The Road to Self-Acceptance

Have you ever had a part of you that you did not like? This “part” being some aspect that might include a pattern of thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. Maybe this looks like anger, anxiety, sadness, self-criticism, jealousy, insecurity, depression, or your self-image. If you haven’t encountered a part you don’t like, then I commend you – consider yourself one of the rare few! The idea of self – acceptance is such an important concept, but can be so hard to actually implement into daily life.

Now the question is, what do you do with this aspect of yourself? Common responses to unwanted aspects of ourselves including rejecting, ignoring, judging or criticizing yourself further, numbing out this aspect with substances, blaming others, or telling yourself to “just stop”. However, many of the valiant attempts to remedy the issue do not result in long-term change. There is a wonderful phrase that I found to be so true of these unwanted parts of us – “if you resist, it persists”. The risk in resisting some of these parts is that they grow stronger! When these aspects become stronger, they become increasingly problematic when they completely take over us and run the show. A part that has grown stronger can look like anger that becomes uncontrollable and explosive, or a sense of anxiety that begins to hold you hostage and make simple tasks unbearable. An internal power struggle begins to take place where you may feel as though you are battling for some sense of control, clarity, or rationality. The cycle can leave you feeling hopeless, exhausted, and have a deep impact on your relationships!

But there is alternative way to approach these parts instead of fighting to exterminate them or control them. What if, just for the moment, you could become more curious about what is happening within you? What would it look like if you could let go of the need to “fix” the problem and let go of the judgment, criticism, or self-loathing?

  1. Start with getting to know more about this part of you.

What is the thought, behavior, feeling, or impulse you are struggling with? What situations or relationships typically trigger this problem? What emotions come up when you think about this part and what sensations do you notice in your body? How you do you feel about this aspect of yourself – do you hate it, wish it would go away, or feel like you can’t imagine yourself without it?

  1. Become curious!

If you really dislike this aspect of yourself, see if you let go of those concerns or feelings just for a moment. See if you can come from a place of feeling open, curious, and interested in getting to know what’s driving this feeling or behavior.

  1. Ask yourself…how is this part trying to help me?

While it might seem counter-intuitive, these disliked behaviors, feelings, or thoughts have come into play in an attempt to help you! However, often these aspects have become more extreme or difficult to control over time. If you can come from a place of openness, you will often be surprised at the answer you find.

Carl Rogers, a famous psychologist writes, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change”. The path to self-acceptance is through, not around, the parts we don’t like. Often these parts serve important roles in our lives to protect us from painful feelings that you may or may not be aware of. The willingness to be open and have compassion for yourself can lead to healing and help you tap into your strengths, just as you are.