they help, then perhaps try another one or two, etc. Find what works for you.
  2. These are variations on a theme. Some of these may seem repetitive, like they’re very similar to others on the list. That’s OK. They are just slightly different ways of approaching things, and doing one for a week and then another similar one next week can help round out your understanding.

The Techniques

  1. Practice relaxed awareness. What is relaxed awareness? As opposed to constant distraction, or concentrated focus, relaxed awareness is a soft consciousness of our thoughts, feelings, pain, self-rating and judgment, etc. It’s an awareness of our existence, and the stream of phenomena that is occurring at this moment, including thoughts and emotions and outside stimuli. To practice: close your eyes for a minute, and instead of pushing thoughts away or trying to focus on your breath, just softly notice your thoughts and feelings and body. You might see negative thoughts or emotions — that’s OK. Just notice them, watch them. Don’t try to turn them into positive thoughts or push them away. You can do this practice for 5 minutes a day, or up to 30 minutes if you find it useful.
  2. Welcome what you notice. When you practice relaxed awareness, you’ll notice things — negative thoughts, fears, happy thoughts, self-judgments, etc. We tend to want to stop the negative thoughts and feelings, but this is just a suppression, an avoidance, a negating of the negative. Instead, welcome these phenomena, invite them in for a cup of tea, give them a hug. They are a part of your life, and they are OK. If you feel bad about how you’ve been doing with exercise, that’s OK. Hug the bad feeling, comfort it, let it hang around for awhile. They are not bad, but are opportunities to learn things about ourselves. When we run from these “bad” feelings, we create more pain. Instead, see the good in them, and find the opportunity. Be OK with them.
  3. Let go of rating yourself. Another thing you’ll notice, once you start to pay attention, is self-rating. We rate ourselves compared to others, or rate ourselves as “good” or “bad” at different things, or rate ourselves as flabby or too skinny or ugly. This is not a very useful activity. That doesn’t mean to let it go, but just to notice it, and see what results from it. After realizing that self-rating repeatedly causes you pain, you’ll be happy to let it go, in time.
  4. Gratitude sessions. Wake up in the morning and think about what you’re grateful for. Include things about yourself. If you failed at something, what about that failure are you grateful for? If you aren’t perfect, what about your imperfection can you be grateful for? Feel free to journal about these things each day, or once a week if that helps.
  5. Compassion & forgiveness for yourself. As you notice judgments and self-rating, see if you can turn them into forgiveness and compassion. If you judge yourself for not doing well at something, or not being good enough at something, can you forgive yourself for this, just as you might forgive someone else? Can you learn to understand why you did it, and see that ultimately you don’t even need forgiveness? If we really seek to understand, we realize that we did the best we could, given our human-ness, environment, what we’ve learned and practiced, etc. And so we don’t need to forgive, but instead to understand, and seek to do things that might relieve the pain.
  6. Learn from all parts. We tend to try to see our successes as good, and the failures as bad, but what if we see that everything is something to learn from? Even the dark parts — they are parts of us, and we can find interesting and useful things in them too.
  7. Separate from your emotions. When you are feeling negative emotions, see them as a separate event, not a part of you, and watch them. Remove their power over you by thinking of them not as commandments you must follow or believe in, but rather passing objects, like a leaf floating past you in the wind. The leaf doesn’t control you, and neither do negative emotions.
  8. Talk to someone. This is one of my favorite techniques. We get so in our heads that it’s difficult to separate our thoughts and emotions, to see things clearly. Talking through these issues with another person — a friend, spouse, co-worker — can help you to understand yourself better. Use the talking technique together with one of the above techniques.

As you learn self-acceptance, realize that it is always available to you, and you can have it no matter what you do. You can learn, create interesting things, make connections with others, with self-acceptance at the center of that. I really feel that it can change everything you do, if you practice.

