Is Acceptance the Same as Giving Up?

People will often advise you that you need to accept certain things. This is very true but can feel unhelpful. Acceptance isn’t something that comes naturally to many. In competitive societies, we are instilled with ideas about ‘mastering your own destiny’ and ‘getting what you want out of life’ or if you do certain things you will reap the rewards. Don’t get me wrong, it is possible for you to achieve your wildest dreams but it needs to come with the understanding that our lives will have elements of chaos in them.

While I love how fluid and beautiful language is, ever since I have become more aware of how to express emotions, I have realised its imitations. Words just don’t do some states of mind or feelings any justice. Also, I have realised how words carry different meanings for people. For many, I feel acceptance gets put into the same category as giving up or resignation. Putting acceptance’s meaning in with these terms gives it a context of failure and disempowers you.

I have spent many sleepless nights mulling over decisions and what if scenarios. Revisiting past events to figure out what I should have said or done. Once I have figured out what could have been done, that still didn’t release me from the outcome and I would still pour emotional energy into trying to change that event in my mind. One of the biggest things I have had to accept is an auto immune disease that caused me a lot of pain. I spent years feeling I did not deserve this, angry at why my body had let me down, wondering why it had to happen to me.

After many years of research and self-awareness I managed to see how these attitudes were further affecting my nervous system and my ability to heal. Being angry and frustrated at my state was reinforcing that there was something wrong to my nervous system. Having these attitudes wasn’t allowing me to learn about my body and mind. When the nervous system senses something is wrong it becomes more stressed and more vigilant.

With these realisations, I knew I needed to draw a line in the sand. This is my body, this is where I am at, I can either be kind and compassionate to it or angry and disappointed. I needed to allow myself to start feeling what my body was trying to tell me and actually listening, no longer ignoring it.

Drawing that line in the sand released me from the bitterness and disappointment. It meant I could focus on working with my body, listening to what it was trying to tell me with genuine curiosity and appreciating the power of the nervous system. Through my new understanding I developed compassion for my body and the compassion allowed me to not just accept myself but to be in awe of myself.

Drawing that line in the sand was my moment of acceptance, it was not giving up or resignation. It was acknowledging a situation in that moment and then working with the situation rather than against it.

Acceptance is the step before action. Acceptance is leaning into what has happened, developing awareness of your thoughts and feelings and understanding why they are there but not trying to force them to change. Allowing yourself to feel in order to bring you to a point of understanding, that trying to change the incident through conscious thought or indulging in thoughts of self pity is holding you back from moving forward.

Acceptance is the key to mental freedom because you can start putting your energy into the present and deciding on a way forward, rather than wasting it on the past.

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