What is Radical Self Acceptance? Plus, How to Get Started Today

What is Radical Self Acceptance? Plus, How to Get Started Today


What is Radical Self Acceptance? And, what is not. 

Technically speaking, radical self acceptance is a component of dialectical behavioral therapy (or DBT which was created by Psychologist Marsha Linehan). The premise of learning to accept yourself is to assist you in facing pain — emotions and experiences — while fully accepting the pain for what it is without judgment.

The radical component of self acceptance: is full acceptance of reality and experiences with your mind, body, and spirit. In other words, you accept what is unconditional and without judgment. You might find yourself saying, “it is what it is.”

By accepting what is, we are able to reduce our suffering and increase a feeling of freedom. By practicing radical self acceptance, it can help you to deal with tough situations. In other words, learning to identify the things we cannot change in a situation and finding a way to accept it can offer so much relief by reducing stress and anxiety.

When you are not in a place of self acceptance, it usually means you are disconnected from yourself — reality versus perception. In other words, the way you see yourself is not consistent with how/who you actually are or how/who you think you should be in this world.

What’s so Radical About Self Acceptance?

First, I have a question for you:  How many people do you know that actually embrace self acceptance?

Uh, yea. Not too many people.

That’s what makes it so radical. Let’s break it down a little more with a definition of radical, compliment of Urban Dictionary.

Radical: an extreme form of something

Now, here’s my version:

Radical: an extreme form of something that hasn‘t been widely accepted by society. 

Radical Self Acceptance Does Not Mean

While acknowledging radical acceptance is important, it is also critical to recognize that it is not any of the following: 

Approval of the painful experience. Or, emotion.

– Throwing your hands up in the air and giving in.

– Surrendering or approving of the painful things you’ve experienced in life. It can be way too easy to get into this mindset and spiral.

By avoiding the practice of radical acceptance, you can end up feeling powerlessness which can lead to sadness, depression, and anxiety. And, we don’t want that for you.

Radical acceptance means recognizing an injustice took place, but cannot be changed. And, accepting it for what it is. This helps you to bring closure and move forward without feeling weighed down. You are still allowed to feel resistance, to be sad or upset.

Radical acceptance to recognize an injustice took place but cannot be changed and accepting it for what it is. You’re still allowed to feel resistance, to be sad or upset.
Learn Radical Acceptance to Make Peace with Yourself

Radical Acceptance Examples

  • Moving to a new city and accepting that you’ll need to make new friends.
  • Making peace with the fact a beloved family pet has passed away.
  • Welcoming the changes that will take place in your life after a breakup or divorce.
  • Accepting that you are the funny or weird friend in the group.
  • Embracing an accident, incident, or life alternating event that took place, instead of wishing you could go back and change it.
  • Creating a neutral opinion of your body size; releasing the desire to change your body. No need to feel good or bad about it, just accept it.

When to use Radical Self Acceptance + Get started with these steps

Utilize radical self acceptance as a tool to help you let go of the suffering. It’s a tool to help you accept, overcome, and reduce any suffering tied to a heavy situation that has taken place in your life.

At the same time, it’s a way to open the door to freedom; it’s time to free yourself of unnecessary suffering and move forward.

It’s almost as if radical self acceptance is helpful by forcing you to move into a state of change; it’s a great way to deal with hopelessness. 

Here are some ways to help you get started…

A Guide to Self-Acceptance

Pay attention to your thoughts. 

  • Awareness is key. Some words to pay attention to should, always, never, can’t, have to. When you hear these words, wake up and pay attention to what is happening around you (and inside your mind). The words are going to show you where you need to work on radical acceptance.
    • What do these words have in common? One word: Judgment

Embrace and learn how to roll with the punches.

  • To help you with this, think about how you can practice rolling with the punches in your daily life. Here are some pretty common inconveniences that can happen at anytime or situations that are out of your control:
    • When a family member had a bad day, and everything is making them upset, or
    • When you show up for an event, and it isn’t starting on time, or
    • There is more traffic than you anticipated so might be late.
  • Since these examples are out of your control, meaning you cannot change them, it is important to accept it. In other words, let go of trying to resist what is happening. And, above all, ditch the need to try and change it. Make peace within yourself by being in control of how you respond to what is happening. Focus on yourself; you cannot change the actions of others no matter how hard you try. Harsh truth, I know. But, you need to hear it.

Practice Mindfulness.

Mindfulness is kinda like asking you to focus on what is happening in the present moment. Don’t let your thoughts travel to the past or future. And, it is sooooo important for your mental health (but we will save that topic for another day).

  • Practice mindfulness by:
    • Intentionally taking time to sit in silence. It doesn’t have to be a long time, even 5 minutes is beneficial.
    • Meditating. If the thought of meditating is overwhelming or perplexing, you can start with guided meditation. In other words, it talks you through what to do. The Chopra App is a great tool, but you can also find all sorts of meditations on YouTube.

This is NOT an affiliate link, I’m sharing it with you because I use it nearly every day and can personally attest to the benefits.

Reframe your thoughts.

  • Think about how you can take difficult situations and reframe the thoughts around them. As an example, let yourself off the hook when you realize there is nothing you can do about a situation. Remember, reframing doesn’t always take your pain away, but it can help you to feel less anxious. 
  • Perhaps there’s a phrase to help you shift your default thought process. Here are a few examples:
    • It is what it is.
    • This too shall pass.
    • I can’t change what happened, and that is ok.
  • You may find it helpful to repeat one (or more) of these phrases.
  • If there’s a phrase that particularly resonates with you, write it down on a post-it note and put it up somewhere you’ll see it a lot — On your computer monitor, bathroom mirror, or on the refrigerator door. 

Negative thought patterns can lead to wrong actions and subsequently to (unnecessary) suffering. 

Ask yourself {this, below}.

  • What can I control?
  • What part of the situation is in my control? 
  • What parts of the situation are out of my control?
  • This can help you to feel better when faced with a tough situation. It helps you to get a better understanding of where things are in your control and where you cannot change anything. 

This feels like a good place to remind youControl is an illusion. And, it is time we learn to let go of it. Otherwise, you’re creating unnecessary anxiety, and it’s not worth it!

Seek Help

If you are having a hard time accepting your circumstances or difficult situations, it might be time to seek professional help. This may be particularly beneficial if you are coping with mental health issues, such as mood disorders including Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), ADHD, binge eating or other eating disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD or complex PTSD).

The benefit of mental health treatment and working with a professional who’s trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy is they can help you to incorporate helpful tools and skills, such as distress tolerance, coping statements, anxiety management, and other relevant interventions.

Important Note: If you are suffering from a mental health crisis, please seek help immediately. If you are in the United States, you can dial 988 for help. This is the mental health crisis and suicide prevention hotline.

Why You Need to Make Time for Practicing Radical Acceptance

Before we get any further, I feel like I can hear some objections. Did you say, “I don’t have time for this”?

Hold that thought for a minute and hear me out.

We, as a society, believe we don’t have time to deal with things that feel heavy, painful, or negative. It’s almost as if we think that avoiding the “bad” parts of our life results in them just disappearing. 

HARSH TRUTH: You are not going to get anywhere by brushing the negative aspects of life under the rug. Horse shit stinks even when covered by that rug.

You gotta address the things that you are struggling with, otherwise, they will continue to plague your life over and over again. 

So, I’m going to call you out right now—If you think you do not have time for this right now. Then, you don’t have the time to not address it.

See the double negative there, that means you gotta do it right now, whether you feel ready for it or not.

Someone once told me:

Radical acceptance of oneself is a prerequisite for personal growth.

It helps you to know who you are, what is important to you, why you are the way you are, and what works for you in life.

It’s an intriguing thought. I’ll just leave that here for you to think about on your own.

Shit Happens

When you are practicing radical self acceptance, you acknowledge that life will inevitably include—or has previously included—difficult times. This is key for your mental health too!

You simply cannot live a life without pain. 

If we brush our true thoughts, feelings, or emotions under the rug, it only leads to more pain. When you don’t recognize the events that have brought you pain, it allows those painful feelings to grow.

When we wholeheartedly embrace radical self acceptance, we are better equipped to let go of guilt, anger, shame, and resentment. 

As a business with the primary purpose of helping people to find happiness, we have had some difficult conversations. We have had to remind others (and ourselves) that happiness does not mean you are void of pain or struggles. Instead…

Radical acceptance and happiness are about learning to accept and roll with the struggles that come into our lives.

Take this as a sign to accept reality, accept things for what they are, and make peace with your situation.

Coming to a Close

Whew, that was a lot. And, some of it contained harsh truths. But, it all needed to be said.

Here’s the thing there’s often a calming peace that comes along with accepting something painful or frustrating in your life. It also helps you to make peace and understand that it will pass; it is not a permanent situation. That’s the beauty of radical self acceptance.

Now it’s your turn. What are some ways you can begin incorporating radical self acceptance into your life today? What are you learning to accept that you do not have control over? Share in the comment below. 

XOXO Kristi

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