How to find self acceptance

Self-acceptance is essential for your mental and emotional well-being. It’s important to learn to love yourself in and out and the things that make you unique. It is probably one of the reasons why we like to hold sessions in our organization that dives deep into ourselves. It’s about letting go of the things you can’t change and appreciating the people around you and what makes you personally unique. However, being comfortable in your own skin isn’t always easy. Here are some ways you can practice self-acceptance in your day-to-day life.

First, try to make sure that you start thinking about the things that make you a special individual. Ask yourself how their differences may benefit you in the future and how they add value to your life. It’s important not to focus on the things that you can’t change, and it may be a good idea to let things go of what you can’t change and welcome the things you love most about yourself.

Secondly, try to identify your strengths and write down the things you’re good at and love to do like sports, music, art. Practicing these activities regularly can help you feel more confident in your abilities.

Hence, as the third step, set a few realistic goals for yourself and create a plan to meet them. Don’t forget to reward your achievements when you meet them and after you reach them, make a list of them regularly.

How to find self acceptance

After you reach your accomplishments, make a list of them regularly. Post your list someplace where you can see it often.

Set a few realistic goals for yourself and create a plan to meet them (this may also help with your self-esteem). Don’t forget to reward yourself when you meet a goal!

Fourthly, make a list of the things that you accomplished so far and add them to it regularly. Put your list somewhere where you can see it often.

If you can, try to avoid the people that challenge your self-acceptance especially in the long run. Thus, try to memorize a few thoughts that you can say to yourself if you begin to doubt your worth.

As for the fifth step, try to think positively and remember to speak kindly to yourself, and turn any self-critical, negative thoughts into positive ones. Don’t be too hard on yourself or compare yourself to others. Consider a few things to treat yourself and spend quality time on your own, that you like to do. Take a bath, go for a walk for example, but the most important thing is to do something that makes you feel relaxed. In general, it is important to take care of yourself by eating right, sleeping enough, and exercising.

And as the last step, find support for yourself. You can always share your feelings with people you trust such as family and friends. You could even try to ask them to name you two or three things they like about you.

How to find self acceptance

People talk about self-acceptance like it’s easy, but it can be hard to remember that, no matter what, in the immortal words of Kris Jenner, you’re doing amazing, sweetie. It may help to start with an understanding of what self-acceptance means. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of self-acceptance is “understanding and recognizing [of] one’s own abilities and limitations.” Still, in our society, it can be hard to practice that! Whether it’s certain beauty standards or expectations about where and what you “should” be doing in life (cough, rice purity test), as a parent, or as a partner, just feeling good about yourself can be a heavy lift. Actual self-acceptance is something one must constantly work at to really achieve.

The above definition may sound a bit like self-esteem, but per Psychology Today, self-acceptance and self-esteem are two very different things. According to the outlet, self-esteem is about how valuable we see ourselves, whereas self-acceptance is just an all-around “affirmation of self.” So even though they’re related, self-acceptance is also about noticing and accepting our faults and limitations. We all have them, and being able to identify them and embrace them can change the way you walk through the world, day-to-day.

Why is self-acceptance so important?

In his book Happiness Now, self-help expert Robert Holden says, “Happiness and self-acceptance go hand in hand. In fact, your level of self-acceptance determines your level of happiness. The more self-acceptance you have, the more happiness you’ll allow yourself to accept, receive and enjoy. In other words, you enjoy as much happiness as you believe you’re worthy of.”

So, how do you achieve self-acceptance?

Self-acceptance isn’t going to come easy for most people since society often suggests having “weaknesses” is a negative thing. But they aren’t — our limitations are a part of us, and we wouldn’t be whole without them. So, here are a couple of ways to practice self-acceptance every day, according to therapists:

  • Identify your strengths and celebrate them.
  • Make a list of your accomplishments, the things you are proud of, and keep it around you.
  • Set an intention, recite positive affirmations, or create a mantra (see below) to remind yourself that you are fine the way you are. for your mistakes or failures in the past, no matter how big or small.
  • Take an inventory of the people around you. Who supports you? Who brings you down?
  • Find ways to shed yourself of those around you that don’t support you.
  • Read self-acceptance quotes.

