What is meant by acceptance? How can accepting be powerful? Read on to find out how acceptance ≠ giving up. This article is a guest feature from Hope Hughes, Holistic Coach, Reiki Practitioner, and Crystal Intuitive.

Hope Hughes, Holistic Life Coach, Reiki Practitioner, and two-time cancer survivor

Hope Hughes is a certified holistic life coach, an intuitive energy guide and a two time cancer survivor. She specializes in helping women harness the power of their thoughts, beliefs and emotions to create and transform their lives.

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I always thought that if I didn’t like something, I should fix it, change it or fight against it. I believed that if things didn’t go the way I wanted them to, I had the right to be upset. I also believed that accepting what I didn’t like, meant giving up. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

An Example of the Power of Acceptance

I found a new definition for acceptance and it began with my cancer diagnosis a few years ago. This is a rather extreme example, and as you can imagine, I wasn’t very happy about it. As I navigated my way through the diagnosis and treatment that followed, I began to notice that when I thought about how much I didn’t like it, I felt horrible. I felt helpless. I felt like a victim. And I felt angry. But when I did things that took my mind off of it, I didn’t feel any of those things. In fact, I realized, I only felt bad in the moments I spent thinking about it.

That simple realization changed the way I looked at my diagnosis and after some time,  I began to apply it to other areas of my life as well. Mostly just little annoyances at first, like the painfully slow check out clerk or long lines of traffic. Instead of thinking “why is she so slow? Is she new? Why is it taking so long…” I would scan the area for other options. Is there another line that is shorter? Should I leave and come back later? Invariably my best bet was just to stay put and wait. So, if I’m going to wait, I might as well just relax and find a way to enjoy it.

That’s it.

It might not seem like a big deal, but it was powerful. And let me tell you why.

The Difference between Accepting and Giving Up

Many people confuse accepting with giving up or giving in, but these two concepts are quite different. Giving up is what we do when we’ve lost hope, when we’ve identified the “other side” as something undesirable and have resigned to give in to it. This strips us of our choices, and often leaves us feeling defeated.

Acceptance, on the other hand, is a place we choose to be. It is where we are when we decide to allow a situation to simply be, without resisting it. We call this non-resistance. Non-resistance is an important distinguishing characteristic of acceptance and this is where the secret lies. 

When we resist something, we create polarity. When we decide that something is wrong, or bad, we create the energy of resistance within our bodies. 

the difference between giving up and acceptance

If you take the time to observe how it feels, you may notice a shortness of breath, a knot in your stomach, a tightness in your chest, you may feel anxious or nauseous. You might even feel the need to expend energy by running or punching or expressing your feelings with harsh words. 

However, when we are in a state of non-resistance, our energy shifts to one of relaxation, breathing becomes easier and we feel less anxious. In this state there is no polarity, a situation just is.

It’s not always easy at first, but with practice you’ll begin to notice the signs of resistance within your mind and body and little by little you can start to shift your focus. Here are three steps you can take right now to begin to incorporate acceptance.

Step 1 – Observe

Set the intention that you will notice when you are in a state of resisting. It might be when you hear something you don’t like or disagree with. It can be a change you didn’t expect, or a decision you don’t agree with. It can be big, or small. 

Simply acknowledge that you are resisting it. Notice how or where you feel it in your body. Notice your breath. 

Sit with that feeling for as long as practical. Allow the emotions that come up to be felt. Allow your inner dialog to speak. Observe these things and try not to judge or criticize yourself for them. Allow them to arise and to flow through you as if your thoughts were a breeze that comes and goes. Accept how you are feeling. 

Step 2 – Weigh your options

Your next step is to weigh your options. Is there an action you can take that will benefit you? Start by writing down everything that comes to mind. No matter how ridiculous it seems, write it down. Make sure to include everything that comes to mind.

Next, ask yourself these questions for each action you wrote down:

Will this action ultimately further my goal?

Will this action benefit myself and any others involved?

Is this action in line with the person I want to become?

If there are no appropriate or useful actions to take, simply proceed to the next step. 

However, If you discover an action that you can take, then you may choose to take that action. You may find the action involves speaking openly and honestly with another individual, or doing something that seems a little scary. Remember, only you can decide if an action is right for you. 

Once you have taken any action you deem appropriate, then run through this step again until there are no more actions that can be taken. 

Now you’re ready for step 3. 

Step 3 – Accept and Lean In

Begin to breathe deeply and slowly. With each exhale, feel your body relax. Feel your shoulders drop, your stomach soften, your jaw relax, etc. As you do this, say to yourself, “I choose to take no further action in this situation at this time. I accept this situation for what it is, as it is. May I learn and grow from this experience”. Feel free to add other positive statements that may be appropriate. Such as, “I trust that the higher powers (insert Universe, God, Allah, etc.) are acting in my best interest at all times” or “Please help me to accept the things I cannot change.” 

Continue this until you feel relaxed and relieved of the urge to fix or change the situation. You may notice that the feelings creep back in or resurface at a later time. This is normal and to be expected. When they do, simply repeat the steps that are appropriate and if you need to go back to step one and start over then do that as many times as you need to.

the three steps to calm through acceptance

Practice Makes Progress

Acceptance doesn’t mean we approve or condone something. It simply means that we allow it to be what it is. 

In time you will notice the steps become easier and the time it takes to move through the process becomes shorter. Take every opportunity to practice these steps, starting with little things that bother you. As you become proficient with the process you’ll have the courage to try it on bigger things with stronger emotions tied to them.  

Remember to go easy on yourself as you begin these changes. You are breaking    behavioral patterns that have been in place for years and are often reinforced by friends and family members. 

When you begin to apply these three basic steps to all areas of your life where you feel frustration and resistance, your stress levels will decrease. Your focus will shift to things you can control and you will become more deliberate and powerful in everything you do. 

This article is an extension of a chapter
in one of our Radiant Reads anthologies.
You can read more about Hope’s story in the
Be Radiant volume, chapter 7.

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