Symbolic meaning of ‘Self-Acceptance’: Symbolizes the acceptance of positive and negative aspects of oneself; self-compassion and a positive self-image

Finally, material possessions can have a symbolic meaning of self-acceptance. This occurs when possessions help in the construction and communication of one’s identity, or when they trigger self-reflection to see the self as a whole composed of good and bad parts. Material possessions with a symbolic meaning of self-acceptance support subjective well-being because they promote a sense of self-awareness and self-compassion.

An example of a material possession with the symbolic meaning of autonomy is a blood measuring device which makes the owner feel capable of taking care of themselves, independent and autonomous.




To help designers use the six happiness-related symbolic meanings, we developed 16 specific design directions. These are the ones most related to positive relations with others:

Allow shared transformation, by provide tools for user input at an aesthetic and/ or functional level.

Think about…
…what skills and competences is your user proud of?

Allow self-expression, by providing a tangible platform to wear, share or display personally significant ideas.

Think about…
…what positive aspects of your user’s identity can be enhanced to promote self-acceptance?
…what ideas or principles does your user find important to support his/ her identity?

In addition, designers and design researchers helped us select some product examples to illustrate this symbolic meaning:



The Meaning of Time by Bomi Kim is a clock concept that supplies the mechanism to keep time, while the user supplies the hour and minute hands. It relates to the symbolic meaning of self-acceptance because it is design purposefully incomplete allowing the user to shape the way the product looks and works. The user is given creative liberty, and that stimulates positive feelings about the self (of accomplishment, pride, etc.).

The tshirtOS is a system designed to allow the user to program a thin digital display embedded on a t-shirt via his/ her smartphone. The shirt can display live Twitter messages, as well as photos and videos transmitted from an iPhone. It relates to the symbolic meaning of self-acceptance because it allows the user to display personally significant ideas, or parts of his/her identity.