A Coaching Power Tool created by Claudia Meza Bellota
(Equilibrium Coach, PERU)
Our opinions of ourselves actually get in the way of being ourselves.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, 2007
The definition of self-acceptance in the dictionary is:
The recognition and acceptance of one’s own qualities and limitations.
Self-acceptance means accepting ourselves fully for whom we are. We accept both the things we like about ourselves and the things we don’t. It is therefore an active process that involves a willingness to experience feelings, thoughts, and emotions without denial or evasion.
It involves appreciate, validate, accept, and support who we are at this very moment, even those parts we’d like to eventually change.
True self-acceptance means honestly accepting the facts of your reality, rather than choosing to deny, disown, or repress the things you may not like about yourself.
Some people find fault like there’s a reward for it.
According to the dictionary, self-judgment is interpreted as “the act or fact of judging oneself”.
Have you ever caught yourself using any of these statements?
I’m such a jerk. How could I have said that?
I’m so stupid. I should have learned this by now.
I’ll never be good enough. I’ll never do it right enough.
No one could love me. I’m not lovable.
Self-judgment is one of the major causes of fear, anger, anxiety, and depression. Yet most people don’t realize that these painful feelings are the result of their thoughts, their self-judgments.
Inherent in our humanity is the need to judge and criticize. Most of us criticize ourselves more than other people. Generally, self-judgment hopes to protect against rejection and failure. “If I judge myself, then others won’t judge me and reject me. I can be safe from others’ judgment by judging myself first,” or “If I judge myself, I can motivate myself to do things right and succeed. Then I will feel safe and be loved and accepted by others.
Just as a child does far better in school with encouragement than with criticism, so do we as adults. Criticism tends to scare and immobilize us. Instead of motivating us, it often creates so much anxiety that we get frozen and become unable to take appropriate action for ourselves.
Self-acceptance enables us to embrace all facets of ourselves not just the positive, more “esteem-able” parts. We can recognize our weaknesses and limitations, but this awareness in no way interferes with our ability to fully accept ourselves. Self-acceptance leads to a new life with new possibilities that did not exist before because you were caught up in the struggle against reality.
When we accept ourselves with all of your flaws and unique talents, the world seems to become a more accommodating place. We’ll find that some of the causes of our stress disappear and we will gain more joy daily.
Self-acceptance empowers a more open, rewarding exchange with everyone in your life. When you love yourself, you broadcast positive energy to others and invite respect and kindness in return. Unconditional acceptance of each blessing and blemish helps you feel authentic and unique. Better relationships begin with self-acceptance.
Acceptance and change
One of the biggest misconceptions that people have about self-acceptance is that it means liking everything and being able to change nothing. Many people believe that if they accepted themselves as they are, they wouldn’t change or that they wouldn’t work on becoming more of who they want to be.
Typically, we judge ourselves unfavorably with the hope it will motivate us to change. We hope if we feel bad enough about ourselves, that maybe that will motivate us to change. This might work but only short term. Most times all it does is making us feel bad which saps the energy you might have used to make changes. In the end, it works against the change we want to make, against us.
When you begin to accept yourself the way you are right now, you begin a new life with new possibilities that did not exist before because you were so caught up in the struggle against reality that that was all you could do.
Traveling Free, Mandy Evans
We’ve been trained to believe that to change, we need to first feel bad about it. What if we’re accepting and loving of that particular quality, that we won’t do anything to change the situation, which is not true! You don’t have to be unhappy with yourself to know and actively change those things you’d like to change about yourself. Acceptance is the very first step in the process of change.
Self-acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean liking or enjoying, but rather, it means accepting the true reality of a situation whether you find it pleasant or not. For example, think of acceptance of yourself like being okay with the car you drive right now. One day you might want a nicer car or you have this car in your mind, but there are advantages to your smaller car now. So you can be happy with the car you drive now and still dream of your nicer car as a reality later. Self-acceptance does not mean that you can’t change the things you dislike, but rather, that it is the only way that you can change things for the better.
If you can accept the things you dislike, you will find yourself with much more power to make a meaningful change as you will no longer be trying to disown or repress your dislikes from your consciousness.
How to Develop Self-Acceptance
- Believe in your intrinsic worth and uniqueness. There’s no one else in the world quite like you. Your value cannot be measured by how others perceive you.
- Embrace your own humanity. No one is perfect. Even the most enlightened among us had to struggle to achieve their goals. Likewise, you must also work to improve yourself. Let this be your joy.
- Accept Your Mistakes and Move On.When you make a mistake, stop judging yourself. Resist labeling yourself as a failure or a bad person because of past errors. You wouldn’t label your child a failure or a loser because he failed a test. When you review your mistakes, you may feel remorse and disappointment, but instead on focusing on those reactions. Focus on the actions or the change of behavior you need to take to get the results would have liked better. Remorse and disappointment may cause you to give up or avoid facing your mistakes. Instead, look toward what you can do to change your actions next time.