What are some self-acceptance quotes that might help?

It might sound silly, but the following self-acceptance quotes are worth typing into your phone’s notes, setting as your home screen, or even posting somewhere you can read it throughout your home. The hope? These words will become ingrained in your head and, eventually, your heart. And, don’t worry — they’re all better than any “live, laugh, love” wall hanging; we promise. It is science, after all. According to Psychology Today, using a mantra or self-acceptance quote while you meditate (or just hide from your family in your car for ten minutes a day, no judgment) can improve your anxiety, stress, burnout, anger, and help with depression.

1.“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.” — Brené Brown

2. “I’m not a mess but a deeply feeling person in a messy world. I explain that now when someone asks me why I cry so often. I say, ‘For the same reason I laugh so often — because I’m paying attention.’ I tell them that we can choose to be perfect and admired or to be real and loved. We must decide.” — Glennon Doyle

3. “I bask in the glory of my most magnificent self.” — Debbie Ford

4. “It is confidence in our bodies, minds, and spirits that allows us to keep looking for new adventures.” — Oprah Winfrey

5. “We don’t have to wait until we are on our deathbed to realize what a waste of our precious lives it is to carry the belief that something is wrong with us.” — Tara Brach

6. “Loving yourself isn’t vanity. It’s sanity.” — André Gide

7. “I don’t know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes — it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, ‘Well, if I’d known better I’d have done better,’ that’s all. So you say to people who you think you may have injured, ‘I’m sorry,’ and then you say to yourself, ‘I’m sorry.’” — Maya Angelou

8. “How you love yourself is how you teach others to love you.” — Rupi Kaur

9. “Friendship with oneself is all-important because, without it, one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

10. “Being different is a revolving door in your life where secure people enter and insecure exit.” — Shannon Alder

11.“No amount of self-improvement can make up for any lack of self-acceptance.” — Robert Holden

12. “At the end of the day, remind yourself that you did the best you could today, and that is good enough.” — Lori Deschene

13. “No tree tries to become a certain kind of tree. No flower tries to become a certain kind of flower. The tree and the flower open up to the sun and soak up water. Thus, they grow into themselves. No judgment. No expectations. No commentary. Your task is the same. If you can stop trying so hard to become who you think you should be, and instead commit to understanding and nourishing yourself, you will bloom into whatever kind of person you are.” — Vironika Tugaleva

14. “Self-acceptance means living the life you choose to live without worrying what others think about you. It doesn’t matter what someone else thinks about you. What matters is what you think about yourself. Life is about choices — your life choices, not someone else’s choice about how you should live.” — Sadiqua Hamdan

15. “When we embrace who we are, the world embraces us right back.” — Amy Leigh Mercree

16. “Accept yourself, love yourself, and keep moving forward.” — Roy Bennett

17. “You are not your history. You are the stories you tell yourself.” — Leslie Ehm

18. “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” — Sharon Salzberg

19. “Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.” — Marilyn Monroe

20. “You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.” — Amy Bloom

21. “The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.” — Mark Twain

22. “Love yourself first, and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” — Lucille Ball

23. “When you stop living your life based on what others think of you, real life begins. At that moment, you will finally see the door of self-acceptance opened.” — Shannon L. Alder

How to find self acceptance

Accepting the reality of your life sounds like it should be easy enough. But many, many people hold to their own version of reality. It may be based in regret, disappointment, denial, or just waiting for something better–a promotion, for the kids to be grown, retirement, whatever. Failing to connect with reality is why some of us have pants in the closet that haven’t fit in years. More significantly, it keeps people in unfulfilling jobs or even in the wrong profession entirely.

There are few better things you can do for yourself than giving up the fictional version of your life and learning to accept yourself, your life, and your reality. Even if your situation is terrible, the first step in improving it is acknowledging it for what it is.

