Hard Work of Acceptance

Don’t we all want to be accepted and understood for who we are? And to feel safe enough to share what we think and feel without fear of judgement? I think we are all striving for this acceptance and safety in our work and our lives.

What we may not realize is that it’s hard to make progress in these areas if we don’t figure out how to accept ourselves. There are many ways that we judge ourselves. We may find it difficult to accept what we consider to be our negative qualities. We haven’t made peace with our impatience, lack of ambition, workaholic tendencies–even our judgmental nature! We may also be unable to acknowledge or accept those sterling qualities that others seem to consider as positive, such as our kindness, generosity, strong work ethic, or creativity. We hear the compliments but we can’t really absorb them.

There are plenty of cultural and personal reasons for the difficulty we have in accepting our qualities. Yet when we don’t acknowledge our strengths, and won’t love our imperfections and difficult edges, we inevitably have a hard time accepting others as fully-rounded humans with light and dark sides, smooth and rough edges. We also might hold ourselves back from asking for help, offering help, or otherwise speaking up due to our fear that we won’t be accepted or wanted.

Some of the reasons we deep down may not find it easy to accept another person might be:

  • I don’t feel like I belong so you can’t either
  • I can’t imagine myself as a CEO, so I don’t like it when you can imagine that in yourself
  • I am afraid if I accept you, I will have to give up my own values or beliefs

If we pay attention to how we judge others, it can also hold up a mirror to our selves, showing us our own stories and projections. What bothers you the most? Whose behavior really gets to you? Sometimes those behaviors and habits that we can least accept in others are the ones we are most critical of in ourselves, or that someone shamed us for in the past. 

Here are some questions you can ask yourself when you’re finding it most difficult to accept someone:

  • How do your core values impact whether you accept or don’t accept the person or situation? Is it possible that what you accept or don’t accept is connected to your core values?
  • Ask yourself: Did someone teach me this value? Or did someone shame me around it, creating a value I need to reconsider? 
  • Do I recognize that this is my point of view and my reality, and that others can have a different point of view and different reality?

When we become gentler with ourselves, we are more fully prepared to contribute to building a culture of belonging and acceptance for the people around us. 

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