Acceptance is key because you cannot change your own nature or the nature of others. Acceptance allows you to be present and see things as they are, and surrender to the flow of events in your life rather than fight against it.

Acceptance is also liberating. There is a deep, subconscious need for control in all of us and this tends to work against us, not just because it requires a lot of effort, but also because we often try to influence things that we have virtually no control over.

The need for control

All human beings, and by extension all living beings, must control their reality and circumstances to a certain extent.

In some individuals, this translates to extreme perfectionism and the need to “control everything”, which inevitably causes sub-optimal mental health.

We all know life is about balance, and we can all agree on the fact that controlling our own reality should never turn into an extreme, unhealthy behavior.

And thankfully, true control freaks are rare. The issue is that, again, the tendency to influence and control our environment is innate and exists in all of us. 

Which means that we are all at risk of developing some unhealthy patterns or behaviors in terms of having a controlling attitude.

Control vs acceptance

The opposite of control is acceptance, or letting go. But the rational mind doesn’t really like to let go, simply because it thinks acceptance is too risky and would lead to vulnerability.

The solution to this is a healthy balance and no, it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes courage and most importantly awareness of one’s thoughts.

To accept things as they are (and yourself as you are) means to surrender, to end the battle. Which is the easiest thing in the world, but only in theory.

There will always be a side of you that fights against things, that wants to change or control the world, that has certain expectations and consequently disappointments.

It’s not about suppressing this side (we need it for survival, after all) but rather not allowing it to suppress your other side. The goal should always be a healthy balance.

Why acceptance is key

1. Self-acceptance

First of all, you must be aware of your own uniqueness; you must know that you are special, and that your purpose here on this planet is special as well.

When we talk about acceptance and letting go, we often think of the external world — our environment. But what about who we are? It’s equally important, if not more important.

All personal development practices should be aimed at improving and growing who you really are rather than changing who you are.

In other words, growth should always follow your nature and never go against it. So the very first step is to accept who you are, and know that you are “perfectly imperfect”.

2. Welcoming the new

How can you embrace a better future if you constantly cling to the past — what has happened already, the person that you used to be, old habits, old friends?

The second reason acceptance is key is that life flows. Everything that ever was, is, and ever will be can be imagined as an infinite flow of events, and you are an invisible dot in it.

Perhaps the greatest time of your life awaits you somewhere in this imaginary stream we call time, but you are so obsessed with controlling it that you resist change.

Life is constant change. To accept life means to accept change. I know — it’s not easy. But how can you know what awaits you? Surrender, and trust life.

3. You can’t change people

Sorry to break it to you. There are roughly eight billion people on Earth and you are absolutely powerless in terms of changing their thoughts and behavior.

And even if you look at your immediate circle, things aren’t much different. You can talk to those around you; you can try to guide or influence them. But you cannot change their inherent nature, their essence.

Whether this sounds daunting or liberating, I don’t know. But it’s the truth. You can’t change people and this means you have to either accept them or ignore them.

And even when your goal is to help others, your actions will be effective to the degree others are willing to get help and improve their situation.

4. You can’t change the world

This is another concept/idea that is likely to trigger negative feelings. “What do you mean, we can’t change the world?” Anything that suggests we are powerless tends to trigger such a reaction.

Here’s the thing: it is true that some people have literally changed the world. Think of teachers, inventors, philosophers, artists, etc.

But almost 100 percent of what you see around you depends on powers and forces that are infinitely bigger than you (I am referring to both natural forces and artificial structures).

So again, acceptance is key. It is only after you have seen and accepted the world as it is that you have the power to influence your own world and perhaps eventually the world of others as well.

5. The art of being present

The fifth reason acceptance is key is that most forms of non-acceptance will inevitably lead to a distorted view of reality.

You can only be fully focused on what you see, and see it clearly, when you are present. Presence is achieved when judgment is suspended, when you are empty and still — free of desire, including desire for control.

For example, if you simply accept a negative past event, that gives you the power to see it as it is, to understand why it happened and how, and in turn heal from it.

By contrast, the more you refuse to accept the past, the more you will have negative thoughts toward it and “distort” what actually happened, and this will work against you as you’ll tend to exaggerate the truth.

Tips to practice acceptance and self-acceptance

  • Be kind to yourself. Your inner voice should be a caring friend, not a bully. To accept yourself and your nature means to love yourself and your essence.
  • Detach and be present. Learn to consciously detach from what people say, what happens to you and around you. Observe, and know you don’t have to react.
  • See the good in everything. Not in the sense that everything is good (this isn’t an ideal world), but in the sense that things that are not good may still have a purpose.
  • Forgive and forget. Don’t hold grudges, and don’t beat yourself up no matter what you have or have not done. To accept means to forgive. Can’t forgive? Forget instead.
  • Trust the universe. Remember the example of the infinite flow of time, and you as a dot stuck in it? It doesn’t have to be intimidating, or depressing, as long as you trust life.