Here are 11 ways to cope with reality–especially the parts of reality you don’t like–and how you can change it into a reality you want.

1. Accept yourself.

Acceptance is the ability to unconditionally value all parts of who you are. That means you acknowledge all of yourself–the good and the things that need improvement. For most of us, self-acceptance can be hard. We tend to be critical of ourselves, but there are a number of ways to learn to accept yourself and your life. It all begins with your state of mind.

2. Acknowledge your reality.

Sometimes facing reality isn’t the easiest thing to do, but accepting your current situation can make you happier in the present and lead to a better future. Understanding, accepting, and working with reality is both practical and purposeful. Acknowledging your reality will help you choose your dreams wisely and then help you achieve them.

3. Practice radical honesty.

When you can admit your own pretense, you can begin to powerfully create a new future. Denying your current reality–especially if it’s a bad one–will not make it make it go away. Dealing with the bad stuff is a way to get to the good stuff–but it takes practice, practice, practice.

4. Identify your part.

To fully accept your reality, it’s important to acknowledge any role you may have played, good or bad, in getting where you are. Ask yourself questions related to your current situation to help work toward solutions. To fully accept your reality, it is important to identify what you may have done to foster success or failure. Once you know what you’re dealing with, you can work toward the best next steps.

5. Admit your mistakes.

Remember that you can’t fix anything until you admit there’s a problem. Try to view your mistakes not as failures but as learning opportunities, and have the strength within to realize you control your reality and you’re the only one who can change it. Decide what’s important to you and set your mind to it.

6. Own your outcomes.

Work toward owning every part of your reality–not just the things that need work but also your strengths and successes. Owning all your outcomes can help teach you to do better next time, to see failure as a learning moment.

7. Don’t let fear get in your way.

Don’t let fears–especially fears of what others think of you–stand in your way. You must be willing to do things in the unique ways you think are best, and to reflect on any feedback you receive.

8. Count on your competencies.

It’s easy to look in the mirror and point out all your insecurities. But to face your reality, it’s best to start counting all positives. Make a list of your strengths, the things you are good at, the values that you hold, and the accomplishments you’ve achieved. Counting on your competencies helps you realize your strengths, which in turn will help you improve your attitude toward yourself.

9. Let go of your biases.

Don’t get caught up in the life you think you are supposed to have, but work on creating the reality you are meant to live. Your biases can blind you to almost any reality. You can try to ignore them, but closing your eyes won’t make them disappear. Instead, learn to understand them and let them go.

10. Accept that struggle will always be part of your reality.

Don’t shy away from challenges, but rather wade into the struggle and get comfortable with operating and living there. Struggles are a way of life, and we have to learn to confront them. And you never know–something the most challenging things can hold the greatest opportunity for success.

11. Make a plan for reaching your goal.

Include steps you will take to take to create a new reality. Break your goal into small steps that you can accomplish one at a time to build your confidence and self-worth as you go. Your new reality can begin to happen once you have a plan with specific goals.

Remember, you will never be able to create the right reality if you aren’t willing to let the wrong reality go.

How to find self acceptance

This stuff robs you of true enjoyment of being YOU. Now take each item on your list and resolve to release it and to let it go. You can do this through journalling. You write from a place of self-compassion and self-forgiveness, making a commitment to forgiving yourself and refusing to judge and condemn yourself any longer. For instance: “I release and let go of all the suffering and guilt relating to……. (fill in the blank). I am willing to forgive myself for what happened. I did the best I could. I forgive myself and everyone else involved. I am not going to beat myself up any longer about this."

2. Learn to validate your emotional reality.

We don't wait for someone else to give us permission to feel what we’re feeling – we give ourselves permission. We make a commitment to understand what is happening in our emotional world and we take appropriate action to support ourselves. As far as possible, we refrain from dissociating, daydreaming, suppressing or numbing our emotions. This is not about having a dialogue with yourself about who’s right or wrong – it’s not about rehashing a drama, but about acknowledging how you feel and what it’s like being you in the moment. It’s about being there for yourself and affirming that you are valuable and that you matter to yourself.

