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Why It's Important to Learn the Difference Between Self-Esteem and Self-Acceptance

Self-esteem can be a lifelong pursuit. We may feel unworthy, and can't see ourselves as having great value while we try to find our place in the world.
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"We are each gifted in a unique and important way. It is our privilege and our adventure to discover our own special light." ~Mary Dunbar


A friend of mine gave me two articles to read after a conversation we had on the importance of self-esteem. The articles were by Carol B. Low, Psy.D, of The Center of Conscious Living. One was entitled, "Unconditional Self-Acceptance: Beyond Self-Esteem" and the other was "The Importance of Self Esteem."

During our conversation we discussed that some people never think about self-esteem because it's something they are born with. One example were people who are financially successful simply because they were born beautiful. They turn heads, and many times make millions of dollars based on their good looks. My guess is that self-esteem is rarely an issue for them.

"Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart." ~Khalil Gibran

For those of us who weren't born looking like a supermodel, and who don't possess an ample amount of self-esteem, Ms. Low's article about separating self-esteem from self-acceptance, understanding the difference between the two and learning how to achieve unconditional self-acceptance was fascinating.

Self-esteem can be a lifelong pursuit. We may feel unworthy, and can't see ourselves as having great value while we try to find our place in the world. Some days we experience higher levels of worthiness, yet as life unfolds we make mistakes, such as yelling at our children or trusting the wrong people. When we make these mistakes, our self-esteem plunges and there we are, back to possessing low self-esteem again. This cycle of highs and lows happens continuously over a lifetime, and they happen to everyone because we are all imperfect human beings.

"You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection" ~Siddhartha Gautama

In her article, Dr. Low describes a much more doable state of being: unconditional self-acceptance. In unconditional self-acceptance, she states the following:

"It turns out that seeking self-esteem can be a life-long pursuit and that changes in one's circumstances tend to lower one's self-esteem, whereas unconditional self-acceptance, once defined and achieved, is stable over time. Thus, it is my contention that pursuing unconditional self-acceptance is a heartier and more useful concept than pursuing high self-esteem."

"To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don't need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself." ~Thich Nhat Hanh

We must empower ourselves by learning to like ourselves unconditionally. We are not bad or undeserving because of mistakes we make. We are human and will face many obstacles over the course of a lifetime. If we can learn to embrace ourselves as we are, our journey will be much more joyful.

Finding self-acceptance for myself is something I'm working hard on. After reading Dr. Low's articles I felt a certain amount of relief when I realized the simplicity in attaining self-acceptance.

Have you found total self-acceptance?

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