Health and Fitness

How Radical Self-Acceptance Can Improve Your Whole Well-Being

Presented by BetterHelp.

Everyone encounters unchangeable or unavoidable circumstances in life. Learning how to accept those uncontrollable situations is arguably one of the most important skills an adult can develop. Developing strong acceptance skills is associated with reduced suffering and increased overall well-being, but it can sometimes be challenging to adopt a mindset of acceptance. 

What is radical acceptance?

Broadly, radical acceptance is the ability to accept situations outside your control without experiencing the emotional reactions associated with them. It comes from the idea that suffering does not directly come from a source of pain but from a person’s attachment to the pain. Radical acceptance has roots in Buddhism but has been adopted by psychologists as a potential framework and intervention for mental suffering. 

Carl Rogers, the founder of person-centered psychotherapy, leaned heavily on the notion that acceptance is the first step toward meaningful change. When Rogers was doing his most significant research, mental health care was primarily focused on treating symptoms of mental illnesses. Rogers was one of the first to focus instead on bolstering well-being and positivity, believing that if a client received adequate support and a lack of judgment, they would find their own path toward self-improvement. 

Radical acceptance has gained mainstream popularity thanks to its inclusion in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), a comprehensive psychotherapeutic treatment that was first developed to treat borderline personality disorder but has since been dissected and applied to other areas, including general self-betterment. 

Ten steps to radical acceptance

Marsha Linehan, psychologist and inventor of DBT, offers these ten steps to radical acceptance:

  1. Observe that you are questioning or fighting reality. What makes you feel like “it shouldn’t be this way?”
  2. Remind yourself that the unpleasant reality cannot be changed. The circumstances outside of your control are simply what happened. 
  3. Remind yourself that there are causes for the reality. A logical chain of events likely led to the current circumstances. 
  4. Practice acceptance. Use positive self-talk, relaxation techniques, or mindfulness strategies. You might need to try multiple methods to find what works for you. 
  5. Do the things you would do if you had already accepted the circumstances. This might mean dropping efforts to change the unchangeable and putting those efforts into changing what you can control. 
  6. Pretend or imagine that you have accepted what you do not want to accept. Rehearse in your mind what you would do if you accepted the unacceptable. 
  7. Pay attention to body sensations as you process what you do not want to accept. 
  8. Allow disappointment, sadness, or grief to happen. You deserve to feel your emotions, even if they are not positive. 
  9. Acknowledge that life can be worth living. Even when confronted by things you cannot accept. 
  10. List the pros and cons of acceptance. If acceptance is still challenging, listing the positives and negatives of accepting the unacceptable circumstances may be helpful. 

Accepting yourself radically

Radical acceptance can work for almost any situation or circumstance, including your feelings about yourself. You might try radically accepting some areas where you tend to be self-critical or acknowledge that you might never achieve every dream or goal you have made. Of course, it’s important to note that self-improvement is often possible, and it’s worth investigating whether some things are within your control. 

For example, consider someone who is struggling to accept their gender identity. They might feel distress because the gender they feel themselves to be does not align with the gender they were assigned at birth. In that case, one might be tempted to say that they should radically accept the gender they were assigned, but evidence suggests that gender is not concrete, and there may be changeable things. 

Rather than radically accepting the gender they were assigned, the person might consider radically accepting the gender they feel. Acceptance of possible gender dysphoria is commonly considered the first step toward relieving the distress associated with it. Of course, gender is an incredibly complex topic, and the person might benefit from help from others as they process their feelings. For more information, check out this resource from BetterHelp describing how to access free gender therapy:

No matter what you might need to accept, practicing radical acceptance is likely to be helpful. It is often more helpful when paired with things like mindfulness techniques, relaxation strategies, or other positive coping skills. 

One Comment

  • Apart Cy

    Well said and These ten steps are Helpful and useful
    Ika nga ,hindi madali but day by day matutunan talaga if how to accept and overcome those things at ang mahalaga ,we don’t give up

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