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Self-acceptance . . . how much do you like yourself - or NOT?

Updated: Jan 18, 2023

13 behavioural patterns to spot if you have low self-acceptance

Low self-acceptance can show itself in many different ways, some of which we all have to some degree, I guess. However, if your own self-acceptance is pretty low then you will most likely recognise some of these things and feel the pain or emotional turmoil that not particularly liking yourself can cause.

Firstly, let us consider why we might have low self-acceptance. Well for sure it will usually come from childhood and very likely come from parents (or at least one parent in particular) or other people who were a major influence on us as children.

Why would it come from parents? The more relevant question we should ask is why wouldn't it? The language parents use with their children (day in, day out, again and again and again) will of course have an impact in how we grow up to see and feel about ourselves and the patterns or habits we form.

But it is not as simple as that because different types of language can have the same impact on self-acceptance. For example a parent might say to their child, "don't try that as you will never be able to do that, you are not good enough". Constantly being told this or something similar to this, again and again, will find its way in to the child's sub-conscious and form a low self-acceptance pattern later in life. This pattern can then be exaggerated or moderated based on other experiences and situations beyond this.

Another example could be the parent constantly comparing you to the so called better sibling, even if they do not mean to do it, you will certainly feel it.

And perspective . . . is the reality!

Or the parent might go out of their way to overly praise you to make sure you don't feel left out or inferior to the brilliant sibling. But of course children are not stupid (and parents can be at times) and will spot what the parent is doing and think "I must be hopeless if my mum or dad have to keep praising me all the time for nothing".

A third example could be where the well-intentioned parent might constantly be praising you, such as, "you can do anything, you are brilliant, you always do so well at exams or sport, you will definitely get all A* stars", and they will be keen to tell all of their friends or other family members all about how wonderful their child is, in front of the child. Wow, what pressure this will put on the child - as they grow up having such high expectations to live up to. A recipe for sure for low self-acceptance as the fear of failing to live up to this will be too much to bear and striving for perfection will just not be achievable, and so the child will constantly feel like they have failed and are not good enough!

So then how can we tell if we have low self-acceptance?

Here are 13 behavioural patterns that you might recognise in yourself.

  1. People pleaser - going out of your way to please people all of the time. An inability to say 'no' to people and being completely self sacrificing. Thinking that if you help others, it will make them like you - as you think they won't like you anyway as you are but if you help them they will HAVE to like you.

  2. High expectations of yourself - unrealistic expectations, never ever good enough! If you do agree job for 99% of something you will only focus on the 1% that wasn't perfect and it will go around and around in your head until you eventually convince yourself that the whole thing was just useless.

  3. High expectations of others - judging others' against your own unrealistic high expectations and if they don't meet them you will be so very disappointed, frustrated and annoyed. "I wish I had just done it myself".

  4. Perfection seeker - Take forever to finish things as you are trying too hard for everything to be just perfect. Scared to sent out the project in case someone thinks it is not perfect. Remember . . . 'Perfection gets in the way of good'.

  5. Don't delegate - for fear it will not be as good as you would do. Or once you do delegate you take it back or you are critical of it because you think it could be better - like how you would have done it. Or even worse you ask someone to do something to give them the ownership, but then tell them how you would do it or they should do it.

  6. Interrupt people - before they have finished what they are saying to try and show people how clever you are with your response or to finish off what they were going to say, to show them that you know that anyway.

  7. Overly keen on self-improvement - because you think the more you improve yourself the more you will like yourself. "I've just finished the level 3 qualification and I want to start the level 4, and investigate the level 5". "I've got 2 degrees and want to do a third". As soon as you finish the certificate or qualification that you thought would make you feel better about yourself you soon realise that it actually didn't, because self-acceptance and self-improvement come from different places and perspectives. One does not satisfy the other and they are not intrinsically linked.

  8. Get defensive - when others give you negative feedback or say things you don’t want to hear, because it is probably what you are thinking yourself anyway and so put your defences up. "How dare you tell me what I am thinking or how dare you spot my faults".

  9. Keep arguing - for no other logical reason that to just win the argument to try and make you feel better about yourself and so you think that they will think you are bright and clever and all that kind of stuff if you have proved them wrong and that "I knew I was right" . . . even though deep, deep down you know exactly what you are doing.

  10. Feel guilty about being nice to yourself - if you are kind to yourself it will make you feel guilty as you will feel you don't deserve it and far better to put yourself down and be cruel to yourself . . . "I know I am useless and will never be able to do that". You will almost be able to hear your mum or dad as if they were right in front of you.

  11. Don't accept positive feedback - Don't take onboard (or believe) positive feedback or recognition for good work as you will find every reason or excuse under the sun to think you don't deserve it. "Why are they saying that and praising me, I must have done a terrible job and they are just trying to make me feel better about myself"

  12. Don't try things for fear of failing - Thinking it is better not to try than to try and fail . . . "If I don't give it a go then I can't fail" is what you secretly tell yourself . . . but deep down you really want to try, but tell yourself (and others) every excuse under the sun why you can't or shouldn't try.

  13. Care too much about what others think - The mother of them all! Over emphasis and worry about what other people think. You will be far less important to others than you think. But social media now makes this a constant challenge as you strive to compare yourself with what everyone (seems) to be doing. "Everyone has a much better and more successful, happier and interesting life than me". If people don't like or comment on your latest post you are devastated and it is the end of the world and you think everyone must hate you!

So what can you do to improve your levels of self-acceptance?

3 Tips to help . . .

  1. Spot and reflect: Well firstly spotting these patterns in yourself, and reflecting on them, will enhance your self-awareness and you will recognise when you are doing it. Self-reflection techniques, such as writing things in a journal or mindfulness meditation, can help with this.

  2. Find examples and admit it: Next you need to admit to yourself that you are actually demonstrating some of these patterns and think of examples when you have done it or do it.

  3. Stop doing it: Then make a conscious effort not to do it when similar situations arise such in the point above. This can be difficult at first as these behaviours are embedded patterns and you need to break and change these habits.

Oh and not to forget the most important of all . . . stop giving so much emphasis on what other people think!

Article by Trevor Norman

Trevor is a leadership coach and cognitive behavioural therapist and specialises in organisational behavioural analytics and team dynamics


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