How Radical Acceptance Can Help Your Self-Esteem
Tuesday, February 23 2016 Emily Roberts MA, LPC
Radical acceptance can help your self-esteem. Radical acceptance is a skill in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) that helps you move from anger and pain to accepting the realities of life. You don't have to like the situation but you don't have to torture yourself about it. When you are stuck in blame and can't accept, it makes it harder to find compassion and love for yourself. Help build self-esteem with radical acceptance.
Radical acceptance helps you deal with painful situations and reduces suffering. Think about this: have you ever gone through a breakup? Have you spent days and months blaming yourself or the other person, denying it was over or making excuses for why it should or shouldn't be over? That isn't radical acceptance, that is suffering. The more you can turn your mind towards acceptance, and it certainly can be a frustrating process, the more free you become from the pain. Look, breakups suck and we can't control the other person or the past, but we can control the now.
See, when you focus on what you can't control, the past, the pain or the tragedy, your mind becomes hijacked by negative thinking patterns. This makes it very hard to accept that things have happened (you have no control over those things) and leaves you energetically drained. This zaps your self-esteem and points out how radical self-acceptance can help your self-esteem.
What Radical Acceptance Isn't
Radical acceptance doesn't mean you approve of what happened, you can hate it. It doesn't mean that once you accept the situation you will become soft or allow other bad things to happen to you. This is fear-based thought. The truth is, you can't change the situation, but you can change how you want to live your life. Someone may have died, hurt you or broken your trust or a terrible accident may have occurred. This sucks and I'm so sorry. The problem many of us face is being able to accept it. When we try to deny it or blame someone or something we, actually, are making ourselves feel worse. Without acceptance, pain turns into suffering. Suffering leaves no room for confidence in oneself or feeling worthy of self-esteem.
Radical Acceptance and Helping Self-Esteem Takes Practice
When you practice acceptance in everyday situations you become more comfortable with the process in situations that are more painful. This also allows you to feel more confident and in control of your life. Imagine if you focus on accepting the fact that you're stuck in traffic. You can get mad, curse at the world or get angry with yourself, or you can accept that the reality is you are stuck in gridlock. It is only then that you can end the suffering. Call whomever you have to and let them know that you're going to be late, take a moment to breathe, and listen to a song; but you can't do any of this until you accept what is: the traffic is bad.
I was stuck in a downpour in Manhattan the other day. My umbrella broke due to high winds. I didn't believe it at first. I tried to force it to open (getting wetter), ask it nicely (now I'm pretty much soaked), and finally threw it in the trash. It was only after I radically accepted that this crappy umbrella was broken that I had the idea to go under the awning near me to keep dry. Once I made it there I was able to think of a plan b. You see, accepting reality doesn't mean I liked the fact that my computer bag was soaking wet or that I was cold but it did allow me to feel more control once I stopped fighting the situation.
Practice Radical Acceptance in Everyday Situations to Improve Self-Esteem
Practice radical acceptance in situations like these:
- Someone is running late to meet you.
- Your favorite show isn't on.
- You're out of something and can't get to the store.
- You didn't get as many "likes" on social media as you wanted.
- Your favorite sports team is losing.
- You forgot your wallet, keys or credit card (this happened to me yesterday).
No matter how big or small the task, you have to turn the mind. "Why me? This always happens to me. I'm like a magnet for bad luck."
That's not radical acceptance that's blame which impacts your self-esteem and keeps you suffering.
The one thing, no matter how big or small the situation, that you can do today is make an inner commitment to try and accept it. As the thoughts come to tempt you to blame someone, yourself or deny reality, try and turn the mind. Radical acceptance is something you have to do over, and over, and over. The good news is, if you practice turning the mind towards acceptance, eventually you'll practice acceptance more often and feel confident about yourself. You will find that your self-esteem improves since it's no longer being hijacked by negative thoughts.
Emily is a psychotherapist, she is intensively trained in DBT, she the author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are. You can visit Emily’s Guidance Girl website. You can also find her on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.