Unconditional Acceptance of Yourself

by Judith F Kennedy, PhD

Many of us are familiar with the idea of loving our spouses, children, or parents unconditionally — and we might even try to practice that unconditional love, though imperfectly.

But do we try to love ourselves unconditionally?

Consider whether you do any of these:

  • Criticize your body.
  • Feel like you need to improve at things.
  • Feel guilty about things you do.
  • Feel undisciplined, lazy, unhappy with yourself.
  • Not feel good enough.
  • Fear that you’re going to fail, because you’re not good enough.
  • See yourself as not that good looking.
  • Feel bad about messing up.

For most of us we join criticism of ourselves with motivation to change. For sure we will change but how does it help to feel bad about yourself in order to change? Research tells us that when a person feels good about themselves they are more likely to do good things for themselves. She’s more likely to take actions that are loving. Doing some mindful yoga, or taking a walk with a friend after work, eating delicious healthy food like beans and veggies and nuts and berries and mangos and avocados, meditating, drinking some green tea … these are loving actions.

What we resist persists

What if you deeply listened to what your addiction to food, laziness, alcohol was telling you? What if instead of criticizing these voices we paid attention to what the deeper need was?

Research on addiction tells us that bonding is crucial to overcoming addiction. What if there was a voice that was saying how lonely you are? That’s a hard one to hear. What if you unconditionally heard it and didn’t judge it? That part of you that wasn’t heard could be heard. There is nothing wrong with being lonely. Nothing.

What if we applied unconditional acceptance of who we are? What if we took a good look at ourselves, our body, our thoughts, our feelings, our actions, and said “You are good enough”? Would that be a whole different experience for you? Could you accept every single thing about yourself, just as you are, without feeling that it needs to be changed? What if you loved all the negative things as well as all the beauty, brilliance and kindness”? Wouldn’t you have a different experience?

This person who loves herself (or himself) … Acceptance isn’t stagnation — you will change no matter what. You can’t avoid changing. The question is whether that change comes from a place of acceptance and love, or a place of self-dislike and dissatisfaction. Where will your motivation to change come from: dislike or unconditional acceptance?