Imagine all the different aspects of personal growth as the characters of The Breakfast Club. You’ve got Mental as the brain, Social as the beauty, Physical as the jock, Spiritual as the rebel, and Emotional as the recluse. And together, they represent the constant struggle to meet society’s “brules” (bullsh*t rules).
But, as the movie so eloquently highlights, by dropping the ego and coming into self-acceptance, your life will change forever.
The conundrum is that if you accept yourself as you are, why is there a need for personal growth? And vice versa, if you feel the need to evolve, does that mean you don’t accept yourself?
It’s not as complicated as it seems. Self-acceptance, according to Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani, is the prerequisite for change.
Kristina is the co-founder of Mindvalley and author of Becoming Flawsome. So she is undeniably one of the best go-to persons for self-awareness.
And taking inspiration from her expertise, let’s take a dive into the fundamentals of recognizing your authenticity:
- What Is Self-Acceptance?
- Why Is Self-Acceptance Important?
- The Drawback of Self-Acceptance
- How to Practice Self-Acceptance
“Only when you know what you are, are you capable of moving towards what you want to become,” says Kristina. Now let’s find the greatness that you truly are.
What Is Self-Acceptance?
Embracing, unconditionally and without judgment, who and what you are is the very essence of self-acceptance. It’s not only about feeling satisfied with your strengths and uniqueness but also acknowledging your weaknesses and imperfections.
Self-acceptance is connected to your other ‘selfs’ — self-love, self-worth, self-compassion, etc. Most importantly, it’s the attitude that supports your psychological well-being.
From a historical point of view, this concept has long been a motivator for personal change in development. According to The Strength of Self-Acceptance, various theologies (e.g., Christianity and Buddhism), psychological theories (e.g., cognitive-behavioral), and therapies (e.g., cognitive behavioral therapy) view self-acceptance as “a catalyst for the alleviation of emotional misery as well as an energizer supporting growth towards happiness and fulfillment.”
Simply put, your acceptance of your entirety is what catapults you to your own self-discovery.
Why Is Self-Acceptance Important?
Recognizing and acknowledging your abilities as well as limitations can be a gateway to compassion for yourself. That, in turn, can help you heal and come into the authentic self you were born to be.
Research continues to show that embracing oneself positively affects mental health and well-being. In fact, a 20-year prospective cohort study suggests self-acceptance promotes longevity as well as regulates psychological components like purpose, positive relations, growth, and mastery.
Unfortunately, like the kids of The Breakfast Club, many of us are often stuck on the stories we tell ourselves — we need to get straight A’s, look Instagram-worthy, have the perfect body, be tough, or feel socially accepted.
It’s these stories that lead us down the road to self-judgments and leave us stranded in ‘Brules’-ville. And this is what happiness is not.
We are the first to judge ourselves. And we convey that energy into the world, and that’s how the world starts to see us.— Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani, co-founder of Mindvalley
What we hide from the world is what we hide from ourselves — it’s an element of lack. And that lack zooms in on the negative aspects of ourselves, which then limits our capacity to be happy.
The Drawback of Self-Acceptance
It seems counterintuitive that self-acceptance has a dark side. But there may be more to ‘accept yourself’ than meets the eye.
Let’s take a closer look at this point by clinical psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson:
The modern idea is you’re supposed to accept yourself. I think that’s an insane idea — really. I can’t think of a more nihilistic idea than that.
‘You’re already okay.’ No, you’re not! And the reason you’re not is that you could be way more than you are.
In this current climate of social media trends, cancel culture, and the like, we’re all susceptible to ‘mental mess’ — toxic thoughts, depression, and anxiety. When these kinds of thoughts are constantly repeated and reinforced (by beliefs and practices), you begin to “assemble new neural architecture,” explains Dr. Joe Dispenza in an episode of The Mindvalley Podcast.
“As you begin to live and rehearse who you’re going to be, you begin to do that exact same thing,” he explains. “You begin to install neurological hardware in your brain. Repeat it, it becomes a software program and you begin to behave that way.”
In the state of ‘mental mess,’ your brain ends up releasing cortisol and adrenaline. When these stress hormones are constantly at high levels, it can lead to:
- Poor concentration and attention
- Poor memory
A study by the University of Reading found that “the longer your brain holds on to a negative event, or stimuli, the unhappier you report being.”
So it’s not okay to stay there.
