What Keeps You From Being Unconditionally Self-Accepting?

"Non-comparative" self-acceptance—what’s it all about?

Posted May 21, 2015

"Struggling with Winter Blues," Total Life Counseling, used with permission
Source: "Struggling with Winter Blues," Total Life Counseling, used with permission

The desire to become your personal best is normal—and it’s admirable. But wanting to become better than others . . . not so much. Maybe not at all. For, so defined, this particular goal usually reflects an inflated, aggressive, and possibly domineering ego.

If you can see yourself as unique—for, after all, there’s never been anyone exactly like you—then there’s really no good reason to evaluate yourself in terms of how you measure up to others. If you’re here on planet Earth to do you (for who else would be better suited to the job?), then you’re already doing what you’re supposed to.

Unless, that is, you were somehow taught to view life as a “business”—as, frankly, so many of us actually have. But your existence doesn’t have to be a “job” at all, teeming with a pragmatic (and frequently burdensome) sense of purpose. On the contrary, simply manifesting your authentic self in the world doesn’t require effort. Permitting yourself to be the person you were born to be—without perpetually appraising, and reappraising, yourself—“should,” all by itself, make you good enough . . . no?

Unless, again, you’re employing standards external to yourself to determine whether you “make the grade”—an intrinsically comparative concept that can easily entrap you and stifle your native creativity. If you want to virtually guarantee yourself a life of frustration, of endless seeking and striving, you’ll keep setting the bar higher for yourself. Unconditional self-acceptance will forever elude you because you’re coming from a place of only provisional acceptance. And dependent on such external confirmation, you must forever compete with others and “improve” yourself to assure that you remain competent enough, attractive enough, smart enough, and overall “nice” enough, to merit others’ positive regard (as well as your own). For your self-esteem, -confidence, and -respect all hinge on such ongoing self-to-other validation.

None of the above is to suggest that you adopt an attitude of complacency. For there’s also no good reason not to aspire to better yourself in various ways: To hone your skills at something. To develop your special gifts and talents to the best of your ability. To diligently pursue something you’re passionate about. But neither is there any compelling reason to withhold total acceptance of yourself for who you are right now, at this very moment.

"How to Elevate your Self-Esteem," Wikihow, used with permission
Source: "How to Elevate your Self-Esteem," Wikihow, used with permission

If you make yourself wait till you’ve done something distinguished to give yourself the “prize” of unconditional self-acceptance, you’re unconsciously compromising the simple good fortune and happiness you might experience just in celebrating the simple, incontrovertible fact of being “gifted” with life. Again, it’s fine to put your energy into something that’s personally meaningful to you, but not if your perceiving yourself as good enough necessitates such dedication.

For how can you be spontaneous, in the moment, and live a life that affirms your inborn nature when you’re “afflicted” with a sense of duty that demands you de-focus on present gratifications for future ones to be “earned” later? Or when, routinely, you feel obliged to prove your worth by devoting yourself to becoming better than you are?

Really, must you excel at something—or beat out the competition—to warrant fully accepting yourself? And if so, can you see that such acceptance will never be secure? That it will always be ephemeral and delimited—in a word, “conditional”?

And if you’re concerned about how others might think of you if you begin to transform your whole life orientation, you’re just giving away your power. Without realizing it, you’re putting yourself one-down, disavowing your own final authority to judge yourself. And regrettably, so many of us have already renounced our personal authority by endeavoring to live up to standards that don’t “naturally” fit us—standards that deprive us of the opportunity to manifest our true self every day of our lives.

In fact, reflexively comparing your behaviors to what others might expect of you ends up alienating you from your very being. For the only way you can realize contentment and inner peace is through succeeding at what life originally “called upon” you to do. And that, simply, is for you to be you. After all, why else would you have been “chosen” to exist?

Live and let live has so much to do with this. For if you’re not comparing yourself to others, and not competing with them, any potential conflict is radically reduced—both from without and within. So is it not time to give up this incessant struggle with yourself?—against yourself? To give up trying to verify that you’re good enough, or—to boost your ego (which constitutes the very essence of your endless comparisons) —that you’re in fact superior to others? Can you simply conclude that, by nature, you’re worthy, so that no longer do you have to “demonstrate” anything to anybody—including, of course, yourself?

Unfortunately, what I’m describing isn’t finally that easy to accomplish—hardly! Because in growing up you were evaluated by your parents, your siblings, your relatives, your friends, your teachers, your religion, and so on. Like everybody else, you developed ideas about how you could best pass muster with these various outside influences, which you doubtless experienced as “pressures.” But, right now, can you take a fresh look at all the assumptions you may have felt forced to make about who you needed to be, how you ought to behave? . . . And how you’re still letting the world exert an oppressive “pull” on you? Can you become more aware, and begin letting go, of all the rules, principles, and societal dictates to which you may have succumbed? And that have made your life far more complicated, arduous, and irksome than otherwise it might be?

"How to Help Cure Your Paranoia," Wikihow, used with permission
Source: "How to Help Cure Your Paranoia," Wikihow, used with permission

Up till now, the efforts you may have made to be “better”—more virtuous, achieving, acceptable, and lovable—may all have kept you at war with yourself. Immersed in the weighty conflict between pleasing others and pleasing yourself (if, in fact, you can recall your more natural self) has “disunited” you. All your adapted “shoulds” have removed you from yourself. And, paradoxical as it may seem, the conflicts engendered by your trying to fit in with others, and maybe even outdo them, not only has made you your own worst enemy, it’s created enemies from without as well.

As Osho, the Indian philosopher and spiritual teacher—and from whom many of these ideas derive—has observed: “Acceptance should be simple. It should be spontaneous, and it should not be out of any ideology, out of teachings, scriptures. It should be out of your understanding. Then there is no question of total or non-total acceptance. When it is your own understanding, even the word ‘acceptance’ becomes futile [by which, I think, Osho means ‘irrelevant’].”

If the external environment you were born into didn’t pretty much make you feel obligated to split off from yourself in the first place, then acceptance of yourself—and the world, exactly as it is—wouldn’t be such a struggle. And none of this, I should emphasize again, means that you should resist taking the responsibility of fighting for what you believe and standing up for what reflects your deepest (not “adapted”) ideals and beliefs. It just means that if you do this, you do it from a position of free choice—not from external pressures but from your personal integrity and authenticity.

And yes, even as you go about looking for ways that you might positively influence the planet you live on, you yet need to accept it for what it is. But regardless of how much, or little, change you can effect in our so conflict-ridden, so ego-centered world, you can still celebrate the fact of your existence and make the most of what life has to offer you. And you do this not by fighting yourself but by becoming more of who you are—or were to start with.

To turn to Osho one last time: “Don’t try to be anything else. That is [your] disease . . . to be some other place, always rejecting that which is, and always hankering for that which is not. . . . You are constantly thinking of what to do, how to do it, how to be this. Your language has become that of shoulds and oughts, and the reality consists only of is.”

So. . . . Might pondering on all the above prompt you to "reevaluate" your outlook? 

Note 1: For anyone interested, here’s a related piece I wrote earlier that’s become something of a classic (i.e., it’s been “ripped off” innumerable times by other bloggers!): “The Path to Unconditional Self-Acceptance.”

Two other posts complementary to this one are "Does Conditional Self-Acceptance Keep You From Being Happy?" and "Unconditional Love Is Possible—But Only From Yourself."

And finally, another post of mine (in four parts), which was inspired by the philosophical writings of Osho and is related to the present one, is entitled “The Purpose of Purposelessness.” (Here are the links to Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4.)

Note 2: If this post spoke to you and you think it might to others as well, kindly pass on its link.

Note 3: Should you be interested in taking a look at other posts I’ve done for Psychology Today online—on a broad variety of psychological topics—click here.

© 2015 Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.

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