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Life is full of situations that shouldn’t be the way they are! Sometimes you can fix these situations, but sometimes you can’t. Accepting things as they are is a powerful way to cope with situations that you don’t want or that shouldn’t happen.
Many things in life are beyond your control. Examples are everywhere: traffic, the weather, a burst bathroom pipe, difficult family members, or the death of a loved one — all things you don’t want or need, but things you cannot always prevent. Not having control over things can make you feel sad, angry, frustrated, or anxious.
Sometimes people try to gain a sense of control by trying to make changes, even if they’re unlikely to help. Other times people try to regain the feeling of control by ignoring what’s happening. The sad truth is that trying to change something you cannot (or denying it) only leads to more pain and suffering.
So, what’s a healthy way to deal with things beyond your control?
Accepting Things As They Are
When you’re going through a tough time and everything seems out of your control, you might feel like screaming in your car, or be wondering what you did to deserve this, or thinking that it will never get better… any of these sound familiar?
It turns out, though, that a more helpful way to cope with things that are out of our control is to practise acceptance. Instead of seeing ourselves as victims or our situation as negative, acceptance makes us feel empowered about the things we can do.
To accept things as they are means to let go of your expectations of how things should be. Instead, allow things to be what they are. It means to say to yourself, “It is what it is, and there is nothing I can do to change the current situation.” This is a contrast to asking the universe “why is this happening to me?”
Why Is Acceptance So Important?
Accepting something that’s shitty doesn’t mean you’re giving it a big thumbs-up. You accept your friends for who they are. You know you’re not responsible for their actions, and you def can’t control them, so when they do things you don’t agree with, you mostly just get over it.
It’s the same when you’re going through a hard time in life. Things can happen that are totally out of your control – whether it’s a relationship break-up, the drought or the death of someone you’re close to.
It’s normal to feel sad, angry and srsly pissed off. The thing is, if you refuse to accept these things and stay angry, it can just lead to more hurt and upset. If you can manage to accept that this is what’s happening right now, your mind can focus on what you can do to make things better.
One thing’s for sure, acceptance ain’t easy. Think about something you’ve been struggling with, and give these three tips a go to see if you can come to accept it.
There are three main reasons why it is good to accept things as they are.
First, trying to change reality is a battle you’re guaranteed to lose. It leads to feelings of bitterness, anger, and sadness.
Second, acceptance allows you to recognize and face the actual problem. This can allow for problem-solving. For example, if you’re unhappy in your career, it’s impossible to make any changes before you face the reality of your current situation. Denying reality prevents you from problem-solving and may lead to more serious consequences — in this example, further years of career dissatisfaction.
Third, accepting things as they are leading us toward a sense of peace and calm. It is normal to feel angry, sad, or disappointed when you first acknowledge that you have no control over a difficult situation. However, acceptance will help you eventually feel lighter — as if a burden has been removed.
How to Accept Things As They Are
Notice when you are trying to change or deny things that can’t be changed. For some people, warning signs include thoughts like This is unfair, It shouldn’t be this way! or Why me? For others, warning signs tend to be emotions like anger or frustration.
Remind yourself that “it is what it is” and there is nothing you can do to change it right now. You may need to do these multiple times a day/hour/minute depending on the situation.
Allow yourself to feel sad and disappointed; these feelings are healthy! At the same time, trust that acceptance will eventually bring you peace and calm.
Seek out social support. Engage in self-care activities to help you cope with difficult feelings and improve your mood.
Remember: accepting things as they do not mean that you have to enjoy what’s happening. It also does not mean that you are giving up. It simply means that you acknowledge that you don’t have control over the situation, and it is what it is.
This is not always going to be easy. Accepting things as they are can be really difficult. It might hurt or be uncomfortable at first. But the longer-term benefits are waiting for you if you can find the courage to do it.
If you feel like you don’t know where to start, here’s how I like to break down the process of accepting things as they are:
- Let go of your judgements about yourself and the situation.
Take an honest look at the situation without trying to re-interpret or reframe it. Avoid thinking about what is right or wrong. Acknowledge what is happening and how you are feeling about it. See your part in it and what you are responsible for (this could range from nothing to everything). Be really honest with yourself (no one else is listening).
- Identify how you would like the situation to be different.
Acknowledge what you can and can’t control in the situation. Commit to letting go of the things you can’t control. (Say it out loud if you dare! – it can make it seem more real). Identify the things you are grateful for and what this is teaching you.
- Identify the actions you can take to move forward and do them.
These are the things you can control, or at least influence.
With practice, these 3 steps become easier and more automatic. For simpler issues, you’ll find you can mentally step through them very quickly. For more challenging situations, you might like to journal about them or even talk through them with someone you trust.
It’s worth the effort, I can assure you. If you’d like to experience greater peace, get unstuck and move forward despite your challenges, then this could really help!