Acceptance: The Key to Happiness and Peace

It has been having one of those weeks where I am constantly questioning if I am in the right position, if I should be somewhere else doing something else, constantly telling myself that I am not trying hard enough or that I am not good enough at what I am doing.  I will give you a little context to how I have got to this mental space this week.

I am employed as a mental health therapist in a private practice setting; this means that I am independently contracted through the company and I am basically my own boss.  This is something that I love about my job; I have freedom and flexibility to make my own decisions and handle my own schedule.  However, the downside to this type of position is that it is not a salaried position; I only get paid for my services when I have someone show up.  Being that money is what runs our world and it is how society measures your personal “success” this is usually the aspect of my job that I get tripped up with the most. This week is one of those weeks where clients just aren’t showing up which, in turn, means that I am not making a living, hence the previously explained mental space.

My “success” (aka my paycheck) is dependent on things such as the weather, illnesses that are circulating around, the city bus system functioning properly, and my client’s motivation level to leave the house; all things that I have ZERO control over, things that other people don’t even think about when they are going in to work.  For example, most people don’t like it when it rains on days they have to go to work because it makes the commute less convenient, whereas I dread any sort of unpleasant weather because that makes it much more likely that I will not make any money that day.

I know that I am not the only person out there that works in this type of position and I knew the difficulties going into this position but some days or some weeks it is more difficult to remember why I do what I do.  Some days it is hard not to go on Facebook and compare myself to people that I graduated high school with that are much farther along in their career paths.  Intellectually, I can reason with myself and see that I took a different life path than those individuals; not a better one or a worse one but a different one.  However, I still can’t stop the thoughts going through my head of “you are not good enough” “you should be doing better” or “you picked the wrong career.”

What is Acceptance?

Accept  [ak-sept]

to accommodate or reconcile oneself to:

to regard as true or sound; believe:

Acceptance in the context of mental health and wellness is a rather abstract concept. I talk to my clients on a regular basis about accepting where they are at in life or accepting those things and situations in their lives in which they have no control, but what does that actually look like in practice?  I am quickly learning for myself that there is a big difference between telling yourself that you are accepting a situation and then actually doing it.  Or, it may be easy for you to accept there situation at that a particular moment, but then when things start to change that acceptance goes away and you start to fight against yourself and your situation.
The ladder is the cycle that I am currently stuck in. When things are going well at work and my clients are consistently showing up for their appointments I am content with where I am at in life. I may not be making the most money or I may not be in the exact spot that I thought I would be regarding personal relationships, but I am content and, overall at peace with how I am progressing through life.  Then weeks like this week come along and have a way of planting those seeds of doubt.  The doubt starts with my career but slowly ends up creeping to other life areas, which leads to overwhelming feelings of confusion and being lost.
Acceptance is a tool that can be learned and utilized in times of change or in times of stability.  It is a skill that takes away that sense of worry or active need for social comparison.  It is a skill, like any other type of skill, that requires continuous practice and repetition. Acceptance is refocusing your energy and attention in effective and efficient ways, it is giving up control of aspects of your life in which you do not have control, it is funneling your focus to that in which you can control, and it is being okay with not liking things from your past and not knowing what is going to happen in your future. Acceptance is not fighting against your own thoughts and emotions, it is letting your internal and external experiences be as they are and run their natural course.  Letting go off all of this unnecessary struggle within ourselves leaves more time and energy for us to focus on what we want from life, things that we enjoy, and truly experiencing our present moment.

How Do You Accept?

Acceptance is a choice that we make for ourselves and, as I stated previously, acceptance is something that needs to be practiced consistently.  It is not just something that you can take an hour class on and all of a sudden you will be able to accept everything throughout your life for the rest of your life (but wouldn’t that be nice??). You will never be able to fully accept everything that happens to you quickly and with ease.  You will often become sucked into cycles like the one I am currently in where sometimes it’s easier and sometimes it’s more difficult to practice acceptance, but the key is that you continue to practice it anyways.  Overtime and with a lot of repetition you will be able to recognize when you have been sucked into one of those cycles more quickly and move back to a mind of acceptance with more ease.
The most important aspect of practicing acceptance, in my opinion, is practicing and heightening your own self-awareness; you cannot pull yourself out of a cycle of personal struggle if you are not aware that you are in one.  So start by practicing bringing more awareness to the following:
  • Aspects of daily situations that can and cannot control
  • Your thought content
  • Your emotions and mood throughout the day, week, and month
  • Judgment you place on your thoughts, feelings, or behaviors
  • Your desire or intention to push against any of these areas
  • Active prevention of any of these areas

There are 3 main ways that I have been personally trying to practice increasing my self-awareness, these may not be the most effective strategies for everyone but they are where I have decided to start on my journey.  First, I have been participating in a regular yoga practice which is helping me cultivate more awareness in my physical body.  The mind and the body are tightly connected and impact each other greatly, so having more awareness of the physical body will ultimately assist in your awareness of the mind.

Second, I have been attempting to create a formal meditation routine, so actually taking time out of my day, sitting down in a quiet and relaxing space, and purposefully practicing being aware of my body and mind.  So far, this practice has not been as consistent as my yoga practice; however I am working toward improving that and, in the mean time, it is something that I can go to in times of greater distress. Side note, if you have never given formal meditation a shot and are interested in learning more about it, check out Headspace (either the website or the app).  It has a very beginner friendly 10 day program that educates you on what mindfulness meditation really is intended for.

Third, I use an awareness object; this is a practice in which you choose an item that you use or wear on a daily basis (it could be a wallet, a wedding ring, or I personally use my fitbit) and you begin to associate that item with self-awareness.  This means that every time, throughout your normal daily routine, when you notice your object you take a few seconds to “check-in” with your self.  Pay attention to your current mood, what thoughts are going through your mind, what does your body feel like, and what is going on around you.  This practice gives you more frequent informal opportunities to practice strengthening your awareness.

Once you become more self-aware you will start noticing when you are struggling against inner experiences that are holding you back, that you may want to change but you have no control over, and you will start moving toward making the choice to accept those experiences for what they are and move your energy toward something that will better serve you and your precious time.  The purpose of this post was to inform you a little bit about the idea of acceptance, but to also act as a reminder to myself that I want to make the choice to accept the things that I cannot control within my life and that I already have the tools to work toward this goal.  This post will now serve as my promise to you all and to myself that I am going to make self-acceptance a priority from here on out.  I know it will not always be a smooth and easy journey and I will continue to share my struggles along the way, but what’s important is that I continue to move in the right direction not at the “right” pace.

Leave any questions or comments that you have for me below!

Best Wishes!

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