The Fourth Power
This is another article in a series on self-esteem,
of which there are four parts, or Powers, as I call them.
The First major component of self-esteem is Worth, which
I call the First Power. The Second Power is Competence.
Both of these have been discussed in other articles, some
of which are on this specific article directory.
The Third Power is Ego Strength, and it is comprised of
two parts, Assertiveness and Thick Skinnedness. The Fourth
Power is Self-Acceptance, which is the topic in this article.
Self-Acceptance follows from and is usually the last to
fully develop of the Four Powers. It can surface early in
one's interpersonal development, but to fully flower, it needs
to have some time and to emerge from the successful
negotiation of the first Three Powers.
Self-Acceptance is the full acknowledgement of one's
total good and bad qualities without judgment. It requires
a full accounting of one's experiences, good or bad. This
is why it needs a little time to fully manifest, because
without testing one's abilities over time and allowing for
circumstances, Self-Acceptance is not replete.
This differs from just ignoring one's lesser-developed
qualities, which is more akin to suppression, or worse,
repression. When ignoring the "deep stuff," as I like to
call it, we distance ourselves from the richness of life.
And, while on the surface this mimics "going with the flow"
or being kind to oneself as in self-accepting, in reality
we are fooling ourselves. On the surface it appears to be
self-accepting but really what we are doing is avoiding
True self-acceptance is allowing all of our experiences
to be in awareness and "then" going with the flow. Notice
this does not mean agreeing that we have certain traits or
qualities. Self-acceptance implies that we have a level of
comfort with these qualities, regardless of their merit.
So, Self-Acceptance does not depend upon having only
good qualities or experiences. It does not matter whether
one is a success or not. I have known many executives who
have status, power, money, and things and yet do not accept
themselves. Frequently they are always striving for something
better and are not quite content with what they have achieved,
outside or inside their psyches. The opposite has been true
in my psychology practice. I have known individuals who by
all outward definitions are complete slobs. They dress poorly,
use poor grammar, have no money or discernible skills, are
overweight and were missing several teeth. None of these
things mattered. They were completely comfortable inside
their own skin. They had self-acceptance.
How does this occur? Why would someone be OK with
himself or herself when they have nothing going for them,
when someone who has everything is unhappy? The answer is
not so much cognitive; rather, it is conative. Conative refers
to one's emotional attachment to ideas, which can be good or bad.
In our personal histories, we all have had zillions of
experiences. The key to understanding Self-Acceptance is in
understanding the emotional associations we have made to those
events. These associations can be good or bad, but are not
usually about the events themselves. They are more connected to
the persons in our environments who formed an emotional experience
with us, which later is paired with the events or experiences.
In other words, Self-Acceptance emerges when our feelings are
positive and associated to the person who engendered the positive
feelings first, then, second; these are paired with other things
(events, thoughts, achievements, or other cognitive messages).
Create positive associations to anyone of significance, and the
connection to other, later-occurring events becomes positive by proxy.