“That’s the way it is and you just have to accept it.” We’ve all heard these words and quite often what is really meant is, “That’s the decision I’ve made and you have no choice but to agree and get with the program.”
Well we may need to accept the facts and the reality of the situation, but we do not need to agree with, approve of, or adopt the same perspective as someone else.
Acceptance is not resignation. It does not mean letting go of what you want, agreeing with something unpalatable to you, waiving your own rights to self-determination, or downplaying the impact on you.
It does not mean learning to be more comfortable with how things are, especially if it is something that goes against your own values.
It does not mean allowing yourself to be steamrollered into fitting in with someone else’s needs, or allowing yourself to become someone’s doormat.
I think of acceptance in this way. I may have planned a picnic in the park, but on the day of the picnic it is pouring with rain. I can accept the reality that it is raining, and that I can’t change that, but there is nothing to say I have to sit in the park, get soaked to the skin and end up with soggy cake.
Acceptance means understanding that whether or not I like something, it is happening and that I cannot change that. It is acknowledging the realities of a situation, the changes that have happened or will happen, and how those things will impact on me.
Acceptance is only the first step. It’s at that point you ask yourself, “Now what?” and begin to make your own decisions that are aligned with your goals and values.
I don’t think I can find better words about acceptance than those of Jon Kabat-Zinn in ‘Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness’, who says:
“Acceptance doesn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, mean passive resignation. Quite the opposite. It takes a huge amount of fortitude and motivation to accept what is – especially when you don’t like it – and then work wisely and effectively as best you possibly can with the circumstances you find yourself in and with the resources at your disposal, both inner and outer, to mitigate, heal, redirect, and change what can be changed.”