While none of us are immune to negativity, we should find ways to understand why and how we get our ‘mental mess,’ move past radical self-acceptance, and strive towards ‘better.’
In the wise words of Kristina: “The art to learning to be happy is not to ignore or not notice the negative or be okay with the negative. It is actually to learn to work with it.”
How to Practice Self-Acceptance: 3 Tips By Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani
Not everyone’s a fan of mess, especially ones we refuse to acknowledge. But the idea of “you’re already okay” puts you in a box of complacency and gets you stuck in anxiety and depression.
Some circumstances are beyond your control. However, you can control your responses. So it’s time to rethink blind self-acceptance and truly be comfortable in your own skin.
Here are three tips by Kristina taken from an interview on Inspired Evolution:
1. Be honest with yourself
Honesty is the best policy, right? It may be so when we’re addressing other people. But why do we have such a hard time being honest with ourselves?
“We all believe that we are honest with ourselves, but that is not strictly true,” explains Kristina. She chalks it up to our brain’s natural tendency to lie to keep us safe and content. (In psychology, it’s referred to as cognitive errors.)
And in the same context, when it comes to self-acceptance, your brain lies to you in six ways:
- Over-generalization: When you face a challenge or negative outcome and are convinced that it’ll be repeated in the future.
- Emotional reasoning: When you interpret your feelings as the truth. For example: “I am feeling so stupid right now, which must mean I am stupid.”
- All-or-nothing thinking: When you see things as black and white like it’s either totally great or absolutely sh*tty.
- Mental filter: When you have selective recollection – you only recall negative experiences and ‘forget’ anything positive.
- ‘Should’ statements: When you dwell on things you ‘should’ do and judge yourself critically and unfairly for it.
- Mind reading: When you make quick assumptions about what someone is thinking about you and conclude that it must be something negative.
What you can do: Although your brain might be lying to you, shift your perspective about yourself. Realize that you may be mistaken about your true worth.
Kristina suggests asking yourself, “How can I adjust to this new world, to this new reality? How can I get the best out of it?”
It takes humility to be open to this idea, but there’s a huge sense of freedom that comes along with it.
2. Let go of the need to know all
“Sh*t doesn’t have to make sense” is one of Kristina’s favorite quotes. And with good reason.
She explains that control gives you the sense of knowing what’s going to happen and helps you cope momentarily with the fear of the unknown. But when it becomes excessive, it can wreak havoc on your ability to relax, have fun, or even be honest with yourself.
“Just because you might be mistaken doesn’t mean that ‘nothing makes sense’ or ‘I shouldn’t even try’,” says Kristina. Instead, it’s the motivation for you to keep learning, keep asking questions, and keep looking for answers.
What you can do: Life is unexpected and when you let go of the need to control, you trust that everything will turn out as it should. This is where positive affirmations come in handy.
It’ll help encourage and motivate you. And when your need to control becomes overbearing, the affirmations will help remind you that “sh*t doesn’t have to make sense.”
3. Practice awareness
Everything starts with awareness, according to Kristina. It’s a huge factor in the way you think, feel, and act, as well as react to your thoughts, feelings, and actions.
She explains that if you practice awareness on the regular, it becomes like a radar or a compass that “always keeps you alert to what’s going on in your life.”
You’re able to notice when you do the right things for yourself and even the wrong things. It is a much greater fuel for your personal growth than willpower, which apparently is a limited resource.
What you can do: There are a number of ways to raise your awareness. Here are three practices that are great to start off with:
- Be aware of your self-talk.
- Practice mindfulness with daily rituals, like meditation.
- Seek feedback from others.
The process will be a cathartic one, but it’ll enable you to use your awareness as a superpower.
Awaken Your Unstoppable
When it comes to knowing who we are, the kids of The Breakfast Club hit it on the nose: “Each of us is a brain…and an athlete…and a basket case…a princess…and a criminal.” Once you’re able to accept all aspects of yourself, you’ll realize that there is more greatness in you than you know.
If you need a helping hand to get there, Mindvalley’s got your back.
With the expert guidance of Kristina in her new book, Becoming Flawesome: The Key to Living an Imperfectly Authentic Life, you’ll find that self-acceptance is not hindering your evolution. Instead, it is the very reason that leads you to self-discovery, self-liberation, and the most important relationship you’ll ever have – the one with yourself.