Self-acceptance refers to the relationship an individual has with him/herself. It is conceptualized as the acceptance of self despite weaknesses or deficiencies. Some scholars added the term “unconditional” to the concept to emphasize the fact that self-acceptance is not based on self-evaluation against some standard but rather reflects a relational stance in which the individual accepts him/herself at a very fundamental level, regardless of whether certain expectations or standards are met. Unconditional self-acceptance means that “the individual fully and unconditionally accepts himself whether or not he behaves intelligently, correctly, or competently and whether or not other people approve, respect, or love him”. A person with high self-acceptance does not feel “less” than others because of his weaknesses and failures and does not feel “better” than others because of his strengths and successes. Self-acceptance is the hallmark of a healthy relationship with the self.
Note that self-acceptance does not mean that the individual refrains from evaluating his behavior. The individual reflects on his behavior and is willing and motivated to make changes and improve the behavior, but the evaluation of the behavior is detached from an evaluation of the self. When confronted with personal shortcomings, the individual evaluates his actions and still experiences sadness, disappointment, or loss. Importantly, however, the self as a whole is not devalued. This individual realizes that he/she is not a bad person when he/she acts badly; he/she is a person who has acted badly; has faults and can work on correcting them without blaming, condemning, or damning him/herself for having them; and can identify weaknesses without defining himself by them.
The reason the self as a whole is not devalued is that the individual experiences him/ herself at a fundamental level as worthy of esteem and love. This individual knows and feels deeply that he is “enough” and that a mistake or shortcoming does not mean that he is not worthy of love. In this exercise, clients explore the difference between rating the self and rating the behavior.
This tool aims to help clients differentiate between rating the self and rating the behavior with regards to past mistakes and regrettable actions.
We all make mistakes, and we all do things that we are not proud of from time to time. However, how people evaluate their mistakes or regrettable actions can differ. While some people may see such actions as proof of being a “flawed” or “unworthy” human being, others may see them as inevitable occurrences that are merely a part of being human. In this exercise, you will explore these two ways of evaluating mistakes or regrettable actions.
Step 1: Identify past mistakes
Make a list of 5-10 things in your past that you are not proud of or that you wish you did differently. For example, you may have forgotten a close friend’s birthday, said something unkind to someone, became overly angry at some driver, made a mistake, or treated someone unfairly. List each of these past regrets in the first column of the table below.
Step 2: Evaluate yourself as a person
For each of the actions listed in the first column, evaluate yourself as a person for making a mistake. What personal characteristics could explain the mistake? Write down this global evaluation of yourself in the second column.
Step 3: Evaluate your behavior
Now, in the third column, evaluate your behavior concerning the mistake. What actions or behaviors could explain the mistake?
Step 4: Reflection
|■||How was it to do this exercise?|
|■||Do you feel differently about yourself when you consider your responses in the second column versus the third column? If so, how?|
|■||Which responses (second or third column) are more motivating in terms of improving yourself to do better next time?|
|■||Going forward, will you aim to evaluate yourself or your behavior concerning mistakes or regrettable behavior? Why?|