guest post by: LuAnn O.
While everything I do ties back to acceptance, I struggled a little with the word at first. What does acceptance mean? Is it a belief or an act? How does it tie to core emotion? How do you know if you are genuinely accepting? As a therapist I have come to learn that our true beliefs are manifest in our behavior. I like to believe I am accepting of myself and others, but on occassion (or rather often) my actions show the contrary. I’m not sure we ever master acceptance. It is an ongoing process and something we have to think about every day.
Let's start with two realities: 1) Like love, acceptance is a verb. 2) We can only accept others as much as we accept ourselves. If you think you are hard on yourself, but favorable and forgiving of others, it probably isn’t true.
I’d like to bring us all around to the idea that acceptance is a act. In our efforts to become more accepting, we must first be self-aware. The truth is, there are parts of all of us that are unknown to ourselves. These blind spots aren’t anything to be ashamed of, just something to start looking at because they can cause behaviors that don’t quite make sense. In order to truly understand how we feel and what we believe about others, ourselves, and our circumstances, we have to take a look at what comes out of us. I like to call these human tendencies. Whatever you want to call them, looking at our actions is the only reliable way to assess our core beliefs.
So, what do we do when we don't accept our circumstances, or ourselves? How do we act when we feel we fall short or are not quite enough? We:
- Control: we try to control whatever we can.
- Criticize: we criticize others, our spouse, our neighbors, our friends, and ourselves.
- Try to be perfect.
- Numb out.
- Feel guilty.
- Get crazy busy in hopes of getting into acceptable standing with ourselves...just one more thing, one more project, one more act of service.
- Some of us get anxious.
- Some of us get rigid (ugh, I didn't want to say that --it's too real to me).
On the flip side, what are the acts of acceptance?
- Calm: instead of anxious, guilty or crazy busy.
- Compassion: instead of criticism.
- Service: instead of selfishness.
- Forgiveness: instead of criticism.
- Perseverance: instead of perfection.
- Risk: instead of avoiding.
- Authenticity: instead of fitting in.
- We can rest.
- We can relax.
- We can be enough. Right. Now.
I hope these ideas can help you to assess how accepting you are today and give you the chance to take an honest look. For more on learning how to apply this, look for a follow-up post on my blog. As a relationship therapist, I, of course, hope that you’ll take this one step further and assess how your tendencies impact your closest relationships. By doing so, you can create a kinder space to bond with those you love.
But the bottom line is, regardless of the results of your self-assessment, don’t be too hard on yourself. Do remember, you are where you need to be today, and you are worthy of acceptance.
Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson
LuAnn is a mom by day and therapist by night. She runs a little private practice in Falls Church, VA where she provides counseling and workshops to help people find a little more closeness with the ones they love the most.