Self-Acceptance and Self-Compassion

What is self-acceptance?

Sense of self-worth changes how you view the world.

The people that seem the happiest and most well-adjusted in life are usually those who see themselves pretty accurately, and are okay with who they are. They know what they’re good at, and what they’re not good at. They realize that to be human is to have both strengths and weaknesses, both diamonds and warts. Healthy people are able to embrace and accept all of who they are.

It’s usually when people choose to focus mainly on their “diamonds” or their “warts,” that they miss something important, and develop a skewed way of viewing themselves and the world around them.

When we focus only on our strengths, we run the risk of developing an over-inflated sense of self that prevents us from growing in needed areas. Conversely, those who focus only their weaknesses may develop such a low sense of self that they are unable to function effectively and let their strengths shine. Self-Acceptance requires one to accept all parts of self: their gifts and challenges, rough and smooth edges, strengths and weakness, beautiful and unattractive bits along with their successes and failures.  True self-acceptance allows someone to believe that they are a whole person (body, mind, soul and spirit) that is worthy of unconditional love and acceptance JUST AS THEY ARE.

There is no general test or assessment for a person’s level of self-acceptance, but a pretty fair sense can be gained by listening carefully to what our friends are saying to us. Those who know us the best are our clearest “mirrors,” and they let us get glimpses of what we’re like on the outside – not just who we think we are. Check out the list below to see if you may be struggling with low self-acceptance.

Some symptoms of those with a low sense of self-acceptance might include:

  • Discouragement
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Fear (especially social fear)
  • Avoidance of people and situations that might trigger negative feelings
  • Self-loathing
  • Over or under achieving
  • Poor relationship boundaries and relationship problems
  • Negative self-talk
    • I can’t do anything right
    • Nobody likes me
    • I’m not as good as they are
    • I’m a loser

There are many possible causes of this sense of low self-worth – more than can be listed here. If you can relate to some of the symptoms above you may benefit from learning how to increase your acceptance of self through the practice of self-compassion (see below).  If you find that you are severely struggling with some of these symptoms, we suggest that you make an appointment with Counseling Services to talk things over.

How Can I Learn to Better Accept Myself?

Self-Acceptance can be improved through learning about and practicing the following:

  1. Self-Compassion and affirming self-talk
  2. Cultivating Gratitude – 7 ways to cultivate gratitude
  3. Spending intentional uninterrupted time getting to know and being honest with yourself through meditation or journaling.

Self-acceptance journal prompts

What is self-compassion?

Self-compassion may be an unknown term for many, but it is a significant concept for building emotional resilience and well-being. Generally, we tend to be hard on ourselves, or our own worst critics when evaluating ourselves. Using harsh words or phrases when assessing our own performance, for example in academics, sports, music, etc., actually negatively affects our work and productivity. Expressing care and compassion with self, speaking to yourself like you would to a trusted friend, enhances our outcomes. Taking note of inner dialogue helps to identify our own critical voice. By becoming aware of that dialogue, effort can be made to modify the words and to choose kinder vocabulary. For example; a self-critical thought might sound like, “You are so stupid, I can’t believe you made that mistake again”. In contrast, a self-compassionate thought could be, “This is a new skill for me, and I can practice to do it better”.

Dr. Kristin Neff has pioneered research and definitions on this concept of self-compassion. For a broader description of self-compassion, you can read what self-compassion is, and what it is not, and tips for practicing self-compassion at

Score yourself on your level of self-compassion:

Guided meditations and exercises to practice self-compassion are practical steps which help to explore this idea and how to implement self-compassion on a daily basis. You can find basic exercises, which would be helpful journaling practices at

Center for Mindful Self-Compassion,, is an additional resource.

Dr. Kristin Neff, has researched self-compassion in depth and you can read more about her and her work at or watch her video:

Note: Anderson University is a Christian University and not all views expressed on this web site are consistent with a Christian worldview.