Just over a year ago, I wrote about the difference between ‘resignation’ and ‘acceptance’. Today I will be saying more about what acceptance is, and how to go about developing it.
First of all, acceptance is not an “end point”. It’s an ongoing process that might involve stops and starts, changes in direction, and occasional setbacks. The good part is that you will keep progressing with it, using what you have learned to build on each day. You will also become more skilled in applying it to various other things in your life.
So, how to begin?
It might sound back to front, but a good first step is to work out what you are not going to do or become. By definition, acceptance means coming to terms with the idea that you will not (and cannot) be Perfect. We all have an image of our Ideal Selves and Ideal Lives, but we don’t always recognise it. You could start by writing out what your Ideal Self/Life is like, to specifically identify why you are pushing yourself. How realistic are the things you’ve written? Do you really want to be/do/have those things, or are you trying to live up to someone else’s expectations?
None of this is to say you cannot work towards being your Best Self… but it does mean recognising that “Best” doesn’t mean “Perfect”.
By comparing the list you have written with how you view yourself and your life now, you can more realistically judge not only what you want but what is actually achievable. You could use the SMART goals format for this. Knowing what you can change then helps you to recognise the things you can’t, which is a big step on your journey of acceptance.
You might need to grieve for the things you expected to have but do not. You might experience sadness, anger or frustration. Do not criticise yourself for these feelings. Just observe them as you watch them arrive, acknowledge them, and then let them go.
Next, you can write out a list of things that you have gained from not being/having/doing the things in your Ideal Self/Life list. For example, by having a different career to the one you originally planned, you may have gained opportunities to meet people and try new experiences that you wouldn’t otherwise have had. Spend a bit more time on this. You may tell yourself that you won’t be able to think of anything. Letting that belief go and proving it wrong is another step on the acceptance journey.
You could ask a trusted friend or loved one to help you with this second list. You might be surprised by what they come up with!
Some things, especially traumatising and painful things, will seem impossible to accept. That is why it is important to think of this as a journey, one in which you will face setbacks. It’s okay if you never become a 100% unruffled, serene being who floats through life’s slings and arrows. No-one is! That’s human – so you don’t have to beat yourself up for it.
If you would like to work through and move on from these issues in a safe and supportive environment, please contact me to book an appointment.