A study of 500 participants in 2013 investigated the mental health of individuals classified as ‘self-fulfilling’ and ‘self-destructive’ – the classic polarities of the Lover archetype.
The researchers concluded, “that self-acceptance and environmental acceptance might enable individuals to go from self-destructive to a self-fulfilling state that also involves harmony in life.”
Higher levels of self-acceptance are also known to boost self-esteem. As a matter of fact, accepting your strengths and weaknesses sets you on the path to nurturing your self-esteem (MacInnes, 2006).
Self-acceptance is defined as “an act of embracing all of your attributes, whether mental or physical, and positive or negative, exactly as they are” (Morgado, Campana, & Tavares, 2014) . It includes acceptance of your body, your quirks, attitudes beliefs and emotional status.
Ultimately, the power of self-acceptance is to protect you from feeling hurt or inferior when you receive negative criticism from other people or if they doubt your ability to succeed in areas of life where you are more than capable of achieving success.
And how many times have you allowed the feeling that you’re not good enough to stand in the way of taking action? How many times have you allowed your fear of failure to stop you from even trying?
When you accept you are not perfect (who is), and that you are allowed to make mistakes (because you’re human) and that you have flaws (you can probably improve), you will not be defined by feelings of inadequacy.
Consequently, you are mentally equipped to live life on your own terms.
Self-Acceptance v Self-Esteem
Whilst researchers have shown that self-acceptance helps to nurture self-esteem, there is a significant difference between the two.
Self-acceptance, as mentioned above, is how you see and think about yourself. It is an assessment of your strengths and weaknesses and embracing both. You simply accept the way you are in that moment (though the goal should be to improve your weaknesses and build on your strengths).
Self-esteem, on the other hand, is defined by how you feel about yourself. In other words, self-esteem has an impact on how you physically experience life from moment to moment.
It has been pointed out that some people that struggle with self-acceptance issues are still successful. And whilst achievements can bolster your self-esteem, it’s short-lived. Srini Pillay, MD, writing for Harvard Health Publishing points out:
“That’s because achievement is a poor substitute for intimacy.”~ Srini Pillay
When you accept yourself for who you are, you begin to embrace your authentic self and learn how to love yourself. You also have more capacity to accept other people for who they are and have a higher tolerance threshold towards people that are different.
A growing body of research clearly links high levels of self-acceptance with positive emotional well-being  and improved mental health. Self-acceptance can also shield you against psychological distress such as stress, anxiety and depression.
When you practice self-acceptance and nail it, you care less about what other people say to you – even if they are only joking, When we don’t accept ourselves, we can take the slightest criticism as a personal affront.
Subsequently, you are better equipped to regulate your emotions and be your authentic self without worrying about what others think of you. In other words, you give yourself permission to express yourself rather than weighing yourself down with assumed limitations and self-enforced boundaries.
It’s natural for everybody to have weaknesses in some things. We can’t be good at everything, but we can improve at most things. This is particularly the case when it comes to integrating the parts of ourselves that have been resigned to the unconscious.
A lack of self-acceptance is typically the result of repressed or suppressed consciousness; aspects of ourselves that we came to believe are undesirable. Oftentimes, the aspects of true nature that lurk in the shadow make us better people.
When we continue to ignore, hide, neglect and reject our shadow, we develop neurosis and psychosis. Accepting aspects of our shadow nature is the first step towards healing repressed consciousness and enabling the self-ego axis to live in harmony; inner peace.
“When I examined the way of development of those persons who quietly and, as if unconsciously, grew beyond themselves, I saw that their fates had something in common. The new thing came to them out of obscure possibilities either outside or inside themselves; they accepted it and developed further by means of it. It seemed to me typical that some took the new thing from outside themselves, others from within; or rather, that it grew into some persons from without, and into others from within. But the new thing never came exclusively either from within or from without. If it arose from outside, it became a deeply subjective experience; if it arose from within, it became an outer event. In no case was it conjured into existence through purpose and conscious willing, but rather seemed to be borne on the stream of time.”~ Carl Jung, Commentary on The Secret of the Golden Flower
In the 1930s, the controversial Austrian doctor of medicine and psychoanalyst, Wilhelm Reich also noted that unconscious content his patients were hostile towards formed the basis of neurosis.
