Acceptance; is it just another word for settling???
I don’t think so and if you stick with me, I’ll tell you why…
I have a really good friend who struggles immensely with acceptance. We have talked about it in depth and she always goes back to the argument that if she is willing to accept things as they are at this exact moment that it means she is satisfied with how things are and she sees that as settling for less. Clearly she is not satisfied with how things are in her life and desperately wants things to change, but she has been unable to make any lasting change up to this point, and we have been having this same conversation for years.
Watching my friend struggle all these years is heartbreaking. But I honestly think that if she could simply accept exactly where she is right now, lovingly and without judgment, she could begin to make lasting changes in her life. And, I believe, those changes would stick! Here’s why…..
When you settle for something, you give up on the chance that there could ever be anything else. So to me, settling is essentially giving up. Acceptance on the other hand, is simply that…..accepting what is, right now. Nothing more, nothing less.
My friend wants to make changes in her life, big changes, scary changes, but she can’t accept where she is right now. I think that’s the sole reason why she has been going in circles for years. If she can’t accept how things are right now then how is she ever going to get to where she wants to be? To me, this is like taking a road trip from New York City to San Francisco without a map. Once you have driven around 1500 miles you know you are some where in the middle, maybe, you think, but you aren’t quite sure and you don’t have a map. So you just wing it, take a wild guess where you might be and pray that eventually you will make it to San Fran. It’s totally within the realm of possibility that you will get there, but it might not be the most pleasurable trip. You will probably miss a lot of spectacular views along the way and I would be willing to bet that the trip will be filled with a lot of anxiety and angst. Unless of course, you like being lost. Me?? Not so much.
Wouldn’t it be easier to pull out a map and take a few minutes to figure out exactly where you are? Once you know EXACTLY where you are, then you can decide if you would like stay there. I’m sure there are plenty of people in North Platte, NE that think it’s a lovely place and would never want to be anywhere else. But if you don’t want to stay there, at least now you know where you are, and you can map out your route. However long or short you want the trip to be is totally up to you. But the point is, now that you know exactly where you are, you can decide where you want to go. And, if you know exactly where you are starting, you will always be able to look back and see how far you have come.
There is actually a term for this coined by positive psychologist Tal Ben Shahar. It’s called “Active Acceptance”. He says, “Active acceptance is about recognizing things as they are and then choosing the course of action we deem appropriate and worthy of ourselves.” We need to be aware of how things are at this exact moment and then choose to accept those things lovingly and without shame or judgment. Change is never easy, but loving what is, is the first step to making lasting changes.