“Acceptance is not submission; it is acknowledgment of the facts of a situation, then deciding what you’re going to do about it.” ~Kathleen Casey Thiesen
I think many of us get caught in a vicious cycle of thinking that leads us to believe we can only be happy if we gain acceptance from others. We think to ourselves, “The only way I can ever love myself is if others do.”
This leads us down a path of self-deprecation and hopelessness. We end up making decisions purely for the sake of gaining approval and acceptance, when really we should make decisions that reflect our authentic self and life goals and aspirations.
This was me just one short year ago. I was in school full time and I was working so hard that I was pushing myself to the brink of destruction.
I’m a cancer survivor, and since I got sick at fourteen, my health has never quite been the same.
I pushed and pushed through school because it made others happy. I ignored the important task of taking care of my mind, body, and spirit because I felt that there was no time in my life for any of these things.
Acceptance and love from others was paramount in my mind, and love and acceptance from myself took a back seat. However, this sort of thinking is a slippery slope. Eventually, I got the wake up call I needed.
When I was seventeen I developed a chronic and relentless case of insomnia and was prescribed Xanax. I was severely physically dependent on this medication until I was twenty-one. It distorted the way I perceived the world in ways I am only just now beginning to understand.
When I turned twenty-one in September, I finally could see the forest for the trees and saw that my life was falling apart.
I sought treatment for my substance abuse issues and suddenly I began to experience moments of clarity that helped me understand what I had been doing wrong for so many years.
Ever since my cancer treatments I have been chronically ill. It has made walking a traditional path in life very difficult. But I never really wanted to walk a traditional path; I only did so because I was caught in the trap of seeking approval from others.
I spent many years having a pity party for myself and wondering why I was such a good person who had to endure such a bad thing. I spent thousands of dollars on medical treatments hoping that I could one day be the person I was before I got sick.
This led to a deep depression when I was at the crux of much of my substance abuse issues. It wasn’t until I went to treatment that I realized that accepting my situation didn’t mean I was giving up; it meant I was granting myself the right to have some peace in my life.
I finally surrendered to the fact that there were aspects of my life I just couldn’t change, and trying would only further the insanity. I finally realized it was time to move on.
So, once again, I need to stress that accepting your situation does not have to mean you become complacent. In fact, for me, it was quite the opposite.
For the first time I met myself where I was and loved and nurtured myself in a way I never had known how to before.
Stemming from this self-love and acceptance something magical happened. For the first time I stopped looking at myself as a broken, sick person with no future, and I saw positivity, power, and abundance in my life.
I started focusing on what I would like to cultivate in my life and what sort of path I could walk given my circumstances. I started making lists of things that I had wanted to do but had put off because I believed I would never be well enough.
As my confidence grew, I started to envision a positive and wonderful future for myself. I had always wanted to move to Berkeley ever since I was sixteen, and so I set out to do that. I had always wanted to sell on eBay but was too fearful of failure to try it.
For the first time I decided to take a risk and so I started to do that too. I had wanted to take a break from school and so I granted myself permission to do that as well. The end result? I now have a successful eBay store and just moved into a cute little apartment in Berkeley.
I took some time off from school to gain clarity and will be returning next semester. However, I will only go at the pace that is reasonable for me, and I will no longer compare my path to the path of others or do things a certain way purely for approval and acceptance.
I will do what I can while still leaving plenty of time to care for myself in this deep and powerful way that has led me to my current situation. These are the kinds of changes that you can make in just a few short months, and all you need is a little self-love and self-acceptance.
So what have I learned this year that perhaps can be helpful to you? First and foremost, I have learned that we should never compare our path to the path of others. Our focus should be on walking the path that is the most reasonable for us while still having time to genuinely love and take care of ourselves.
Further, I learned that sometimes the biggest risks in life reap the greatest rewards.
Lastly, I have learned that cultivating a deep sense of happiness and well-being from within will ultimately provide us with the strength to manifest what we want in our lives.
When you focus on the internal, rather than trying to directly influence the external aspects of your life, inevitably the external aspects of your life also change for the better. It all starts with you.
Girl with dandelions image via Shutterstock