The Power of Acceptance: the good, the bad, the reality

Acceptance, what is it? If you are one of my clients, I am sure you have heard me talk about acceptance multiple times. I believe this is something we need to practice daily. It’s not easy and it often gets followed by great sadness and maybe even grief. But when we practice acceptance, we often are able to find peace. So what is acceptance? A lot of times people ask me if they accept something does that mean they like it or agree with it? Absolutely not. Accepting and agreeing with something are two different things. Acceptance is living in the reality you are in, instead of living in the reality you wish you were in. This can look different for everyone and it is more common than you think. Take mental health for example. A lot of people struggle to accept they have challenges with mental health. It can be difficult to accept you have to work on your mental health daily by going to therapy, taking medications, following a strict schedule, etc. It can be hard to accept that you aren’t “normal” and it can be hard to understand why you have to work on your mental health and the person next to you doesn’t. While in denial about needing to be proactive in your mental health, you might have a lot of bad days that look like feeling more depressed or anxious, challenges in social settings, difficulty engaging in relationships, and self-sabotaging behaviors. This is all due to living in a false reality in which you believe you don’t need to work on your mental health. Once you accept you need to actively work on your mental health daily, your symptoms may become more manageable and you might feel more connected with yourself. Acceptance also applies in our relationships with our families, loved ones, friends, etc. Sometimes we find ourselves trying harder and harder in a relationship, just to be let down over and over again. That disappointment hits hard every time and can spiral us into a negative thinking hole. When we find ourselves being disappointed over and over by someone in our lives, it is often because we are having a difficult time accepting that person for who they are and instead we are focusing on who we want them to be. We have hope over and over that they are going to change and the weight of the disappointment becomes heavier and heavier each time they do not. Accepting someone isn’t who we need or want them to be in our lives is incredible difficult and often brings up grief as we let go of the relationship we wanted from that person and let in the relationship we actually have. And what about self acceptance? What does that mean and look like? Let’s be honest, the self doubt and inner critic are loud most days. We judge ourselves and compare ourselves to others constantly. Let me say this again, acceptance does not mean we agree or like something. So when talking about self acceptance, we aren’t forcing ourselves to like our flaws, instead we are accepting we have them and learning to live with them. Acceptance might look like, “I know I am not good in this area but I am working on it” vs “I suck at this and I am not good enough.” Self acceptance includes working on believing you are good enough the way you are. It is accepting your strengths and flaws without judgement and meeting yourself with compassion. If asked who needs to meet themselves with more self compassion, I know you would all be raising your hands. What about accepting our lives as what they are vs what we always thought they would be? While growing up we often envision our lives a certain way, whether it’s achieving milestones/goals, living in a certain area, having a certain size house, car, family, kids, etc. What happens when our lives don’t match up to what we always envisioned? Sadness, grief, self doubt, lack of self trust and confidence can all come out when we stray from the path we always envisioned ourselves going down. Sometimes this is due to things in our control, things out of our control, or a mixture of both. Something I want to stress is that we are all doing the best we can with what we have. It is unfair to compare your current self to your past self. because you might know more and have more now than you did before. When our lives are going in a different direction, we have to continuously remind ourselves to focus on what we can control vs what we can’t control. I will leave you with this question: Where do you think you spend most of your time and energy? On things you can control or things you can’t? Often when really reflecting on that question we learn that we have been focusing a lot of our time and energy on things we cannot control instead of what we can. Again, greeting yourself with self compassion and understanding helps the process of acceptance when things don’t go the way we envisioned them going. Focus on what you can control and explore the next step forward. You don’t have to be alone on the path of acceptance, and it can be incredibly helpful to get support through psychotherapy.  At Love Story Therapy, we are here to meet you where you are, and help guide you on the journey to more acceptance and more peace.   Written By: Penelope Hatter, LMFT Therapist at Love Story Therapy