So how do we do that–trust in our own basic goodness? We work on this by un-peeling into deeper and deeper layers of acceptance of ourselves.
Acceptance? That again? Yeah.
–Dropping the shame stories and embracing the gifts of imperfection (if you’re not already into Brene Brown, you’re missing out).
–BEing with the you that you are today, just as she is–which is pretty damned good.
–Thinking back to all the stuff Mom and Dad did to screw you up and realize that if you can’t go back and change the past, you can at least decide to learn from it and become better than the things that happened to you.
Every time I’ve been able to drop down into acceptance, it’s like my world flipped on its axis. Acceptance is the breath of fresh air that moves old emotional baggage.
Acceptance–that I lose my temper; that a foot injury kept me from walking normally for nearly two years; that I have an auto-immune disease; that I still have my moments of lacking compassion; that I love big and bright and not everyone sees it; that I so often feel inadequate to face a challenge…the list goes on.
Acceptance is a shape-shifter, from a life that feels like contorting oneself into a too-small box of “it’s supposed to be this other way than what it is!”, to a life that feels like a continuum that stretches and grows and isn’t contained by needing things to be a certain way in order for me to be a certain way.
People misunderstand acceptance as being about pretending the bad stuff didn’t happen, minimizing it, etc. Particularly when it comes to social justice issues, I feel salty when I see this. Women aren’t supposed to “just have acceptance” that sexism exists, for instance. It’s not enlightened to focus on looking for the light, to the point where you’re…leaving everyone else in the dark, because no one is speaking up for them.
Again, I’ll say that I think acceptance is about not needing things to be a certain way, in order for me/you to be a certain way.
I don’t need to be rich, before I’ll be happy.
I don’t need to have perfect health, before I’ll decide to train for triathlon.
I don’t need someone else to speak up on behalf of others, before I’ll decide to speak up on behalf of others.
I don’t need to have fixed all issues related to sexism, before I’ll take action in my own life.
Acceptance, I think, is about not needing conditions to be different, before we will make powerful, courageous choices. It’s about letting go of resistance to the fact that problems and challenges exist, rather than endlessly ruminating on them in a way that isn’t helpful nor healthy (e.g., the person who’s always self-righteous and angry but never transmutes that energy into action that benefits anyone).
Acceptance and Relationships
People are who they are, and they do what they do. That’s acceptance. Adding, “So I guess there’s no point in speaking up,” is a Story that gets added on that has nothing to do with acceptance.
Yes to boundaries.
Yes to speaking up.
Yes to understanding that you have no control over whether or not your boundaries and speaking up will change anything–but you’re willing to do it, anyway, because that’s what integrity would do.
Acceptance and Health
Your health will wax and wane throughout your lifetime, and at some point, everyone encounters illness. That’s acceptance. Adding, “I must obsessively drink green smoothies until my disease is cured” is an imposed agenda–If I do this thing, I’ll get this result. That ain’t acceptance, and if you don’t get the result you want, you’ll suffer. Adding, “There’s nothing that I can do” is giving up–you can accept something, and still take action. They are not mutually exclusive.
Acceptance and Money
Some people have more and some have less, and the system is unjust. This is truth. And you can accept the truth of this here-and-now state of the matter.
You can also still sign the petitions, talk to your elected officials, run for office, start the cooperative profit-sharing company, fund the charity, and any other number of actions to work on creating economic parity for everyone.
Acceptance and Opportunity
Resentment is the hallmark of not accepting something, so my go-to question, particularly when I’m having a rough time, is this: “If I weren’t resenting this, what’s the opportunity?”
If you’re not resenting your body for being where it’s at, what’s the opportunity? If you’re not resenting your money situation for being where it’s at, what’s the opportunity? If you’re not wishing your kids/spouse/boss were different, what’s the opportunity?
At the very least, there’s some energy freed up to focus on what you can control–you, and how you handle the things that you cannot change.
Remember, again, that acceptance and action can run parallel tracks. The saying goes, “Accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference,” not “Accept things blindly, take no action, assume that if I look for light it’ll all work out.”
Once that A-ha soaks in, you’re at the threshold of the door–you can start looking with more kindness and tenderness at you, and where you aren’t practicing acceptance.
You can get curious, ask some deep questions. You can notice your resistance to change (the criticisms that embracing something more positive is “fake” or “phony” or “too fluffy”).
It’s a process–and acceptance saves us along the way, because then we get to unpeel another layer and even be in acceptance of our resistance.
This is a practice of living 100% fully alive by being present and staying with…all of it.
This is the part where I advocate forming support–a great life coach, therapist, group, circle of friends–because it’s through getting our patterns mirrored back to us that these patterns really shift. When we risk annihilation of old ways of being and risk that others will see us in all of our messed-up glory, and that they’ll love us anyway, and more importantly, that we will continue to love ourselves, anyway—
–that’s it, right there. That’s the tender spot. That’s the playground of acceptance.