Acceptance and its questionable reputation

At first glance acceptance doesn’t have a great reputation does it? What often springs to mind is defeat. It feels somehow passive, perhaps resigned to settling for less that we had hoped for. It may feel unpalatable and against our every instinct. It feels like giving up.

But it’s not.

Acceptance takes a huge effort. It’s hard work to accept something as it is, especially when it’s not what we’d hoped for or have been working towards.

Definitions of acceptance

So what’s the definition of acceptance?

“It is a person’s assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a process or condition (often a negative or uncomfortable situation) without attempting to change it or protest it.” [1]

Jon Kabat- Zinn describes acceptance as taking

“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.” [2]

So why is acceptance good for us?

Acceptance helps us to move forward. Acceptance is power.

Deepak Chopra in ‘The 7 laws of spiritual success’ says

“we might want things to be different in the future but in the present moment we need to accept them as they are…”

Whether it’s the global pandemic, questionable politics, a potential redundancy, a company reorganisation, relationship difficulties or financial worries, the outcome is the same. When we refuse to accept reality we create a suffering for ourselves on top of the pain that’s already there. It confuses us further. It’s difficult letting go, but acceptance is often the best and most logical thing to do. The world ‘is as it is’ and it’s up to us to embrace that new reality.

Denying what’s happening will simply keep us stuck and won’t change our circumstances one jot. It can take a while to get used to it, arguably a lifetime, but ask yourself; What’s possible when you let go of your ideas about what should be and embrace what is instead? What would life look like? How would it feel?

It’s important to note that you can still be an activist and work to change the world and your environment whilst practicing acceptance. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

There’s no doubt that Acceptance requires us to develop some humility, whether our concern is global politics, our work, family or friends. With acceptance, we know that we are not in charge of everything. (… much harder if you’re used to being in a position of power or are a ‘control enthusiast’ 🙂

4 great reasons to practice acceptance

  1. Acceptance supports our mental health, builds our resilience and helps us to manage our emotions more effectively.

Denial is an unhealthy place to be for any period of time. It can be physically and emotionally draining. It takes significant energy to deny and avoid. When we stop denying we have more energy and a clearer view of reality.

  1. Acceptance can lead to happier relationships.

Acceptance allows us to communicate our own needs, while at the same time accepting someone else’s. Acceptance of the style, approach and quirks of another, along with a healthy dose of mutual respect will undoubtedly be useful.

  1. Acceptance means that old feelings are unlikely to re-emerge later on.

 We can often spend inordinate amounts of time ‘mulling over’ why things are the way they are. The first step to moving forward is acceptance of the reality of the situation. If you have resolved the concern and accepted it, it’s unlikely that you will spend time ruminating or rehashing those decisions. Acknowledging our emotions, without being overwhelmed by them or denying them, is important. Self-Compassion is key. If you haven’t seen Kristen Neff’s talk on self-compassion you can find it here [3]

  1. Acceptance is good for our health.

Whether it’s in your history, the present moment or the future when we accept we are more able to let go of anger and suffering. The benefits of forgiveness are significant; Less anxiety and stress, lower blood pressure, a stronger immune system. improved heart health and improved self-esteem. What’s not to love about that Iist?

Acceptance is the key to taking power back for ourselves. Acceptance is an absolute strength.

Next steps towards acceptance

Change what you can and accept what you can’t. Some stress sources are completely unavoidable but that doesn’t make it easy to accept them. You as an individual can’t prevent things like a global pandemic, company restructure or family crisis, but what you can do is look for opportunities in your new reality and treat yourself with kindness through the process.

 “Learning to accept ourselves, warts and all, and being kinder to ourselves when things go wrong, increases our enjoyment of life, our resilience and our well-being. It also helps us accept others as they are.” [4]


[1] Wikipedia

[2] Jon Kabat-Zinn’s in Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness: 

[3] Kristen Neff Self Compassion on TED

[4] Action for happiness

Read more about Janette Kirk-Willis and read her other articles HERE


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