Why is Self-Acceptance Key to Recovery?

This Article Was Published On 06-09-2019

If you’re at the start of your recovery process, self-acceptance can seem like an impossible thing to reach for. Recovery is all about taking on new experiences, learning to live independently without behaviours or substances that act as escapes from yourself or the challenges of life. Yet this taking on of new experiences is only made possible by learning to embrace self-acceptance. 


The journey of recovery to self-acceptance 


True self-acceptance is crucial to recovery. Addictive behaviours by their very nature undermine self-efficacy and self confidence. As addiction takes hold, your self-efficacy, the belief that you can deal with life on life’s terms, fades away. This leads to a lack of self-acceptance; if you can’t fully accept who you are and take responsibility for the way you will react to challenging situations, you will become your own worst enemy. An inability to embrace self-acceptance means you are likely to sabotage your own progress. 


Recovery is rarely linear thanks to the challenges it brings with it; as your service users progress, they will come up against a new set of challenges. From the moment someone enters treatment those challenges emerge; stabilising, reductions, alternative medications detox, building effective peer networks, dealing with the past and going to new places. Armed with a perennial fear of rejection based on low self-worth, alongside the emerging reality that life on life’s terms is full of uncertainty, self-acceptance can seem to be simply unattainable.  All stages of the recovery journey demand resilience, growth mindsets and the belief that ‘I’ve got this’. You only get to reconnect with this by actually doing something and yet if you have no self-belief, you are not likely to risk doing anything as you believe you will fail – it’s the classic vicious circle.


But when do you stop doing something useful? When something more useful presents itself. This approach instils a growth mindset from day one. Preventing stagnation, seeking out comfort zones and coming to terms with the fact that change is a process and not an event all help you on the journey towards self-acceptance. Recovery is a lifestyle that shrinks and grows as you do. Rather than veering towards negativity, thinking of yourself as your own worst enemy, working towards self-acceptance helps you see your recovery as a much more viable solution. 


How do we become more self-accepting?


Why is self-acceptance key to recovery?

Self-acceptance becomes more difficult when you’re faced with challenging circumstances. Do you ever have that critical voice in your head, the one that judges, that mocks and that tells you that what you are about to do will be a disaster?  Welcome to the world of self-anger and self-criticism. It is normal and the more you make mistakes, the better the voice gets at reminding you that you are a bit flawed. This voice is actually a really useful bit of kit when it comes to your journey towards self-acceptance. It helps you look back on the journey you’ve taken through life. 


Seafarers have found that a light-house warning of treacherous waters ahead has been a lifesaver, in the same way a foghorn sounds when sea fog comes in. That voice of concern has a natural purpose; the problem is that it has stopped simply advising you, and instead has wrenched itself from the land and climbed on board, getting in your way as you try to navigate the vessel, and every decision you make. Our clients and service users have traversed many stormy seas. Because of this, their critical voice is less a voice and more a choir of contempt, criticising every opportunity open to them as a challenge that will lead to another failure.


What our clients need is a way to manage that voice, to get it back to doing its job of protecting them from dangers, without denying them the opportunities in life and the self-acceptance that they deserve. A useful approach to step away from letting this voice overwhelm you is to learn to observe that thought, to step back and observe it in the third person. By observing it, you can detach from it, allowing you the distance you need to eventually work towards self-acceptance. This is all part of recognising and making peace with the parts of yourself that have been neglected or shunned during your recovery; self-acceptance is full and unconditional.


Why is self-acceptance key to recovery? So how can you begin to embrace self-acceptance? 


  1. Celebrate your imperfections.
  2. Be kind to yourself. Choose to learn from mistakes instead of judging yourself. 
  3. Compare kindly: Only compare yourself when it motivates you.
  4. I am human… Tell yourself and others that you are human when you notice things not going to plan
  5. Forgive yourself and others when things do not go to plan
  6. Know your values. Identify what is important to you and enjoy knowing that you are different.



The journey to self-acceptance doesn’t have an end date. Our training courses hand you the tools you need to reframe your service users’ thinking, removing residual negative feelings and working towards recovery. Get in touch to make self-acceptance your goal.