In his sensational book The Six Pillars Of Self-Esteem Nathaniel Branden discusses:
- The practice of living consciously
- The practice of self-acceptance
- The practice of living self-responsibility
- The practice of self-assertiveness
- The practice of living purposefully
- The practice of personal integrity
The fourth pillar I am going to discuss is self-acceptance. This article simply includes some of the key quotes and questions from his book. You can read about the other pillars here.
Without self-acceptance, self-esteem is impossible
Whereas self-esteem is something we experience, self-acceptance is something we do.
Stated in the negative, self-acceptance is my refusal to be in an adversarial relationship to myself.
To be self-accepting is to be on my own side – to be for myself.
Self-acceptance refers to an orientation of self-value and self-commitment.
It entails the declaration:
“I choose to value myself, to treat myself with respect, to stand up for my right to exist”
Self-acceptance entails our willingness to experience – that is, to make real to ourelves, without denial or evasion – that we think what we think, feel what we feel, desire what we desire, have done what we have done, and are what we are. It is the refusal to regard any part of ourselves – our bodies, our emotions, our thoughts, our actions, our dreams – as alien, as “not me”. It is our willingness to experience rather than to disown whatever may be the facts of our being at a particular moment – to think our thoughts, own our feelings, be present to the reality of our behaviour.
Often, when we fully experience and accept negative feelings, we are able to let go of them; they have been allowed to have their say and they relinquish center stage.
Experiencing our feelings has direct healing power
Self-acceptance is the pre-condition of change and growth
If I refuse to accept that often I live unconsciously, how will I learn to live more consciously? If I refuse to accept that often I live irresponsibly, how will I learn to live more responsibly? If I refuse to accept often I live passively, how will I learn to live more more actively?
Accepting does not necessarily mean ‘liking’, ‘enjoying’ or ‘condoning’. I acan accept what is – and be determined to evolve from there. It is not acceptance but denial that leaves me stuck.
Self-acceptance entails the ideo of compassion, of being a friend to myself
I can condemn some action I have taken and still have compassionate interest in the motives that prompted it.
You might ask yourself: “This is unworthy of me. Now tell me, what made it feel like a good idea, or at least a defensible one?”
Stand in front of a full-length mirror and look at your face and body. Notice your feelings as you do so. I am asking you to focus not on your clothes or your makeup but on you. Notice i this is difficult or makes you uncomfortable. It is good to do this exercise naked.
Ask yourself: “Whatever my defects or imperfections, I accept myself inreservedly and completely.” Stay focused, breathe deeply, and say this over and over again for a minute of two without rushing the process.
Accepting does not necessarily mean liking and doesn’t mean we cannot imagine or wish for changes or improvements.
When clients commit to do this exercise for two minutes every morning and again every night for two weeks, they soon experience the relationship between self-acceptance and self-esteem: a mind that honors us honors itself. But more than that: How can self-esteem not suffer if we are in a rejecting relationship to our own physical being?
When we allow ourselves to experience our emotions and accept them, sometimes this allows us to move to a deeper level of awareness where important information presents itself.
We deny and disown our emotions when we (1) avoid awareness of their reality, (2) constrict our beathing and tighten our muscles to cut off or numb feeling, and (3) disassociate ouselves from our own experience (in which state we are often unable to recognise our feelings).
The act of experiencing and accepting our emotions is implemented through (1) focusing on the feeling or emotions, (2) breathing gently and deeply, allowing muscles to relax, allowing the feeling to be felt, and (3) making real that this is my feeling (which we call owning it).
If we cannot accept a feeling, we should accept our resistance.
Sentence completing work:
Self-acceptiance to me means…..
If I am more accepting of my body….
If I am more accepting of my thoughts…..
If I am more accepting of my actions……
I am becoming aware……
If I bring a higher level of consciousness to my…..(anger, joy, excitement, fears…)