In modern day usage, self-help really refers to a process concerning people’s own personal development or self growth. The good side of this is that it leads to people trying to become aware of who and what they are, and pursuing avenues that can help them become more rounded and happy people.

The downside of this is twofold. Firstly there is such a wealth of literature available, as well as seminars, groups etc, that there is almost too much information available. This means that for people to actually make good choices about what constitutes self-help for them can be incredibly difficult. Often it is a process of simply ploughing through stuff and using a gut instinct to determine whether it will be of benefit to you or not.

The other, more subtle downside of modern day self-help literature is that it is constantly telling people they have to improve in order to be OK. This is a pivotal selling point for most literature and seminars etc. In many ways this is a very damaging approach, because it is actually the opposite of what helps people grow, which is a level of unconditional self-acceptance.

The self-help industry is no different in many ways to other industries. It is continually telling people what they need to do and how they need to do it in order to be who they want to be. There is a lots of valuable information contained in this literature, as well as an awful amount of drivel, depending on your point of view!

There is a truism to the saying, that self growth is really about self acceptance not about self improvement. This might initially seem a bit of a contradiction but it is not. If someone is able to truly accept themselves as they are, not as they think they should be, then actually they will feel a level of emotional safety and security that will allow them to heal whatever it is that is blocking them and subsequently change.

If people feel a perpetual need to change and become different in order to feel a level of self acceptance, or acceptance by other people, then life becomes a permanent treadmill that they can never get off. This treadmill will take them further away from the person they are, and will actually make it less likely they will ever really change.

People will be continually trying to become acceptable, largely on the basis of what other people think of them. Real freedom and security comes from within, and core to that is a level of unconditional self acceptance or unconditional love. Unconditional love is a phrase often used, and is worth considering as a basis for all types of self-help work.

Perhaps the most important thing to recognise is that unconditional really does mean unconditional. When applied to one’s own self, this basically means being willing to accept who you are, unconditionally, whether you like it or not. Only this level of self acceptance will really free people to be able to develop a level of self-awareness, free of judgement about themselves, and subsequently be at peace with themselves and other people.

A word about judgement – judging oneself or other people is an absolute death wish in terms of self acceptance. Judging other people is normally a reflection, in some ways, of judging oneself. Self judgement will teach you to disown your own emotions and feelings as not being real, either because they are not very pleasant feelings, or because you do not want to have them.

Either way it means it is impossible for you to accept yourself as you are because you do not want to be that way. Self acceptance means unconditional love of self. It is a gut level feeling of realising that it is okay to be you who ever you are. Once and when you have that, you are truly free to love yourself and other people.

Peter Main is a freelance journalist and copywriter who writes extensively about all areas of self growth and self development. He has a particular focus on self help issues for people who are in recovery from or who have been affected by alcoholism and other addictions.Some people begin their journey of recovery and healing in a rehab, others in a twelve step fellowship such as Alcoholics Anonymous, others in a religious or spiritual setting. He has worked in this field for just under thirty years and has extensive experience in many areas of different therapeutic approaches, including counselling, inner child work,meditation, spirituality, adult children work etc

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