- Use positive self-talk. Instead of calling yourself names like “silly”, “failure” or “loser.” Get in the habit of complimenting yourself instead. Reinforce the qualities about you that you like by telling yourself things like “I can do this,” “I’m good at this,” “Forgiving others is perfectly like me,” or “I can find a solution to this challenge.”
- Be tolerant and compassionate with yourself, just as you are with your friends. Be a friend to yourself. Separate the behavior from yourself. For example, if you have done something which you are ashamed of; self-acceptance would not mean trying to argue that what was wrong was right. Rather, self-acceptance involves looking at the context in which the action was taken. It wants to understand the why. It wants to know why something that feels wrong, felt desirable, appropriate or even necessary at the time. This last point is especially important. As it is impossible to fully understand why someone did the things they did without first examining the internal processes and reasons that prompted their behavior in the first place.
- Validate yourself. Get over our habit of constantly judging yourself.
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
Spend the next week reflecting and see if you can be aware of the impulse to criticize yourself. If you notice this impulse, follow the following steps:
- Become aware of the judgment. Are you aware of your self-judgments? Are you aware of how often you judge yourself as bad, wrong, or inadequate?
- Step into the feeling, acknowledge it, become aware of it. How am I feeling as a result of your self-judgments?
- Replace the judgment with loving kindness phrases to yourself. What do I love about myself? What am I proud of?
As a coach, you will work with plenty of people who have a wicked inner critic. Even people who seem to have bold self-confidence find themselves being their worst critic.
As you are also a human you might catch yourself in self-judgment, judging your coaching skills, judging the results of a coaching session, judging the approach you’ve taken with a specific issue a client might have brought to the coaching space. However, we must be able to apply the same methods we use with our clients and be able to do some self-coaching. Observe our saboteurs and validate ourselves with positive thoughts.
Approaches we can take with our clients when self-judgment shows up in the coaching relationship:
When a mistake is made?
Your job as a coach will be to show your clients how to separate their true selves from the voice of their saboteur. Help them identify the important learning to be gained from their mistakes, and shift their perspective from a place of being wrong and powerless, to a place of corrective action and learning. This new perspective will give them freedom, confidence, and self-acceptance. Help them learn how to embrace and accept their humanity.
When they are feeling guilty or judging themselves for a mistake they’ve made. A simple process to allow your clients to have that shift in perspective can be:
- Get in reality: What happened?
- Put things in perspective: What is the real impact of what happened?
- Notice your saboteur: What is he/she telling you about what happened? How is that statement-making you feel? Is this voice being helpful?
- Taking responsibility: What action can you take now to correct the mistake?
- Future possibilities: What actions you can take to prevent this from happening again?
- Learning from your mistakes: What is the important learning here
Awareness about the Needs Trying to be met t by the judgment:
Judgments could be stories they tell themselves, a label, something they think, or anything that they believe is true about themselves. We can ask: What judgment do you have of yourself?
Self-judgment sometimes is also an attempt to meet a need so you would need to support your clients in understanding their positive intent in judging themselves. You can ask questions like What needs of yours were you trying to meet by judging yourself?
When we support our clients to have a full connection to their desires and needs, we help them move towards self-acceptance, understanding, and awareness.
Some common self-judgments and the underlying needs we might encounter are:
I’m not loveable
I have nothing to offer.
I am unworthy.
I am not enough.
I don’t deserve it.
Become an observer instead of a judge
When clients discover how to become the observer instead of the judge, they can learn from noticing what they say and do. They can see what works and where is a need to adjust thoughts, responses, or actions.
Also when we help our clients recognize how they judge others at times, they realize that they’re doing it to themselves as well. And the degree to which they judge others is usually just a portion of the dose they turn inward. But instead of judging themselves for judging themselves, they can learn to make friends with the inner critic and transform judgment into awareness of their deepest needs.
Finally, another tool we can use to support our clients is Meditation. Fully acceptance of who they are is part of spiritual practice. When they become aware of how they judge themselves and learn to work with judgments, they begin to soften; and the goodness of which they are comes to the surface. Meditation will bring our clients in touch with their inner goodness.
- Have you ever judged yourself as a coach? What happened? What kind of thoughts came to your mind?
- How did you move from self-judgment to self-acceptance? What methods did you use?
- How can you apply the methods you use for your own self-acceptance with your clients?
Robert Holden, Ph.D., 2012. Happiness NOW! Timeless Wisdom for Feeling Good
Marshal Rosenberg. Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life 2nd Ed
Brene Brown. The Gifts of Imperfection
Marilee Adams. Change your Questions, Change your life: 10 Powerful Tools for Life and Work.