The Ladder of Self-Acceptance

Want me to share a secret with you? Well…here it is…

Self-acceptance is something that I have a hard time with. I always have.

To some that know me, they are taken aback by this. Why? Because I seem so confident, so on-top-of-things, so controlled, right?


Surprising to some, is the fact that, sometimes, those people who seem so self-aware and sure of themselves, are actually the ones that struggle with self-acceptance. But, why is their struggle not so apparent to others? Because, some of the time, people who struggle with self-acceptance put forth a facade and a “happy face” for the sake of ease — to put at ease those around them, despite the fact that they are experiencing an inner struggle.

As a parent, it is so important that I am modeling, for my children, strength of body, mind, endurance, good character, as well as steadfast hard work. Because of this, there is not a lot of time left for me to wallow in my own sheepishness. In that way, I would say that parenthood has forced me to build, feel and exude greater confidence. Turning thirty has done that for me as well. You can read more about that here.

So, what do I see as the steps on the ladder to self-acceptance? I’ll share that with you. But, first let’s make an important distinction.

An article in Psychology Today titled “The Path to Unconditional Self-Acceptance,” written by Leon F. Seltzer, PhD, states that first, we need to recognize that self-acceptance and self-esteem are different. Seltzer states that “self-esteem refers specifically to how valuable, or worthwhile, we see ourselves” but that “self-acceptance alludes to a far more global affirmation of self”. He goes on to state that “when we’re self-accepting, we’re able to embrace all facets of ourselves–not just the positive, more “esteem-able” parts”.

In answering his self-posed question of what determines one’s self-acceptance or lack thereof, Seltzer states that “in general, as children we’re able to accept ourselves only to the degree we feel accepted by our parents”. This leads us to the first step on the self-acceptance ladder.

Ladder Step One: Feeling “accepted” by our parents. Seltzer contends that children of a young age “lack the ability to formulate a clear, separate sense of self” — that is, “other than that which has been transmitted to them by their caretakers”. He goes on to state that if your “parents were unable, or unwilling, to communicate the message” that you are independent from them and acceptable, then you may be unsure of yourself and even qualify yourself as inadequate.

Luckily for me, my parents ALWAYS communicated acceptance of and towards me. Additionally, they very much so encouraged my independence — and, for this, I am very grateful.

But, you know what? You do not need that first step to get up the self-acceptance ladder — just like a real-life ladder, you are capable of, and have the strength, to surpass this step and head straight to the next step, if step one is just not an option for you or is clearly not going to happen.

Now let’s discuss ladder step two…

Ladder Step Two: Having intentions. According to Margarita Tartavosky, author of the PsychCentral article titled “Therapists Spill: 12 Ways to Accept Yourself,” “self-acceptance begins with intention”. Tartavosky quotes psychotherapist, Jeffrey Sumber, MA, who contends that “it is vital that we set an intention for ourselves” and that we are allowing, tolerant, accepting and trusting of ourselves”. Tartavosky and Sumber further note that having positive and motivating intentions will ultimately begin a chain reaction within ourselves towards inner peace.

On to step three…

Ladder Step Three: Acknowledging your strengths. An article by Elena Verlee, on her site, PR In Your Pajamas, titled “The Importance of Acknowledging Your Strengths,” states that “if you don’t claim who you really are and want to become, you cannot live your best life”. Verlee affirms that “identifying your strengths allows you to more easily tackle not only the daily struggles of life, but also your big dreams”.

Now, step four…

Ladder Step Four: Acknowledging your weaknesses and unknowns. An article written by Robert Holden for, titled “How Self-Acceptance Can Crack Open Your Life,” states that “the journey of self-acceptance starts when you acknowledge that you don’t seem to know much about yourself”. For some of us, we have a hard time answering questions about who we truly are at our core and what it is that we ultimately want out of life. The problem is, that most of the time, we are not really paying attention to ourselves and are instead looking outward. This ladder step forces us to look inward.

On to step five...

Ladder Step Five: Staying optimistic and focused. Focus on your hopes, dreams and aspirations for yourself. Do not let yourself be distracted by other people, or things, that pull you away from your focus. Surround yourself with people who push you, want you and encourage you to keep your focus.

Just a few more steps…

Ladder Step Six: Making yourself a priority. No explanation needed here.

Ladder Step Seven: Finding opportunities to see your strengths at work. Simply put yourself in situations where you know you will thrive.

Ladder Step Eight: Find opportunities to be courageous. This one requires that you also put yourself in situations where you may feel weak, meek or scared. The point of this is to give yourself a chance to find strength where it never was; to leave your comfort zone to test and strengthen your bravery.

You are almost there…

Ladder Step Nine: Embracing your intuition. Trust your instincts, as instincts have been described as “hunches, based on facts, and filed below the conscious level” (Dr. Joyce Brothers).  “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become”. (Steve Jobs)

Now, listen. Maybe your ladder has fewer steps than mine, or maybe it has more. Maybe the order for your steps is different from mine or maybe your steps involve something that I did not include here. Either way, that doesn’t matter. What matters is that each of us is going up that self-acceptance ladder, or at least attempting to.

And although self-acceptance is surely an individual and very personal journey, it is important that you know and remember that your children, your family, and all those people who know and love you, are there to catch you if you fall off the ladder. And, more often than not, in addition to catching you, they are going to encourage the heck out of you to try to climb that ladder again because they know, rightfully so, that even one small step is a step in the right direction.

What step are you on? Have you reached the top? No? Are you ready to keep climbing?

I sure am.



Categories: Encouragement

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