3. Cultivate a great relationship with failure.

Cultivate the courage to show up and be real. Risk being vulnerable. So many of us get trapped in a spiral of shame where failure feeds into the ‘not good enough’ story we’ve been carrying for so long. Disconnect the experience of failing from feelings of shame and lack of self-worth, and connect it to the wise knowledge that failure is a perfect teacher. Don’t spend your life sitting on the fence – take the risks which will make you feel alive. Don’t hold back from true intimacy with others or from showing your affectionate or playful side.

4. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.

We evaluate ourselves on the basis of looks, money, success, possessions – it’s almost impossible not to. We are all incredibly vulnerable to anxiety about how others see us and how they rate us, so stop playing the rating game! Stop asking yourself, 'how am I doing compared to everyone else?' Our culture encourages us to compare ourselves to others, to compete in unhealthy ways, to believe that unless we’re special and way above average, we’re failing. For so many of us, there is a constant critical inner voice which reminds us of our inadequacies. Instead, learn to accept that your best is good enough. Comparison with others is a no-win situation.

5. Learn to accept your imperfections

Begin to see that we’re not unworthy because we have imperfections. The more we can accept the parts of ourselves that we don’t like much, the more personal freedom we create. When we can own our neediness, or competitiveness or our insecurity… when we acknowledge these parts, rather than trying to hide our imperfections from the world – guess what? We’re free! We are released from the anxiety about being found out and we no longer need to focus so much energy on trying to cover up our perceived flaws. If I own these parts, then I can choose to do something about them – if I want to. I will not define myself and live in fear that my basic human imperfections are somehow shameful.

‘Self-Acceptance’ is one of the brand new self-development modules available on the Anamaya app available on the iTunes store now. With more than 350 meditations and 14 new therapy-based self-development modules, Anamaya offers help with specific day-to-day issues to help users develop their mind for ‘a better way of being’.

Healthy self-esteem and self-confidence can help you lead a more fulfilling life.

Self-esteem and self-confidence overlap, but they are different.

Self-esteem refers to whether you appreciate and value yourself. Your self-esteem develops and changes as a result of your life experiences and interactions with other people.

Self-confidence is your belief in yourself and your abilities. This can change depending on the situation. It’s normal to feel quite confident in some circumstances and less confident in others.

A healthy amount of self-esteem is necessary to have the self-confidence to meet life’s challenges and participate in things you find enjoyable and rewarding.

How low self-esteem or self-confidence can affect you

Many people experience low self-esteem or low self-confidence. Some are only affected in particular situations, but for others it can be restricting or debilitating.

If you have low self-esteem or low self-confidence, you may find that individual negative or disappointing experiences affect how you feel about yourself. This can cause a self-perpetuating cycle of negative thinking where negative expectations for the future discourage you from trying. This leads to disappointing outcomes.

For example, if you’re lacking self-confidence and receive a low mark for an assignment, you may think, “What else could I expect? I’m stupid. This proves it, and I might as well leave.”

If you have healthy self-esteem and receive a low mark, you may think, “I wonder where I went wrong? I’ll find out so that I can do better next time.” Although you may feel disappointed by the low mark, you don’t feel diminished as a person.

Low self-confidence can result in:

  • shyness
  • communication difficulties
  • social anxiety
  • lack of assertiveness.

Low self-esteem may cause you to develop a strong critical internal voice (an ‘inner critic’) that tends to express itself loudly when you’re feeling distressed, overwhelmed or judged by others. This inner critic can cause significant personal distress by contributing to feelings of sadness, anxiety or anger.

Believing your inner critic can cause you to:

  • think negative things about yourself
  • believe your negative thoughts are always true
  • ignore your strengths and abilities
  • focus on your mistakes and failings while ignoring the positive
  • expect the worst
  • avoid challenges or situations where you feel you could be judged by others
  • think that you don’t deserve to have pleasure or fun.

This can affect your life in many ways such as by reducing your university performance due to fear or negativity. It can also interfere with your personal relationships and make communication difficult.

Ways to improve your self-esteem and self-confidence

Here are some things you can do to better understand your needs and build your self-esteem and self-confidence.

Practise self-acceptance

Becoming more accepting of yourself helps you to feel OK about yourself and other people, regardless of the situation.

Everyone makes mistakes. When you practise self-acceptance you can:

  • acknowledge that mistakes are part of learning
  • identify ways you may be able to solve problems differently or change to get a different outcome
  • be critical of your behaviour and try to change it without being critical of yourself.

Get to know yourself

Take notice of experiences or thoughts that increase or decrease your self-confidence or self-esteem.

Identify your strengths, abilities and achievements. Be honest and include everything you’re proud of, no matter how small. Think about what they mean to you and why they’re important to you.

Think about what you’d like to change or improve about yourself, and how you can do that.

Reprogram your thinking

Pay attention to the language you use when you talk to yourself or describe yourself to others. We are often more kind and generous to other people than we are to ourselves.

Recognise and challenge your inner critic. Focus on the messages that make you value yourself, and turn down those that make you think negatively about your value or ability. Reprogram your thinking with positive self-talk and affirmations.

Be more assertive

Learn to assert your needs. Don’t feel guilty about asking others for what you want, or saying no to what you don’t want.

Make changes in your life

You may decide you want to make changes in your life to improve your self-esteem and self-confidence.

Think about what you can change that will improve how you feel about yourself. For example, you may want to make changes in your studies, job or relationships, or develop new skills.

Make a plan so that you can:

  • identify specific goals that will challenge you
  • break each goal down into achievable steps
  • build on your success after each step.

Surround yourself with positive influences

Spend time with people who like you for who you are. Avoid people who are constantly negative or critical, but don’t withdraw from genuine social contact.

Reward yourself

Celebrate your achievements as you practise building your self-esteem and self-confidence. Make time to treat yourself with experiences and activities you value.

Share with others

If you can, tell a good friend what you’re doing. Their encouragement and feedback on the changes you’re making could be invaluable support.

You can also help other people to see themselves as capable and worthwhile.

When your mind is focused on solving problems or it is wandering about, attention keeps shifting from one thing to another. For example, suppose you see a cookie. The image of the cookie is now a “part” of your consciousness.

Next, there is the wish to have the cookie—”Me want cookie!”—which is now a second part of consciousness. Then there is the thought, “Oh no, cookies have gluten and calories, not for you,” and a third part is now in the mind. But then another part speaks up: “You’ve worked hard, you deserve that cookie, it’s OK. “

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The structure of our suffering.

Parts interacting with other parts, often in conflict with each other. This is the structure of most of our suffering: parts of the mind struggling with other parts. On the other hand, as a sense of wholeness increases, this inner division and conflict decreases, and suffering decreases as well.

In this common way of experiencing oneself (parts and more parts), it’s all too easy to push away parts that feel vulnerable, embarrassing, “bad,” or painful. It’s as if the mind is a big house with many rooms, and some of them are locked up for fear of what’s inside. As understandable as this is, it leads to problems.

We make ourselves numb to keep the doors bolted shut. But the more repression, the less vitality and passion. The more parts we exile, the less we know ourselves. The more we hide, the more we fear being found out.

Personally, by the time I got to college, it seemed like most of the rooms of my own mind were boarded up. Over the years, I’ve had to work on accepting all of myself. Through practicing what meditation teacher Tara Brach calls radical acceptance—including accepting yourself—you can reclaim every room in your mind while still acting appropriately. In fact, it is by opening up these rooms that you can best manage whatever they contain.

How to start to accept all the different parts of yourself.

Acceptance means recognizing something exists as a fact, whether you like it or not, with a feeling of softening and surrendering to this reality. Here is a practice in accepting yourself that can help you feel more whole: