Meditations On Self-Acceptance

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Self-acceptance is the main building block of self-compassion. It is the foundation upon which you construct your self-love and a jumping-off point for feeling compassion for yourself. Without self-acceptance, you do not have a good basis for understanding and appreciating yourself. Before you get into the techniques, there’s an important point to be made about self-acceptance: It doesn’t mean you give yourself a free pass on any bad behavior or excuse every mistake you have made in the past. Self-acceptance means only that you accept all of it, the good and the bad, as a part of yourself. The meditations in this chapter will help you do just that—instead of denying, avoiding, or making excuses for yourself, these meditations will teach you how to accept yourself as the imperfect but ultimately good person that you are.

Practice Sitting With Yourself

It might not feel natural at first, but learning to sit with yourself is one of the most beneficial things you can do. In today’s busy, nonstop world, it’s common to fill even the smallest of spaces with entertainment. We check our phones on elevators, scroll through social media when there’s a single dull moment at work, and watch videos or read blogs at the dinner table. While none of these activities are inherently bad, they can be used as distractions from enjoying and appreciating ourselves.

Instead of letting these small moments go to waste, use them to practice mindfulness and build your capacity for self-compassion. Here’s how:

  1. After taking the necessary steps to prepare for meditation, bring your awareness to your environment. Think about where you are and what is around you. Put together a good mental picture of your surroundings.
  2. Next, bring your awareness to yourself. See yourself with your mind’s eye, sitting calmly and peacefully. Be mindful of your current emotional state and what you are doing. Try to accept yourself as you are, right now, in this moment.
  3. Stay here for a minute or two, just enjoying sitting with yourself. If it helps, give yourself a little pat on the back for making time for meditation.

Meditate On Your Past Self

Although we are generally the same people as we were yesterday, many of us feel like very different people than we were thirty, twenty, or even ten years ago. We all go through major changes in our lives, some of which can be transformational. 

If you’ve never taken the time to reflect on this growth, this exercise is a perfect opportunity to give it a try!

  1. Grab a journal and a pen, then prepare to meditate. 
  2. Pick a time to focus on. You can write down “age twenty-five” or “at my first job” or even get specific with the date, like “September 2004.”
  3. Close your eyes and spend a few minutes focusing on yourself at this point in time. Think about what was going on in your life then, what you valued, who was important to you, what was stressing you out or weighing on you, and what your goals and dreams were.
  4. Write down all the details that come to mind. Try to paint an accurate picture of who you were at that point in your life. 
  5. Draw the timeline between then and now, either in your head or on paper. Think about all that has happened between now and then, and see how far you’ve come.

Reflecting on your past self is a great way to cultivate compassion and respect for yourself and all the hard work you’ve put into your career, your relationships, and your self-development.

Meditate On Your Present Self

Becoming more compassionate for yourself requires knowing and accepting who you are. To become more familiar with who you are, practice a meditation focused on getting to know and feeling comfortable with your present self.

To cultivate better self-knowledge and self-acceptance, follow these steps:

  1. Once you’re prepared to meditate, sit quietly for a few moments and focus on regular breathing. Try to clear your mind of any “junk” that might be weighing you down. Let your thoughts come and go, but don’t hang on to any of them.
  2. Shift your focus from a clear mind to your present self. See yourself in your mind’s eye, and take in this view for a moment.
  3. Think about the person you are today, and place this current self in context with all the experiences that have brought you here. For example, are you a kind person? What has influenced you toward being a kind person?
  4. Think of your key traits and characteristics. What makes you the person you are? Is it your job, your skills and talents, your relationships, your approach to life, your hobbies? What words do you use to define yourself?
  5. Spend a few minutes getting to know yourself. Store some of this in your mind’s “self-knowledge” folder so you can pull from it later to give yourself some informed self-acceptance.

Meditate On Your Future Self

If you’re the type of person who rarely looks to the future, you might be surprised at how much self-knowledge and self-acceptance you have to gain from looking forward. If you are the sort of person to consider your future, this exercise can help you by making the process a little more structured and combining it with meditation that’s focused on self-acceptance.

Follow these steps to give this meditation a try:

  1. Grab a journal or notebook to write in and prepare to meditate as you usually do.
  2. Keep your eyes closed and think about a certain point in your future. It can be a month ahead, a year ahead, or twenty years ahead—the distance doesn’t really matter, but you should pick a time that you feel will be significant (e.g., when you’re working at your dream job, retiring, or sending your kids off to college). Make a note of this future point in time in your journal.
  3. Think about who you will be. How do you think you will have changed? For example, will you be a skilled and regular meditator at that time? Will you have mastered the skill you want to learn at work? Write down the specifics you foresee.
  4. Send some acceptance and appreciation to your future self. Remind yourself that you will be that person far off in the distance one day, and give that person a mental hug.

Take A Good, Hard Look At Yourself

While it can be tough to see your own flaws, self-examination is critical to accepting yourself and feeling a healthy sense of compassion and love for yourself. They say you can’t love someone unless you know them—really know them—and the same is true of loving yourself. It’s a much healthier and more satisfying self-love when you are truly accepting yourself as you are, and to do that you need to know who you are. 

Here’s how to take a good, hard look at yourself:

  1. When you’re ready, focus your attention on yourself. Take a third-person view, seeing yourself as if you’re looking at someone else. It can help to literally visualize yourself as you are right now, sitting quietly and meditating.
  2. Think about what makes this person who they are. What are their characteristics, their unique traits, their funny quirks? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What do they wish they could change about themselves?
  3. Take note of the main qualities or characteristics that come to mind, including the not-so-desirable ones. Remind yourself that your goal is to be observant and nonjudgmental, not to chastise yourself.
  4. Make peace with the fact that this person is you. You come complete with positive qualities, flaws and negative features, and everything in between. Remember that this is what it means to be human.

After nonjudgmentally identifying and accepting your flaws in this exercise, you can work on improving them in a healthy manner.

Excerpted from My Pocket Meditations for Self-Compassion by Courtney E. Ackerman. Copyright © 2020 by Simon & Schuster, Inc. Used with permission of the publisher, Adams Media, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved.