Radical self acceptance is the understanding that your most undesired qualities are simply parts of your whole self.
It means giving yourself permission to be imperfect and human, while still holding yourself to a standard of personal excellence.
This may sound counter-intuitive, but radical self acceptance leads to long-lasting change and freedom from comparison and despair.
In fact, it is the basis for many self-help practices. Yet, few people know what it’s really about.
If you’d like to learn more about radical self acceptance, here are 10 things you should know:
1) Radical self acceptance is about understanding your feelings and experiences and remaining kind to yourself in spite of them
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby – a licensed psychologist, and board-certified coach – says that radical self acceptance “is about believing our inner reality or experience and not judging ourselves for having it.”
In other words, the first thing you should know about radical self acceptance is that it involves noticing and accepting your feelings without judgment and without trying to change them.
Your inner reality is always your truth, whether you’re feeling happy, sad, angry, frightened, ashamed – or any other emotion. Radical self acceptance is about noticing what you’re feeling without judging yourself for having that feeling.
In being kind to yourself and accepting your inner reality, however, you may still endeavor to feel better when you can. You can take steps to improve your mood with exercise or calling a friend when appropriate.
2) Radical self acceptance is about accepting the fact that emotional pain is inevitable, but suffering is not
Just as you should accept your emotions as inevitable, you must also accept that you will sometime feel emotional pain.
Radical self acceptance is about not trying to avoid emotional pain or deny that it exists.
Because emotional pain is an inherent part of life, but suffering is optional.
Let me explain:
If you’re going to experience emotional pain, you can choose how much suffering you want to feel and how hard you’re willing to work to create change.
You also have the power to create happiness for yourself through your own effort, regardless of what anyone tells you.
In other words, radical self acceptance is about accepting “negative experiences as a normal, healthy, and expected part of your life,” as Dr. Bobby says.
By doing so, you can learn to make peace with emotional pain, and you can use your own internal resources to create happiness in spite of it.
3) Radical self acceptance is about embracing your values and following your principles regardless of what other people think
Let me ask you this:
What guides you and motivates you to go through life?
If you’ve ever asked yourself that question, chances are you found a set of values and principles that were guiding and motivating you.
But what if someone doesn’t approve of your values or principles?
What if someone rejects your beliefs because they don’t reflect their own?
Radical self acceptance is about believing in yourself and following your values, regardless of what other people think. In fact, it’s about believing in yourself and your principles even when no one else seems to.
However, to do that, you must clearly define your values and principles in life. If you need help, I highly recommend checking out this free checklist from Jeanette Brown’s course Life Journal.
She will help you clarify your top five core values in life and as soon as you do that, you’ll be able to align your life with your values.
Needless to say, an imbalance between core values and reality can create unhappiness. If you want to avoid that, download your free checklist here.
4) Radical self acceptance is about being kind to yourself whether or not you are “a good person”
The next thing you should know about radical self acceptance is this:
Radical self acceptance “is having compassion, tolerance, and love for yourself even when you are not 100%,” says Dr. Bobby.
What she is trying to say is that radical self acceptance is about having compassion for yourself even when you do things that might be considered “wrong.”
It is about being kind to yourself as an essential part of your whole self, regardless of what you do.
You can’t expect to behave impeccably in every aspect of your life. And yet some people put pressure on themselves to always be perfect, which leads to negative emotions.
Radical self acceptance is about acknowledging that you will make mistakes, and it’s also about being kind towards yourself even when you do something that may seem wrong or hurtful.
5) Radical self acceptance is not about forgiveness
Is radical self acceptance about forgiving yourself?
Arlin Cuncic, writer and the author of a self-help book explains the difference:
“Some people might think that forgiveness and radical acceptance are the same things. In fact, they are very different. Forgiveness involves extending an act of kindness to the other person whereas radical acceptance is the extension of an act of kindness to yourself.”
To be more precise, when you radically accept yourself, you don’t have to also forgive yourself for something you said or did, or because of the way you are.
You should simply embrace all these aspects of yourself. You don’t have to forgive yourself to do that.
However, this doesn’t mean that forgiveness is bad. If you can extend an act of kindness to another person, then do it. Just because you may be able to radically accept things it doesn’t mean other people can do this as well.
6) Radical self acceptance is not about pretending your problems don’t exist. It is about viewing your experiences in a different way
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“Radical acceptance involves moving away from emotional reactions and helplessness toward calm and logical thought. While you may not be able to change the facts of a situation, you can choose how you view it,” says Cuncic.
