Unconditional Self-Acceptance and Psychological Health

Abstract

Low self-esteem is usually considered unhealthy, but according to rational-emotive behavior therapy, any level of self-esteem reflects a dysfunctional habit of globally evaluating one's worth; it would be preferable to accept oneself unconditionally. This hypothesis was tested by examining several correlates of scores on a novel questionnaire measure of unconditional self-acceptance (USA). In a nonclinical adult sample, statistically controlling for self-esteem, USA was inversely correlated with anxiety symptoms and with narcissism, positively correlated with state mood after imaginal exposure to negative events. Other predicted associations of USA (with depression, happiness, and self-deception) either were not evident or became nonsignificant when self-esteem was taken into account. Discussion centered on the conceptual and operational distinctions between self-esteem and self-acceptance.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

REFERENCES

  1. Baumeister, R. F., Smart, L., & Boden J.M. (1996). Relation of threatened egotism to violence and aggression: The dark side of high self-esteem. Psychological Review, 103, 5–33.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Beck, A. T., Epstein, N., Brown, G., & Steer, R. A. (1988). An inventory for measuring clinical anxiety: Psychometric properties. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 56, 893–897.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. Beck, A. T., Rush, A. J., Shaw, B. F., & Emery, G. (1979). Cognitive therapy of depression. New York: Guilford.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Beck, A. T., Steer, R. A., Epstein, N., & Brown, G. (1990). Beck Self-Concept Test. Psychological Assessment, 2, 191–197.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Beck, A. T., Steer, R. A., & Garbin, M. G. (1988). Psychometric properties of the Beck Depression Inventory: Twenty-five years of evaluation. Clinical Psychology Review, 8, 77–100.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Cowdry, R. W., Gardner, D. L., O'Leary, K. M., Leibenluft, E., & Rubinow, D. R. (1991). Mood variability: A study of four groups. American Journal of Psychiatry, 148, 1505–1511.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. Crowne, D. P., & Marlowe, D. (1960). A new scale of social desirability independent of psychopathology. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 24, 349–354.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  8. Davison, G. C., Robins, C., & Johnson, M. K. (1983). Articulated thoughts during simulated situations: A paradigm for studying cognition in emotion and behavior. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 7, 17–40.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Davison, G. C., Vogel, R. S., & Coffman, S. G. (1997). Think-aloud approaches to cognitive assessment and the articulated thoughts in simulated situations paradigm. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65, 950–958.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. Eisenberg, N., & Okun, M. A. (1996). The relations of dispositional regulation and emotionality to elders' empathy-related responding and affect while volunteering. Journal of Personality, 64, 157–183.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. Ellis, A. (1962). Reason and emotion in psychotherapy. New York: Lyle Stuart.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Ellis, A. (1973). Humanistic psychotherapy: The rational-emotive approach. New York: Julian.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Ellis, A. (1976). RET abolishes most of the human ego. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, and Practice, 13, 343–348.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Ellis, A. (1977). Psychotherapy and the value of a human being. In A. Ellis & R. Grieger (Eds.), Handbook of rational-emotive therapy (pp. 99–112). New York: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Ellis, A. (1995). Changing rational-emotive therapy (RET) to rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT). Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 13, 85–89.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Ellis, A., & Dryden, W. (1997). The practice of rational emotive behavior therapy (2nd edn.). New York: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Ellis, A., & Harper, R. A. (1997). A guide to rational living (3rd Ed.). North Hollywood, CA: Wilshire.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Ellis, A., & Tafrate, R. C. (1997). How to control your anger before it controls you. Secaucus, NJ: Carol.

  19. Engels, G. I., Garnefski, N., & Diekstra, R. F. W. (1993). Efficacy of rationalemotive therapy: A quantitative analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 61, 1083–1090.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. Fordyce, M. W. (1988). A review of research on the Happiness Measures: A sixty second index of happiness and mental health. Social Indicators Research, 20, 355–381.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Haaga, D. A. F., & Davison, G. C. (1989). Outcome studies of rational-emotive therapy. In M. E. Bernard & R. DiGiuseppe (Eds.), Inside rational-emotive therapy: A critical appraisal of the theory and therapy of Albert Ellis (pp. 155–197). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Mecca, A. M., Smelser, N. J., & Vasconcellos, J. (Eds.) (1989). The social importance of self-esteem. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Meston, C. M., Heiman, J. R., Trapnell, P. D., & Paulhus, D. L. (1998). Socially desirable responding and sexuality self-reports. The Journal of Sex Research, 35, 148–157.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Norusis, M. J. (1990). SPSS introductory statistics student guide. Chicago, IL: SPSS Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Pavot, W., & Diener, E. (1993). Review of the Satisfaction with Life Scale. Psychological Assessment, 5, 164–172.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Raskin, R., & Hall, C. S. (1979). A narcissistic personality inventory. Psychological Reports, 45, 590.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  27. Raskin, R., & Hall, C. S. (1981). The Narcissistic Personality Inventory: Alternate form reliability and further evidence of construct validity. Journal of Personality Assessment, 45, 159–162.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Raskin, R., & Terry, H. (1988). A principal-components analysis of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory and further evidence of its construct validity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 890–902.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  29. Robinson, J. P., & Shaver, P. R. (1973). Measures of social psychological attitudes. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Rogers, C. R. (1951). Client-centered therapy: Its current practice, implications, and theory. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Schlenker, B. R., Soraci, S., & McCarthy, B. (1976). Self-esteem and group performance as determinants of egocentric perceptions in cooperative groups. Human Relations, 29, 1163–1176.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Shrauger, J. S., & Lund, A. K. (1975). Self-evaluation and reactions to evaluations from others. Journal of Personality, 43, 94–108.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  34. Solomon, A., Haaga, D. A. F., Brody, C., Kirk, L., & Friedman, D. G. (1998). Priming irrational beliefs in recovered-depressed people. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 107, 440–449.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  35. Tarlow, E. M., & Haaga, D. A. F. (1996). Negative self-concept: Specificity to depressive symptoms and relation to positive and negative affectivity. Journal of Research in Personality, 30, 120–127.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Weinberger, D. A. (1990). The construct validity of the repressive coping style. In J. L. Singer (Ed.), Repression and dissociation: Implications for personality theory, psychopathology, and health (pp. 337–385). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Chamberlain, J.M., Haaga, D.A.F. Unconditional Self-Acceptance and Psychological Health. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy 19, 163–176 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1011189416600

Download citation

  • self-acceptance
  • self-esteem
  • psychological well-being