People usually come to me when they want to change an aspect of their lives or themselves. And the strategy goes like this: I do this thing, I wish I didn't do it, I'm working really hard to stop doing it by getting frustrated whenever I do. it. Can you help me?
Does this sound familiar? I'm guilty of this too. I think pushing against reality will change it. I have spent years of my life in a state of resistance, thinking I am creating change. I'm actually digging a hole. Here's the thought process:
if I get mad at myself everytime I sleep in, I will wake up earlier tomorrow.
If I dislike my body enough, I will do more weight training.
if I complain about all the plastic in the ocean, I will work to help the environment.
If I compare where my side hustle is now to where I want it to be, I'll will work harder to grow it.
There is fear there: if I like anything the way it is, I will become complacent and will never improve. THIS IS BALONEY. Imma tell you why.
Acceptance allows me to see clearly and move forward. I like to think of it like this: there is a cow in the road. When I resist the cow in the road, I stand next to it and shout at it to get up and move. When I accept the cow and the road, I walk around it.
We have to acknowledge the cow to be able to walk around it!
Here are some real-life examples of acceptance working its magic for me:
In high-pressure moments:
I drive a stick shift. There is a specific intersection where I tend to stall out. When I respond with resistance, I get mad at myself for stalling out and try to force the Jeep to cooperate with me quickly so that no one has to drive around me. It doesn't cooperate and I get frantic. When I respond with acceptance, I take my hand off the stick shift and steering wheel and just sit back for a second and acknowledge that this has happened while cars go around me. Then I try again— and re-enter the stick shift flow.
In the midst of illness:
I acquired a hand condition last year. I couldn't cook or do administrative tasks for my business. Then I went through a couple months of grief and healing. I still have the condition, but I have accepted it. I cook – I just ask my boyfriend to chop the vegetables and open the jars beforehand. I made a list of administrative tasks and hired a virtual assistant to do them for me. It feels miraculous! Resistance kept me frozen in the state of frustration. Acceptance has allowed me to move forward.
In the midst of bad vibes:
Sometimes acceptance is super meta. A woman yelled at me yesterday while I was surfing. It put me in a funk. I wanted to be far away from her on the waves, but somehow we kept ending up next to each other. I tried to accept that she was being unpleasant. It didn't help. Then I realized that my resistance wasn't towards her, it was towards my own feelings of discomfort. I was trying to resist the funk she had put me in. So I accepted it! I accepted that I was going to have a weird surf session. This actually allowed me to enjoy the rest of the evening. I didn't magically recover from my funky mood, but I also wasn't obsessing about it. I moved forward.
In pursuit of social justice:
As a budding feminist, I was all about resistance in college: I judged, labeled, complained, protested. I probably popped blood vessels. I thought it was my duty to resist all evidence of patriarchy. But getting mad every time I saw proof that I lived in a patriarchal culture didn't feel good, it made me tired. And it didn't lead to change! Not to say protesting doesn't help – it does. But getting worked up every time I read a sexist article or overheard a degrading conversation didn't. So I accepted that I live in a patriarchal society. And that opened me up to see what I actually can do (find myself sexy, befriend and support other women, be assertive in the bedroom, learn history) instead of feeling helpless. It helps me see things clearly: I can respond intelligently and thoughtfully because I am acknowledging reality instead of fighting it.
This can happen for you too.
Acceptance is to the mind what yoga is to the body. It will make you more flexible, open, and relaxed. And it doesn't make you weaker! You'll discover a deeper well of strength.
What are you resisting right now?
Can you try something for me?
Take a deep breath. As you breathe in, imagine that acceptance is filling your body.
You are not condoning the situation. You are not embracing the situation. All you are doing is acknowledging that the situation exists exactly as it does.
The moment we resist the situation, we are putting a story on it. It's the difference between, “my wedding cake tastes bad" and “I can't believe my wedding cake tastes so bad."
Resistance makes us get mad at reality. Acceptance allows us to see the humor and opportunity in each moment.
May you see reality as it is today,