4 Ways to Cultivate Self-acceptance

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4 Ways to Cultivate Self-acceptance

Self-acceptance is important for recovery. Many addictions are driven by shame, self-criticism, and feelings of worthlessness. Many feel like they deserve to be miserable to pay for their many mistakes. Some people feel like have to be critical of themselves in order to change for the better. However, this attitude is a trap. If you want something better for yourself, you have to feel like you deserve it. That means you have to believe you deserve love and happiness with all your flaws and weaknesses. Self-acceptance is essential for building the resilience you need in recovery. However, accepting yourself can be hard, especially as you come to terms with your worst behavior. It is a process that never ends. Working with a skilled therapist is the best way to start. Here are some ideas for accepting yourself even when it’s hard.

Separate who you are from what you do.

Perhaps the fundamental error most people make when they judge themselves harshly is they mistake their actions, or even some specific action, for who they are. Maybe you’ve done a really bad thing and so you believe you’re a bad person. In reality, you’re neither good nor bad; you’re just a person who does the best you can under the circumstances. Few people set out to make terrible decisions but sometimes it works out that way. Everyone is a work in progress and a failure of will, morality, courage, or skill doesn’t mean you’re bad, it just means you didn’t act skillfully. Your value as a person is separate from your actions.

Swap places with a loved one.

We say terrible things to ourselves that we would never say to people we love. We know the people in our life aren’t perfect, but if we care about them, we cut them some slack. Before you beat yourself up for some mistake, imagine if someone you care about had done something similar and you want to be supportive and compassionate. Try extending that same generosity to yourself.

Remember that no one has every good quality.

It’s easy to become preoccupied with your bad qualities and to forget the good. However, our bad qualities are often closely tied to our good qualities. For example, your spontaneous, imaginative friend may be a lot of fun to hang out with, but you might not want to trust her with too much responsibility. On the other hand, your dependable, fastidious coworker might be crushingly dull on a road trip. Our personality traits that make us good at some things make us bad at others. Try to look for the strengths on the other side of your apparent weaknesses.

Push back against critical voices.

Often when we tell ourselves, “You’re worthless,” “You’re stupid,” “You’re a failure,” we base it on the slimmest of evidence. That is to say, our harshest self-criticisms are typically massive overgeneralizations. When you think, “I’m such an idiot,” don’t just accept it. You’re not always an idiot and you’re probably not an idiot most of the time. Think of some times you might have been clever, insightful, or forward thinking. Don’t allow a handful of mistakes to define you.

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