Self-acceptance is a process that takes time, perhaps longer than some other “issues” that crop up because of social anxiety. Self-acceptance is what most people are learning over a lifetime, with or without social anxiety.
Dr. Richards discusses self-acceptance at many points throughout the series. Specifically in Session 23, he discusses self-acceptance in the handout “Acceptance is an Active Process”.
We’ve been in the habit of rejecting ourselves, having a tremendously bad self-image as a result of years of social anxiety and irrational thoughts, and perhaps a very negative, unsupportive past.
Then how do we work to move toward self-acceptance? First, through the therapy, as we change our thoughts and feelings, as anxiety changes and lessens, we do gain a growing self-confidence that should encourage more self-acceptance. But, for many of us, there still might be that core, central negative self image. And how to get at this, to change it so that our path leads to more self acceptance and greater, believed self-acceptance over time?
Here are some of the things Dr. Richards says in the series:
There is more of an emphasis on feeling this as you read it (Peace Zone). The message is not so important. The important thing is the feeling that we get. (Determined Slow Talk). It is when we accept that we make progress, this theme echoes all the way back to the Fighting Paradox. Hopefully you can see that acceptance of yourself brings you calmness, peace and power.
The point here that Dr. Richards makes repeatedly is that to get at this theme of self-acceptance, and to start believing it more and more, there is nothing more that we need to do than reinforce, repeat, listen and use our slow talk out loud to REALLY slow down and allow the messages of self-acceptance to sink in. Of course, this assumes, you are still doing the therapy, still applying rational thoughts to your day, still applying therapy principles. If you find you are rejecting yourself or have an inner voice of self-rejection, you address that, deal with that as you would an ANT - it may take longer, but it is no less an ANT than any other you’ve had. And getting that message of self-acceptance to sink in may take longer, but it involves nothing more complex than the repetition and over-reinforcement of this concept and then this feeling.
We don’t start with self-acceptance in Session 1. That would be unrealistic. At that point, naturally most of us aren’t in a positiion to imagine such a thing or even to know how much self-rejection we are putting on ourselves every second. But at some point in therapy, YES, you need to be aware of this, you need to address this and make this a daily part of your therapy time, to accept acceptance, as well as the other themes of the Peace Zone such as letting go of negative past events and feelings, dealing with perfectionistic tendencies, etc. These Peace Zone themes involve the same thing of determined slow talk - really slowing down, really repeating in a calm way the themes presented here. It will lead you in the right direction, towards self-acceptance.