Four Ways to Practice and Improve Your Self-Acceptance
10 mins read

Four Ways to Practice and Improve Your Self-Acceptance

  • Do you constantly beat yourself up when you struggle to attain something you desire?
  • Do you find it difficult or uncomfortable to be alone with your thoughts?
  • Is it hard for you to make decisions because you are too worried about making mistakes and how you will feel about yourself afterwards?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, you may be struggling to accept yourself for who you are. If so, you’re not alone – A lot of men struggle with self-acceptance.

The good news is that there are things we can do to better accept ourselves.


Self-acceptance is defined as the ability to accept both your strengths and your limitations without judgment.

There is a sense of “it is what it is” when considering aspects of your life that are not how you would like them to be. A state of self-acceptance is akin to feeling an openness and curiosity to your own emotions, thoughts, and beliefs, while also acknowledging that it is okay if these things change or stay the same.

Increased self-acceptance is related to being more open-minded, increased wellbeing, decreased stress, and flexibility in problem solving when faced with difficult situations.

If you would like to gain self-acceptance, it is important to first understand the signs of low self-acceptance and how they impact you. Having this awareness can help to build your motivation to make changes toward developing self-acceptance.


Do any of these statements jump out to you as you read them?

  • Being regularly critical of your own mistakes
  • Struggling to forget/forgive/let go of past regrets and mistakes
  • Difficulty understanding what you need or want
  • Struggling to make decisions
  • Finding it hard to take feedback from others, especially positive feedback
  • Struggling to relax
  • Finding it hard to be alone with your own thoughts
  • Frequently getting stuck in your head thinking negatively about yourself



Negative thoughts are the voice of our inner critic. They cause a lot of suffering and prevent us from developing a positive self-image and reaching unconditional self-acceptance.

Reframe your negative thoughts about yourself by writing them down. For example, if you believe you are a bad person for something you did in the past, write it down.

Once you’ve written your list, go through each thought and reframe it. Start by challenging each statement by asking yourself: “Is this true?”

Then, replace each statement with more positive self-talk. For example: “I am a good person, but I’m only human, so I sometimes make mistakes.”

Delve deeper into identifying and restructuring negative thoughts through our self-guided course on Rewiring Negative Thoughts.


Think of a task that you do daily or almost daily (i.e. brushing your teeth, waking up, going to sleep, going to the bathroom). Choose one of these tasks to intentionally practice the following.

  1. First, take three slow breaths deep into the bottom of your belly.
  2. Second, pay attention and label (give a name or word to describe the experience) at least 3 internal experiences (physical feeling of tension, thoughts, emotions, impulses, etc.) in the moment.
    • For instance, “I am having a thought about work, my arm feels tense, I feel tired.”
  3. Third, Let go of those experiences by acknowledging to yourself that you are bigger than the sum of these experiences.
    • For example, “I can have a feeling of tension in my arm, be thinking about work, and feel tired and that’s okay. It is human to have these experiences and I am not alone in this – others experience these things too.”
  4. Fourth, shift your attention to your breathing and take three more deep breaths into the belly.

Learn more about “Dropping Anchor” and similar exercises (PDF).


Having low self-acceptance often coincides with feelings of shame. Shame gains its power through hiding. Things that we feel ashamed about, we typically keep to ourselves.

Therefore, start to notice the things you choose to not say to others. Once you have noted a few of these experiences or thoughts, choose someone you feel emotionally safe with and talk to them about your thoughts.

Think of this self-acceptance exercise as an experiment where you share something you feel ashamed about to assess the other person’s reaction. Perhaps you even start off with pretending the ashamed thought was from someone else – see how others respond to the thought. Is it met with empathy? Could the shame surrounding this experience be defused by sharing it with a caring person?

Often, getting things off our chest and bringing them out into the open will help to take the intensity of the thoughts we have around them away. Sharing something about yourself can help you to realize that things aren’t as big of a deal as they often seem to us.

For example, imaging a guy who is constantly stressed and worried about over-sweating and people noticing or not liking him because of this. When he finally mentions this to his friend, they may not even have registered or noticed the issue before.


  1. Sit down in a quiet place on your own and think about times where you felt proud of yourself, you had fun, you felt good about yourself.
  2. Write these down on a piece of paper, note-taking style.
  3. Reflect on what qualities you demonstrated during those experiences.
    • What was it about you that allowed you to attain that feeling of joy, pride, humour, content, courage, etc?
  4. Once you have reflected on these experiences you can put up this piece of paper somewhere you will likely see it regularly, or take a picture and put it as the background on your phone.

Try and look over this list of positive experiences and qualities about yourself regularly. While reading each one, take a deep breath in, as if you are breathing in the positive quality again, renewed in the moment. Journaling and reflecting in this manner often provide valuable insights and perspective.


Most often we mirror our own self-acceptance through the acceptance we have received, or not received, from others.

It can be hard for us to accept ourselves if we’ve experienced relational trauma (someone else has abandoned, hurt, or abused us in some way). Perhaps we did something that we really struggle to forgive ourselves for and thus we believe we deserve to be punished by ourselves, if not others, and thus don’t allow ourselves to be at peace with ourselves.

Self-acceptance starts with allowing our own feelings and thoughts to be there within us. We don’t need to like, dislike, or want these feelings or thoughts. But we do need to accept the fact that they are there, and face this reality. It is only then that we can begin to work through these difficult feelings and thoughts and learn to be how we want to be while still having these experiences.

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself, just as I am, then I can change”

– Carl Rogers, American psychologist and a key figure in the development of humanistic psychology.


Ultimately, self-acceptance is something that only you can develop. It helps, of course, to have supportive and accepting others in our social networks (family, friends, etc.). However, at the end of the day, we are the ones living with our feelings and thoughts inside of us and only we can decide to face ourselves with more acceptance, compassion, and fairness.

It can be a vulnerable experience when we decide to confront ourselves truly, by staring at and facing our most difficult thoughts and feelings. It is perhaps one of the hardest and scariest things to do as a human. Yet the rewards are also priceless. Once we can sit with our most difficult feelings and accept them as they are with curiosity, and without judgment, then we give ourselves the opportunity to conquer anything in our external world.

When we learn how to accept ourselves, we also become more accepting of others. We become less stressed, less engaged in cyclical conflict, and begin to understand how to respond to difficult feelings and situations because we have faced these similar experiences within ourselves.

The skills of becoming more accepting of ourselves and difficult thoughts or emotions overlap with and are explored more in HeadsUpGuys: Mindfulness for Men Course.


The process of understanding and accepting yourself is no easy task. If you’re interested in developing your self-acceptance but are concerned about how to do this, I encourage you to give therapy a try. It can help to have someone to talk to who has an understanding of the issues you’re facing and the techniques to help you overcome them or change them.

HeadsUpGuys Therapist Directory can help you to connect with a therapist near you.

About Cameron

I am a Registered Clinical Counsellor who specializes in working with adult men who struggle with self-acceptance, self-esteem, anger, relationship issues, depression, and anxiety. I have a particular focus on helping men that identify as introverted and/or highly sensitive.

Cameron Grunbaum (He, Him, His), Certified Canadian Counsellor (CCC), Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC)

Iron Tree Counselling, Online Counselling Across British Columbia, Canada.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *