Defining Self-Acceptance… Or At Least My Definition

My client, whom we’ll call Sally, was telling me how she’s been reading up on all sorts of positive body image blogs. You know, blogs that encourage you to love yourself and accept yourself as you are right now. And that was just all too far from reality for her to be able to swallow. She told me “I can’t love my body. I can’t stand living in it. I don’t feel good physically in my body. Why would I accept something that makes me so miserable?”

And I understood what Sally was saying. Often, people confuse self-acceptance with stagnation. Staying miserable, learning to put up with something you hate. Many people wrongly assume that they’ll never change if they accept themselves (not to mention love themselves!) as they are right now. But it turns out that isn’t true.

ACCEPTING SOMETHING DOESN’T MEAN YOU HAVE TO LIKE IT. The reality is that self-acceptance FACILITATES CHANGE. Acceptance can be defined as “the act of assenting or believing.” Once we come to truly accept where we are at in life, what works for us, and what doesn’t, we are then able to make decisions based on that reality. Here are a couple of diagrams to show what I mean.

Cycle of Non-Acceptance

Cycle of Acceptance

I share this message with you as a new year is about to begin because it’s a time that you might be thinking about setting goals and contemplating how you’d like to improve upon this past year. So  you just might want to consider adding self-love and self-acceptance to the top of your list. Ironically, it just might help you accomplish everything else you had in mind.

I’m going to leave you with a quote from a fabulous book that I stumbled upon while researching this blog post. The quote relates to accepting your body as it is right now.

How can you begin to learn the lesson of acceptance? By recognizing that what is, just is, and that the key to unlocking the prison of self-judgment lies in your own mind. You can either continue to fight against your body’s reality by complaining bitterly and immersing yourself in self-deprecation, or you can make the very subtle but powerful  mental shift into acceptance. Either way, the reality remains the same. Acceptance or rejection of your body only carries weight in your mind; your perception has no bearing on how your body actually looks, so why not choose the ease of acceptance rather than the pain of rejection? The choice is yours. “

Found in “If Life is a Game, These are the Rules” by Cherie Carter-Scott PhD

Have you had an experience with self-acceptance? Please share it!


Self-acceptance can be challenging through eating disorder recovery. Read through to the blog to explore a dietitian's perspective.


  1. This post was perfect. Thank you. Lately when I have deprecating feelings about myself, or my body, I try to think of things I am grateful for, that that specific body part helps me do. For instance, right now I feel like my arms are a little too soft,

    and a little less toned than they have been in the past. Instead of feeling super sad about it, I remind myself that they are strong enough to carry my nieces and nephews, and that they have done many other lovely things. Or my legs: they have helped me bicycle

    many, many miles up hill. And while I don’t feel skinny right now, I do feel strong. It has been helping me.

  2. It’s true that when you accept yourself as you are a sense of freedom is gained that allows you to be more mobile in your own existence. I’ve experienced this firsthand before.

  3. Inspirational post as always, Marci! I never thought about self-acceptance as facilitating change, but you’re so right. Thanks for putting so much thought into this post, it is very enlightening! I started accepting myself when I realized that at the end

    of the day I’m all I’ve got, so I have to rock that. For me, self-acceptance means knowing that I have only one life and only one body to live in, so I need to appreciate what I have and who I am in order to create my own destiny. It means channeling my strengths

    to work on my weaknesses and being grateful for the air in my lungs and my inner resources amidst external chaos. This year taught me that happiness comes from within, but you can’t create your own happiness if you don’t believe in yourself. (sorry for the


  4. I love this post. It is almost as if someone crept into the night, opened up my head and read my thoughts for this is exactly how I have been feeling. Lately I have found myself dissapointed by my so called “friends” who never seem to have any time for

    me, and yet have ample time to post hourly updates on Facebook. They won’t respond to my emails, or find the time to meet me for coffee and “girl time” but they can post inane updates about what they are doing. I’m beginning to feel people are no longer capable

    of connecting on an organic level– now it is all texting, Facebook or Tweets. I have one particular friend who constantly tells me how busy she is. So much so that I feel as though maybe what she’s really doing is giving me the brush off. I have stopped calling,

    texting and emailing to see if I would hear from her and I haven’t. [Sigh]. I got divorced a few months ago and now more than ever I need that connection; however, I cannot seem to make it happen. The good thing is, I’m not turning to food for comfort (thanks

    to Marci), when I have trouble identifying what I am feeling, I sit quietly in a room until my true feelings rise to the surface and then I analyze them for a while, and journal for a bit, and then I go do something constructive. Today I have been working

    on my Vision Board and I am really enjoying cutting out images of things that inspire me.

  5. Can I just say a big THANK YOU for your thoughts?! I appreciate your honesty and willingness to share your experience. Rachel, thank you for your thoughts on gratitude. It’s a profound shift to go from thinking about our bodies as objects to be looked

    at vs what they can DO! Jess, I LOVE your definition of self-acceptance. Great insight as always. Susan, it warms my heart to hear how well you are taking care of yourself… especially when you don’t have the external support you really need. I absolutely

    love your idea of the Vision Board. I’d love to see it and share it on my blog if you’re interested/willing. 🙂

  6. I love this Marci! Acceptance and self-compassion have transforming power. Your cycles illustrate that beautifully.

  7. Thank you Julie, thank you Michelle! I appreciate your feedback. Hope you are having a happy start to your new year.

  8. That makes a lot of sense. I’m glad I stumbled on your blog – I’ve recently been having sort of a crisis regarding pretty much everything in the “non-acceptance” cycle. The shift from one to another is harder for some rather than others. I tend to equate

    accepting the way things are with mediocrity, inability to change or grow, stagnation, or just plain not good enough. I didn’t realize how many people grappled with this problem (and how much it makes sense). Thank you.

  9. Self-acceptance has and continues to be a lifelong struggle of mine. I have never had a positive image of myself regardless of my accomplishments, how I look or how others may perceive me. It is a constant battle in my head to find a way to be good enough to myself. There is some hope inside of me that I can learn to win the battle against myself, but it is extremely challenging. I would encourage others who are struggling with self-acceptance to not give up. There are so many things that occur during the course of the day and if we can accept those positives, those little items can lead to additional acceptance and hope in the presence. Somewhere in me I believe the cycle can be broken and as seen in the charts above, having that belief might be the slow beginning to change in myself and in others.

  10. Thank you so much for your thoughts and personal reflections Kathy. I also want to echo your sentiments that observing the small positives can lead to little shifts over time. Keep at it and keep believing!!

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