In other words, radical self acceptance is a powerful way you can learn how to deal with your problems and direct your feelings about them in a positive way so they don’t harm you.
So what if you failed that exam? You have the opportunity to take it again and get a higher score as well as learn more.
So what if a romantic interest rejected you? You can try to seduce them again, this time with a better strategy.
You don’t have to believe your problems are “ruining your life,” and that you can prevent them from happening. But you can learn how to deal with them in a positive way so they don’t cause you any more suffering.
7) Radical self acceptance is about understanding that you have shortcomings and limitations
Radical self acceptance has to do with understanding your own limitations and acknowledging them.
Leon F Seltzer Ph.D. – author, and psychotherapist – explains that “when we’re self-accepting, we’re able to embrace all facets of ourselves – not just the positive, more “esteem-able” parts.”
On top of that, we can become aware of, and accept our shortcomings and limitations, while celebrating the many wonderful aspects of ourselves.
How you respond to your limitations is what matters. If you don’t view them as weaknesses that make you a bad person but accept them as a part of yourself, then you are likely going to be able to overcome them in time.
“As such, self acceptance is unconditional, free of any qualification. We can recognize our weaknesses or limitations, but this awareness in no way interferes with our ability to fully accept ourselves,” he adds.
So, we could say that radical self acceptance is the foundation of unconditional self-love.
8) Radical self acceptance is about realizing that you are already enough
…”right now, at this moment we could all believe that we are all already enough, that we are ok, just as we are.”
How much our little world would change, how we would experience life, if instead of chasing our dreams we could simply see all the beauty within us that is already there, at this very moment.
To dare to love ourselves without conditions or reservation would be true magic, offering a solution to so many age-old questions and problems.
This is what radical self acceptance is about.
It’s about taking an honest look at your circumstances and accepting them for what they are, without any resistance. In other words, to accept that you are already enough, and you don’t have to change anything or improve yourself in any way.
This doesn’t mean stop trying new things or being creative or being a couch potato and spend your life alone.
It could mean spending your time just appreciating the beauty of learning new things, doing new things, and getting to know yourself better.
When you don’t resist yourself, you will eventually find out what is stopping you from truly enjoying life in its fullness.
9) Radical self acceptance is about letting go of the illusion of control
Do you think you have complete control over your life? Think again.
You can have your own views about the world and your place in it, but don’t fool yourself that you can fully control what happens to you.
You are powerful and creating your own experiences, yes, but there are other forces out there that also affect you. Some of them are beyond your control.
This is why you shouldn’t always rely on controlling the outcome of situations in order to feel better about yourself.
“Radical acceptance is letting go of the need to control, judge, and wish things were different than they are,” says Michelle P. Maidenberg Ph.D.
So if you lean towards the concept of radical self acceptance, it would be an opportunity for you to let go of expectations, and to accept yourself for who you are in the moment, where you are at this very point.
That doesn’t mean you can’t change your circumstance but rather it’s about realizing that nothing is permanent and that the only thing that is reliable is change itself.
10) Radical self acceptance is about living in the moment even if it makes you feel all sorts of negative emotions
The last thing on the list may not be the most exciting one. And, in fact, it sounds very counter-intuitive because it’s precisely what a lot of people don’t want to do.
However, it’s a very important part of the process, especially if you want to deal with your emotions in a healthier way.
You see, a lot of people try to distract themselves from negative emotions in order to not feel bad.
This is fine, but it doesn’t solve anything in the long run.
Radical self acceptance means being vulnerable and experiencing your emotions without running or resisting them.
The ultimate goal of radical acceptance is that we can feel all of our emotions without fighting them, without judging them, and without trying to alter them.
For example, it’s good to feel sad when someone dies because this negative feeling can remind you how valuable life is.
Trying to get rid of your emotions or bury them deep down inside yourself will most likely end up causing more problems in the long run.
Radical self acceptance is the acceptance of yourself as you are, not how others want to see you or even how you want to see yourself. It is the ability to love and accept yourself in spite of your flaws, these extend beyond personality or physical attributes.
When you radically accept yourself, you don’t have limitations that prevent your happiness; you are always able to overcome them. You can take whatever comes at you and make it work for your benefit.
Radical self acceptance is about allowing yourself to be vulnerable and letting your emotions speak for themselves. It’s the acknowledgment that it’s okay not to control everything, and sometimes we have no control over certain outcomes.
It’s about realizing that you are already enough, at this moment, and accepting it.