Subsequently, the inner resistance causes an internal reaction whereby man becomes “reactively and inwardly divided against himself.”
What does the research say about a lack of self-acceptance?
One area of research into the relationship between self-acceptance and emotional response found that people who have mastered emotional regulation are 6.5x more likely to be in the top 50% of resilience to criticism.
On the flip side, people that are unable to control their emotions are prone to emotional outbursts. Elevated levels of stress, anxiety and anger – emotions that are triggered when you are criticised – lead to a mental imbalance.
A lack of self-acceptance limits your capacity to protect your emotional body from criticism. This can damage your personal sense of well-being, your pride and your relationships.
People that have low levels of self-acceptance are also more likely to ruminate and focus on their negative aspects. Focusing on your negative aspects dents your self-esteem and draws negative emotions.
Evidence indicates there is a direct link between low levels of self-acceptance and various classifications of mental illness including:
Whilst the events that led to individuals suffering mental illnesses are different and highly personalised, there are patterns that enable us all to overcome personal insecurities.
What is the psychology behind a lack of self-acceptance?
The simple answer is childhood. Then adolescence – particularly peer pressure.
The seed to emotional insecurity, or repressed consciousness, typically starts with our parents or caregivers. For some people, it may have started with a teacher in the first few years of school. Adults have an unconscious knack of making children believe there is something acceptable about their behaviour.
To a child’s developing mind, something as innocuous as an adult saying, ‘don’t do that,’ ‘that’s not nice/good’, ‘stop that’ or ‘don’t be naughty’ can make them feel inadequate or unacceptable.
If this false belief is validated as the child continues to develop psychologically, the subconscious seed blossoms into a flower. Children that are reprimanded typically grow up to have a lack of self-acceptance and low self-esteem.
“Children that grow up with authoritarian parents… [can] have higher levels of aggression but may also be shy, socially inept, and unable to make their own decisions. This aggression can remain uncontrolled as they have difficulty managing anger as they were not provided with proper guidance. They have poor self-esteem, which further reinforces their inability to make decisions. Strict parental rules and punishments often influence the child to rebel against authority figures as they grow older.”National Library of Medicine 
As ironic as it may sound, badly behaved children can be a good sign, but it shows that are being authentic. It also means they are comfortable around parents and adults in general (see attachment theory). Misbehaving can actually be a positive sign the child will mature into an emotionally stable adult.
Children don’t know how to distinguish between their authentic selves (instincts) and their behaviour. They are simply driven to perform whatever action they feel like (although they do have a sense of what is right and wrong on a moral level).
But let’s say a child wants an ice cream but it’s almost time for dinner. A rational parent would refuse the request for ice cream. The child will either get angry, moody or whiney because they are not accustomed to being told ‘no’.
A parent that scolds the child in this situation is basically saying, your behaviour is not acceptable. The best approach is to sit with the child and explain that ice cream is a dessert and comes after the main course at dinner.
“Nurturing is crucial in producing a sound, functional human.”~ Jeremy Griffiths, Freedom
The promise of ice cream settles the child down and also enables them to delay gratification. But more importantly, the child’s sense of self-acceptance remains intact.
When you accept yourself, the world accepts you. For you have no concern about what people think of you. You know the Truth.
“The sage accepts the world
As the world accepts the Way;
He does not display himself, so is clearly seen,
Does not justify himself, so is recognized,
Does not boast, so is credited,
Does not pride himself, so endures,
Does not contend, so none contend against him.
The ancients said, “Accept and you become whole”,
Once whole, the world is as your home.”~ Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 22
The goal of self-acceptance is to shift your perspective from “I don’t like this thing about me” to “there is nothing I can do about it right now, and I accept things for the way they are.”
When you accept who are and what you are in this moment, you trigger the recovery process for healing repressed consciousness and nurturing personal growth. Give yourself permission to be your authentic self.
 Regulatory emotional self-efficacy and psychological distress among medical students: multiple mediating roles of interpersonal adaptation and self-acceptance; Zhang, Due, Sun, Liu, Li, Bad (2022)
 Wilhelm Reich, The Function of the Orgasm