There are certain habits, situations, characteristics, thoughts, beliefs, opinions, etc. within ourselves and our lives that we have control over and are able to improve, change, or stop. But there is also a significant amount, especially when other people are involved, that we do not have control over or are unable to change or stop. We can do whatever it takes to try to change ourselves, the situations, or other people, maybe with some success, but most likely we will not be able to, will become frustrated or angry, and have it become a continual source of tension, stress, or conflict. When it is something within or about ourselves, trying to ignore or avoid these characteristics, situations, thoughts, or issues may cause them to become stronger, more frequent, or more distressing, which only makes us feel worse. When it comes to other people or situations, ignoring, avoiding, continually making negative comments or “nagging,” or being judgmental can lead to arguments, resentment, anger, negative impacts on our relationships or job, or even possible loss of relationships or employment.
So how do we deal with what we cannot change? We can either learn to accept what we cannot change or let it go. Sometimes the best option for ourselves and those in our lives is to learn acceptance and be okay with that decision. Acceptance can be a powerful source of freedom from distress or anxiety, a better ability to manage conflict and communicate more appropriately, and a benefit to our mental health and relationships. Some may consider acceptance a form of giving up or giving in, which it is not. It is a positive decision to not focus on the negative, feel stress or frustration for things out of our control or unable to change, and feel more at peace both with ourselves and others.
The majority of people during the course of their lives have dealt with acceptance from others in various forms, whether it be in our families, social group, school, job, relationships, or within ourselves. Think back to when you were young, maybe in middle school or high school, when you were starting to understand who you were and developing friendships. Or maybe when you started a new job and were meeting new colleagues and determining your role and responsibilities. Or maybe even dating someone new, slowly opening up to them and being yourself. In all of those situations, what is the one thing most people will want and which will make it a positive experience? Acceptance. Having others be non-judgmental and accepting of who we are is a very positive and empowering experience and feeling. We never know the full internal struggle or attempts to change of another or what they are going through in their own lives, so we need to offer that same acceptance to others, both to them and for ourselves. Acceptance by and of others is a positive stance to have in life, but it cannot overshadow the importance and significance of self-acceptance.
Each of us is unique and different, which is a wonderful thing. We often times lose sight of that, try to be like others, try to change aspects of ourselves to “fit in” or be liked by others, or don’t always represent our true selves for fear of what others will think. Accepting who you are, “imperfections” and all, and feeling confident with it will lead to a happier, healthier, and overall better life. It takes a lot of work to continually be putting on an act, trying to be someone else, or holding back on what we truly think, feel, or are. Self-acceptance is a commitment to yourself to acknowledge, appreciate, and support who you are and what you think or feel at any moment in your life.
If you can change yourself, a situation, or help another change for the better, do that. But when you come to an impasse or do not have control or the ability to change something, learn to just accept it and keep on going. As Maya Angelou said, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”