How Acceptance can Transform Your Life
I never before realized what a powerful concept acceptance could be. How absolutely and completely freeing. As an extension of letting go of expectations, which I wrote about here, acceptance can truly change your life. It’s changed mine.
Acceptance can take on so many different forms. Accepting people for who they are. Accepting help. Accepting consequences. Accepting advice. Accepting yourself. I’ve spent so much of my life fighting against people and circumstances. Looking back, even recently, this stubbornness has caused so much pain and angst; created so much turmoil in so many relationships.
If I’m being completely honest, I’ve found that at the bottom of all this resistance is pride. Ouch. That hurt to say. Ugh. Like a punch to the gut. Blech. But then…hmmm….it kinda feels good, too. Like I’m taking the wind out of my pride’s sails. Ha! Suck it, bitch!
It’s been a matter of power, I think. My fear has always been that by accepting things as they come, I’m giving up my power. If I accept someone’s help, it means I’m not smart/strong/capable enough to handle something on my own. If I accept criticism, it means I’m not perfect (ha!). If I accept my kids’ shitty behaviour, it means I’m not a very good mother. If I accept consequences, it means I made mistakes. All of these equate to weakness, the opposite of power. Or, what I once thought was power.
The truth is, though, real power comes from a place of openness and vulnerability. Pride comes from fear and rigidity. When you hold on to pride, you are closed off to ideas, joy, and real connection. It’s impossible to grow when your pride is standing in the way. And that’s a very sad and limited way to live.
Slowly but surely, I’ve been letting go of that pride. Bit by bit. One baby step at a time. It’s been wildly frustrating for a few key people in my life. Especially when they could see me for this incredible person I had the potential to become, but was too wrapped up in my pride and fear and expectations to see for myself. But now, as they watch me let go of the death grip I had going on, replacing the pride with acceptance and humility, I know they’ve been doing the Snoopy dance.
I have to admit, it is a relief. All of these things are connected – pride, fear, the need for control, being closed off – and they’re exhausting. Letting them go has been a bit like falling off a cliff, thinking this is it, this is where it all falls apart, only to realize that I do, in fact, have a parachute and now I’m soaring.
Living openly and vulnerably, while scary as shit, creates this sponge-like effect. New ideas, new experiences, new perspectives, new connections. It’s mind-boggling. And inspiring. Accepting someone’s help brings new opportunity for deeper relationships and a greater sense of gratitude. Accepting someone’s criticism allows me to see myself as others see me and to grow and change. Accepting my kids’ shitty behaviour helps me to know them better and learn what they need in their lives in order to grow into wonderful, well rounded big people. Accepting consequences reminds me that I am human and a work in progress and that my decisions, good or bad, affect the people and environment around me.
Life is not black and white. It’s colourful and messy and rich and complex and there are so many different paths to take. Accepting it and allowing yourself to absorb it all and explore and know yourself in it is so deeply satisfying and meaningful that I can’t quite understand how I managed any other way. The beautiful truth is, in this big bright world of ours, there’s not a single person or situation that we can’t learn something from.
To be clear, accepting people, situations, circumstances for what they are doesn’t mean that is what they will always be. It also doesn’t mean you have to allow them to be a permanent fixture in your life. It simply means that you see them as they are, not as you expect them or want them to be. You are then able to respond as you feel best and carry on.
I firmly believe that the greatest gift we can give not only to ourselves, but to those around us, is acceptance. It allows us to feed our curiosity, to evolve, to engage. It encourages us to examine ourselves and evaluate the way we interact with each other. It prevents us from projecting our own shit onto others. Most importantly, cliched as it is, when we are open and accepting without judgement or expectation, we truly become students of the world. And that, I think, is what we’re here for.
Do you struggle with acceptance? How has it affected your life up to this point?