Let's start this discussion with a small exercise. You have a minute in your hand and in this one minute you have to write things about yourself that you do not accept in yourself. Those can be attitudes, looks, education, work etc. Now you have another minute to write things about yourself that you accept in yourself. Again, those can be attitudes, looks, education etc. Now please count the number of things in each of the lists. Surprised? If I'm guessing right, the number in the "not accepted" list is higher than the "accepted" list.
For us to fulfill our potential, it is important that we value who we are and do not judge ourselves on the parameters that other people set for us.
Acceptance is an abstract term but very important to maintain an equilibrium between demands—internal or external—and the recourses available to meet these demands. Acceptance is a process of being rather than a goal in itself. We, since childhood, are often told about what is accepted and what is not accepted. We call them rules or boundaries. Such rules or boundaries are indeed required for us to learn socially adaptive behaviour, but disequilibrium arises when these boundaries are very rigid, not amenable to change and very dichotomous. These rigid boundaries bring about "should" and "musts" and violations of such "musts" bring about extreme negative emotions such as sadness, anxiety, rage, guilt etc. No human can be totally free of negative emotions but acceptance is when the individual is able to move from rage to anger, from guilt to regret and so on. For us to grow and fulfill our potential, it is important that we value who we are and do not judge ourselves on the parameters that other people set for us.
Acceptance is an attitude to receive or to take willingly what is given or what is present. Technically speaking, attitudes are relatively enduring organisations of beliefs, feelings, and behavioural tendencies towards socially significant objects, groups, events or symbols. So they have an affective component, cognitive component and behavioural component to them
- The affective component involves a person's feelings/emotions about the attitude object. For example: "I am scared of spiders".
- The behavioralcomponent is the way it influences how we act or behave. For example: "I will avoid spiders and scream if I see one."
- The cognitive component involves a person's belief/knowledge about an object. For example: "I believe spiders are dangerous."
The journey of acceptance includes translating maladaptive emotions, behaviours and thoughts into more adaptive ones...
As acceptance is an attitude, it also involves these components. When I say I do not accept myself, I feel uncomfortable or sad or anxious about the way of my being, I act in a way that conforms excessively to external force to forget "my" way of translating emotions into behaviour, and I think it's not ok to be what I actually am. The journey of acceptance includes translating maladaptive emotions, behaviours and thoughts into more adaptive ones and once this translation is achieved one is able to live up to one's fullest potential and grow as a human being.
How to initiate the journey
- Find out what you really like doing, and do more of it. This could be cooking, swimming, learning an instrument, learning a language etc.
- Remind yourself of the skills you are good at; respect, appreciate and love your strengths.
- Be in touch with your shortcomings. It's ok not to be good at something. Also, try to be comfortable with the idea that you can have shortcomings.
- Try not to punish yourself for not being someone you really admire. Remember, the less the gap between your actual self and your ideal self, the more healthily you live.
- Feel free to talk to a clinical psychologist or a mental health professional if you observe yourself dwelling more often on negative emotions.