AN OVERVIEW OF SELF-ACCEPTANCE
The term self-acceptance has been used in various setting and often it is assumed that most if not all individuals accepted themselves. However, the ability to accept oneself is not an assumed reality or default setting for all individuals. The act of showing oneself kindness is something many individuals struggle with (Ackerman, 2018, Carson & Langer, 2006). Self-acceptance is necessary in creating and supporting identity as well as encouraging psychological health (Morgado, Campana & Tavares, 2014f) and has been proven to boaster resilience towards life’s challenges, as one takes complete appreciation and recognition of ‘who they are’, in a sense when one makes peace with themselves (Morgado et al., 2014). This article will provide a brief overview of self-acceptance as a psychological construct and its relation to psychological health, self-esteem, work and productivity.
What is Self-Acceptance?
Self-acceptance as it names suggests is being able to completely accept oneself ‘as is’. At face value it can be perceived as a-matter-of-fact term, but on further inspection self-acceptance is a fairly complex psychological construct with far reaching implications. It is important to begin our discussion with a definition. Listed below are two definitions.
“Self-Acceptance,…includes not only the possession of a positive attitude toward the self…but also the acceptance of one’s good and bad qualities…and acceptance of one’s past life…” (Ryff, 1995, p.9)
“Self-Acceptance is an individual’s acceptance of all his/her attributes, positive or negative” (Morgado et al., 2014, p. 1 )
The definitions above clearly identify the parameters to which make self-acceptance a unique psychological construct these being; it is at an individual level, acceptance of both the positive and negative attributes and experiences and Ryff (1995) further expounds that it also involves an acceptance of-or-making peace with the past. It is fair to assume Morgado et al. (2014) alluded to acceptance of the past when he emphasizes accepting all of one’s attributes (the sum of one’s characteristics and experiences).
Why is Self-acceptance important?
The ability to completely accept all attributes of one’s self is a necessary step to begin self-improvement (Ackerman, 2018). That is to reflect acknowledging the past for what it was or may represent and making a conscious effort-and-or decision to work towards a more desired present and future.
Human beings are fallible, meaning they will be both good and bad days, positive and negative experiences, disappointments and triumphs. This is part of being human. Being able to accept the highs and lows of life is critical in supporting psychological health and has been shown to be related to other self-related constructs such as self-esteem (Ackerman, 2018, Altrocchi, 1980, Morgado et al., 2014). This relationship will be discussed a little further on in this article as it is important that there is first an understanding of what is referred to as ‘psychological health’.
Psychological health “focuses on emotional, cognitive, behavioural, and social well-being” (Carson & Langer, 2006, Rekhi, n.d). Psychological well-being does not constitute the absence of mental health disorders but the existence of balanced emotions, thoughts and behaviours (Rekhi, n.d.). An imbalanced emotional state may present itself in feeling of stress, anxiety, depression, reduced job satisfaction (Girard, Carrier, Poitras, Cormier, Lesage, Berbiche & Vaillancourt, 2022, Rekhi, n.d.). Thus safeguarding one’s psychological health will support overall health and wellness.
It is important to note there is a difference between Self-acceptance and Unconditional Self-acceptance. Unconditional Self-acceptance goes a little further to emphasizing the ability to fully accept oneself as a valuable and enjoyable human being whether or not there is a personal belief in one’s capabilities and whether or not one is approved, loved and or accepted by others (Thompson & Waltz, 2007). This may be difficult to act out as for many self-value is gained through the acceptance of others and somewhat in relation to life roles. For example, work is a space in which individuals create and reinforce their self-identity (Patton & McMahon, 2014). As social beings it is only natural that in some ways we seek the approval of others, and this may be used as means of developing self-efficacy (Luthans, Avolio & Norman, 2007). However, the acceptance of oneself should not be premised solely on an external value system. Self-acceptance is a personal realisation which encourages a healthy sense of self-approval (Ryff, 1995).
Self-acceptance and Other Self-related Constructs
As we have previously mentioned self-acceptance is in itself a unique psychological construct which is related to other self-related constructs such as self-esteem (Carson & Langer, 2006). The ability to accept oneself unconditionally, that is having a healthy sense of self-approval, accepting both the good and bad experiences and having made peace with one’s past are antecedents to improving one’s self –esteem ‘the subjective appraisal of one’s self’. Accepting oneself in unconditional completeness will lend itself to a generally more positive view of oneself and one’s life in a general sense. Scholars have argued that self-esteem is an unreliable construct that is difficult to assess as it is in constant flux (Thompson & Waltz, 2007). Life is in itself is constantly changing and as such one’s sense of self-esteem should be viewed and or appreciated at a given moment in time, with contextual reference. For purposes of this article we will refer to the scholarly acceptance of self-esteem as the personal appraisal of one’s self and acknowledge that one’s sense of self-esteem is not fixed. As mentioned above self-acceptance is necessary to encouraging and or supporting a healthy sense of self-esteem, as life has both celebrations and tribulations.
Self-acceptance and Work
A good sense of self-esteem has been shown to support various aspects of work such as job satisfaction, self-efficacy and work motivation, all of which support work productivity (Gomez-Jorge & Diaz-Garrido, 2022). As such, self-improvement and therefore ‘development’ may often occur when there is acknowledgement and acceptance of the past (Ackerman, 2018). Thus, the ability to accept oneself is important to developing the human capital of work which in effect supports performance and productivity.
Registered Industrial/Occupational Psychologist
(BA Applied Psych, BSoSc Hons IOP, MCom IOP)
firstname.lastname@example.org / +263-773340723
Ackerman, C. E. (2018). What is Self-Acceptance? 25 Exercises + Definition & Quotes. Retrieved
Monday, 13th February, 2023 from https://www.positivepsychology.com/self-acceptance/.
Altrocchi, J. (1980). Abnormal Behaviour. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.
Carson, S. H., & Langer, E. J. (2006). Mindfulness and Self-Acceptance. Journal of rational-emotive and
cognitive-behavior therapy, 24, 29-43.
Girard, A., Carrier, J. D., Poitras, M. E., Cormier, C., Lesage, A., Berbiche, D., & Vaillancourt, V. (2022).
The Psychological Health and Work-Family Balance of Ambulatory Care Nurses in the COVID
19 era: A Cross-Sectional Survey. Science of Nursing and Health Practices, 5(2), 14-49.
Gómez-Jorge, F., & Díaz-Garrido, E. (2022). The relation between Self-Esteem and Productivity: An
analysis in higher education institutions. Frontiers in Psychology, 13.
Luthans, F., Avolio, B. J., Avey, J. B., & Norman, S. M. (2007). Positive psychological capital
:Measurement and relationship with performance and satisfaction. Personnel
psychology, 60(3), 541-572.
Morgado, F. FdR., Campana, A. N. N. B., & Tavares, MdC. G. F. (2014). Development and Validation of
the Self-Acceptance Scale for Persons with Early Blindness: The SASEB. Plos ONE 9(9):
Patton, W., & McMahon, M. (2014). Career development and systems theory: Connecting theory and
practice. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.
Rekhi, S. (n.d.) Psychological Health: Definition, Examples, & How to Improve It. Retrieved Sunday, 3rd
March, 2023 from https://www.berkeleywellbeing.com/psychological
Ryff, C. D. (1995). Psychological well-being in adult life. Current directions in psychological
science, 4(4), 99-104.
Thompson, B. L., & Waltz, J. A. (2007). Mindfulness, Self-Esteem, and Unconditional Self-Acceptance.
Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 26, (2).