Acceptance & Growth
When I started college, I had no idea what I wanted to be or how long I’d be in school for. I followed my passion and it led me into mental health. There were many things about myself that I wanted to change, and that I wanted to understand. In my final two semesters of college, I was waiting tables full time, working at two different intern sites, and taking my last few classes.
In one of my offices there was a quote by Carl Rogers posted that said, “the curious paradox is that when I accept myself, just as I am, then I can change”.
Every day I would read this quote and try and make sense of it. Schooling had taught me to solve things, use the criteria to pick a diagnosis, set realistic goals and accomplish change to help aid clients in distress. I thought about my own life at home, how could I accept the way I had been living? My house was always a mess, I ate junk food more than I’d like, I didn’t walk my dog enough or get myself into the gym. How could I accept this version of myself? I knew I wanted more and wasn’t living up to my own reasonable expectations. I refused to accept this mediocre version of myself, and I pushed to be better. I scolded myself when my goals weren’t met, and I felt defeated each week that I couldn’t accomplish these tasks.
It took me until the end of my internship to truly understand what it meant to accept things as they are. We are so quick to assume that accepting something means to settle and leaving it as is, I know that’s exactly how I took it at the time. I didn’t want to stay this way forever, therefore I could not accept this version of me. I denied my reality at that time. I hid it, downplayed it, and beat myself up because I couldn’t achieve all of my goals alongside the other numerous things I was managing.
My supervisor would ask me each week "how are you juggling so many things?" "Are you doing okay?" "What do you need from me?" I was so deep in the storm I didn’t realize how much I had put on myself. I knew I had to juggle all these things in order to pay bills and graduate, it was what I had to do, so I did it. I slowly began to see how much I was giving to my job, school, my two internships, and whatever tiny amount of time I had left was given to family, friends, or literally just me resting. I slowly began to accept that I don’t always have time to cook, take the dog to the park, go workout, or even do laundry.
There was no reasonable way I could fit everything into 24 hours in a day, with the number of things I was trying to manage.
Unless I wanted to give up sleeping or eating, there just wasn’t enough time to take care of myself and my home life the way I imagined. I was genuinely struggling with chores, and I couldn’t see the reason why because I refused to accept myself as that person. I fought my own acceptance so hard that I couldn’t see I was just overworking myself. By refusing to accept things about me and my life, I was unable to see the bigger picture and to not have judgment on my situation.
By hiding and ignoring my real experience, it didn’t get the light to be understood. Family and friends couldn’t help me because they didn’t know. I pushed and pushed myself to change and could not understand why there wasn’t lasting progress. Once I accepted my home life was going to be on the back burner until I graduated, there was an instant weight of relief. I allowed myself to grab fast food when I didn’t have time. I allowed myself to skip the park and gym and let go of the pressure and criticisms I put on myself. As I allowed myself peace and leaned into my reality just as it was, I began to understand why I couldn’t maintain my previous goals.
So fast forward to now. I bet you’re wondering "okay so now that you’re not overworked and burnt out, are you achieving your goals?" Everything that was on my self or home list, is now out in the open and up for speculation. My fears and things I refused to accept aren’t hidden. I lay them out on the table to see how I can understand them and work through the problem.
When I accepted that I wouldn’t always be able to take my dog on walks in the park, I found a way to meet her needs around my own apartment complex. When I accepted that sometimes I’m too busy and have to pick up fast food, I learned how to meal prep and get groceries I could eat while on the go. When I accepted, I wasn’t doing great at keeping up with laundry and chores, I was able to research how others did it and ask for help when I fell behind. Acceptance allowed room for me to gain insight and understanding about what was happening. It also lessened the negative feelings I had about my situation. Without the emotion clouding my judgment, I understood my reality as was and could then make realistic progress toward solving the problem.
Acceptance allows me happiness where I’m at, even if I have more goals in mind for the future.
Acceptance is about acknowledging the truth, without any judgment. When you accept where you’re at in life and chose to live happily there, you allow room for understanding, growth, and change. You allow happiness even though your goals aren’t met and can fully enjoy the current moment. You can accept how things are and also be working towards a better future. We tend to think it’s one or the other, but the truth is — it’s not. When you love yourself, flaws, unmet expectations, and all, you speak to and treat yourself much differently. Acceptance leads to insight and understanding of your situation and allows you happiness while you’re working through it.
I was terrified that once I graduated and had free time that I still wouldn’t have the strength to achieve my goals. By choosing to accept myself exactly where I am, I can learn what my strengths and weaknesses are and create goals that will work for me. Acceptance allows you the power to be happy where you’re at, even if it’s not where you want to be. You can grow and push yourself to be better, while accepting (and loving) where you are now and how far you’ve come.