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It can be hard to stay in the present moment and find peace if you have been through hardship. Becoming fixated on things that are painful to us can be all too alluring, but ultimately you can learn to control what you give your time, attention, and energy too. Hopefully a fair amount of your resources is invested back into yourself, because the better of a relationship you have with yourself, the more authentically you are able to show up in the world. It becomes safer to be present and flow comfortably and naturally with everything and everyone else you come into contact with. This blog will focus on the healing journey of self-acceptance and include some suggestions for developing your own self-acceptance practice.

Stop Taking Personal Responsibility for the World 

This may sound extreme, but we often put immense pressure on ourselves when things don’t go quite as planned—most often struggling with the question; what could I have done differently? Self-reflection is important, but it crosses the line into self-torture when you take responsibility for things you actually have no control over. Have you ever thought something similar to the quote below? 

When we view hardship as a reflection of our own flaws, we set ourselves up for continued pain. Part of the road to self-acceptance is realizing what is actually your responsibility and what isn’t. Below are some examples of how the mindset related to the Tara Brach’s quote can sneak into your mind and sink its claws in. Recognizing these types of thoughts is the first step to uprooting them.

You may take responsibility when responsibility isn’t yours if you:
  • Blame yourself for other people’s actions
  • Feel if you had been a better child your parents would have treated you better
  • Take responsibility for other people’s emotions
  • Feel the need to change yourself to fit in/belong
  • Think if you were somehow different people would treat you better
  • Feel unworthy if you aren’t overexerting yourself
  • Think if you were more attractive, intelligent, XYZ, then a relationship would have worked out
  • Never feel like you’re doing enough
  • Find yourself making excuses for why others treat you poorly
  • Feel as though you need to be entertaining people
  • Think that if you had less needs, you would be easier to deal with

And the quest is futile…because we are already enough and we can already belong with people who are healthy and inspire growth. You won’t feel like you belong with people who are not emotionally available, it’s near impossible. Let’s explore some ways to start the self-acceptance process.  

Breaking the Trance of Unworthiness  

Even if our backgrounds have ingrained in us that we are unworthy, we don’t have to continue to live with that mindset. We can choose to acknowledge where and why that may have developed and work toward releasing it. Here is how you can start to break the trance of unworthiness and move toward self-acceptance.  

  • Pay attention to what is actually true for you instead of what you think should be true
  • Identify, honor, and express your true emotions and needs
  • Let go of the idea that you somehow caused the things that have happened in your life
  • Appreciate your body for the incredible power it possesses, care for it accordingly
Find what is really true for you

Suggestions for working toward increased self-acceptance could fill many, many blogs. Here are some basic tips to get you started. First, you’ll want to make sure you are properly acquainted with yourself. That might sound funny, but if you have spent much of your time trying to please others, you may have to reorient yourself back to what you are actually interested in or like versus what you have been trying to be interested in for the sake of others. Julia Roberts has a great scene in the movie Runaway Bride,” where she tries out every variation of ways to eat eggs at one time because she had never learned what she liked; she had always picked what the man in her life told her was best at the time.

Identify, honor, and express your true emotions and needs

Going along with that, make sure you are identifying, honoring, and expressing your own emotions and needs. We can spend far too much time trying to stifle our emotions and trying to make ourselves believe we have no needs for the sake of other people’s comfort. That’s a losing battle that will only end in sickness for you. Recognize that having wants and needs doesn’t make you undesirable or somehow “bad,” and if you’re around people who activate that for you—they likely are not conducive to your health and growth.

you are not in control of everything

Next, you are not in control of everything that happens to you. Sometimes bad things do happen, life changes in ways you couldn’t have anticipated and your world is turned upside down. Yes, you should take responsibility for your own actions, but don’t operate from the mindset that you have somehow contributed to every hardship that you’ve faced. There are so many other factors at play.  If your home was hit by a tornado and destroyed, would you be best served by spending your energy blaming yourself for creating the storm or work towards picking up the pieces and moving forward in your life? This brings me to one last quote “You cannot control the direction of the wind but you can adjust your sails” (it is hard to attribute an original author to that one though as there are so many variations in the saying over time, but the point is true no matter who said it first). In life the winds will always blow, picking the direction it wants without considering you, but you can choose how to trim, adjust and direct your sails so as not to be blown away.

Honor your body

The last tip for this blog is making sure that you have a positive or at least neutral relationship (to start) with your body. If you view your body as something you are in constant battle with, trying to make look right, feel right, act right—that’s not operating from a place of compassion or acceptance. Appreciate your body for allowing you to move about the world and experience it in your own unique way. Try not to compare yourself to people who are on different journeys than you. The comparison is often hurtful and doesn’t make a lot of sense. You can both work from a place of appreciation and acceptance AND work towards improving yourself into something healthier. The key is in the compassion and language in which you speak to and treat yourself.

Ongoing Support

If this topic seems especially relevant to you and you would like to read more, check out Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach for some other ideas about how to break free from unhelpful thoughts. You might find some things that resonate with you. A therapist from Angelus can also help you to process some of these essential components of self-acceptance and guide you along your unique journey. Remember, part of self-acceptance is realizing that our nature as humans is essentially good and that compassion and wisdom are available to us at any moment.

Blog Credit: Natalie Drozda, LPC, PH.D