TEN STEPS TO GENUINE SELF-ACCEPTANCE
by Marcia Sirota, MD
Where do genuine self-love and self-acceptance come from? We get these things by soaking up all the affirmation our parents give us when we’re little. Also, our parents model their good self-worth to us.
What happens, though, if our parents didn’t give us what we needed? Are we doomed to forever feeling inadequate or unworthy if our folks were neglectful toward us or unaccepting of themselves?
The good news is that a person can develop self-love at any stage of life. Like learning a language, it’s easier to do as a child but it’s absolutely possible to do as an adult, using the following ten steps:
The first step is to recognize that any neglect, abuse or lack of protection you experienced as a child had nothing to do with you and everything to do with your parents’ limited capacity for giving love.
If your parents mistreated you it was not an indication of your inadequacy but rather, of their failings as parents. It is a mistake to judge yourself based on their poor parenting.
Too many people walk around with the incorrect assumption that they are undeserving of love, success or happiness today because they failed to please their parents.
The truth is, good parents love and accept their children regardless of their behavior or attributes. In fact, everyone deserves good things in life, regardless of whether or not they had adequate parenting.
The second step is to grieve the loss of what you didn’t receive as a child, and begin to give yourself all the love, care and support you needed then and still need, today.
In this way, you can start letting go of your past and being there for yourself. You’ll become your own “good parent” by making some time each day to engage in supportive and affirming self-talk.
Thirdly, take a good, clear look at the choices you’ve been making; forgive yourself for your mistakes and set your intention to make better choices in the future.
Self-esteem isn’t about complacency or leniency toward yourself but about compassion. An attitude of laziness or irresponsibility won’t help you develop self-esteem, but striving to be a better person will.
In the fourth step, you must recognize your negative self-talk. The judgments and criticisms we receive as children are internalized and become the “inner critic” whose negative messages are so familiar that often, they’re unrecognizable.
You’ll need to begin identifying all the things you say to yourself that undermine your self-confidence and self-acceptance. One such way is to ask yourself, “Would I talk to anyone else like this?”
When you recognize the messages of the inner critic, you can begin to contradict them, one by one. Remember, nobody needs to be perfect, and that being good enough is good enough!
The fifth step is to trust yourself that you have what it takes to live your best life and to handle each challenge as it arises. Self-trust leads to confidence, and greater self-esteem.
The sixth step is to face your challenges head-on. Avoiding difficulties leads to a sense of helplessness, which develops into anxiety and shame. Dealing with your challenges leads to a sense of mastery, and pride in your accomplishments.
The seventh step is standing up for yourself in your relationships and letting the important people in your life know what you really need and feel. Confrontation might be scary, but it will separate out your true friends from your false ones.
Improving your good relationships and walking away from the bad ones will make you feel empowered and will heighten your sense of self-worth.
Being a genuine person is a necessary eighth step in developing self-worth. If you put on a persona, no-one can know or love the real you. If you are genuine, you’ll experience esteem-building love and affirmation from the people who are close to you.
Self-soothing is the ninth step: You need to be able to comfort and reassure yourself when things are difficult. If you can’t do this, you’ll end up using food, alcohol or other addictions to self-soothe. These choices will create shame, whereas constructive self-soothing will build self-confidence and self-love.
Being a self-centered, thoughtless or greedy person won’t enable you to feel good about yourself. On the other hand, being kind, generous and patient with others will benefit them and enable you to feel good about yourself. Being a loving and giving person is the tenth and final step in building genuine self-acceptance.
Marcia Sirota MD is a psychiatrist and psychotherapist practicing in Toronto Canada. Her areas of interest include overcoming compulsive eating and other addictions, unblocking creativity and healing PTSD. She is the founder of the Ruthless Compassion Institute, which is dedicated to promoting the philosophy of Ruthless Compassion. http://www.ruthlesscompassioninstitute.com