How do I learn acceptance? That was the question recently posed to me by an O.D. contributor and friend. After all, what do we even mean when we tell somebody they need to learn to accept “it” anyways and how do you teach someone how to do this? In this context acceptance is the willingness to tolerate a difficult or unpleasant situation. So why is it that such a seemingly simple concept is so freaking hard to implement?
I believe this has two parts. The first is a fundamental misunderstanding on what it means to be accepting. The misconception that acceptance means we are consenting, or agreeing, to the topic at hand. We believe there are two responses to a topic, issue, or whatever else it might be that we can either accept or reject (bare with me I assure you I’m not insulting your intelligence). In reality this is a narrow approach to disagreements or debate. Again, acceptance means a willingness to tolerate it does not mean liking, wanting, choosing, or supporting. Acceptance does not mean approval. The second is the belief that acceptance is an admission of defeat. Absolute, unchanging, and will remain as such forever. This is also an incorrect belief. Acceptance does not mean things will forever be such a way nor that you can’t work for change.
It felt necessary to clear up these misnomers because they were what made acceptance such a painfully abstract concept for me to implement. I learned acceptance when I learned to live outside of myself, self awareness, and an outward mindset. Living outside yourself is learning to put your emotions aside, to keep them in check, and to take things less personally.
Self awareness is learning to see things for how they really are, keeping your motives in check, and being conscious of the bigger picture. It is making sure you question your motives and evaluate how those motives are impacting your actions or responses. An outward mindset is learning to see things from the perspectives of others, understanding their motives, and recognizing you won’t agree on everything. The best part about acceptance is it makes pain hurt less. I’ve found the best way to learn acceptance is learning to laugh at things more often.
Much love always