If there’s one thing I have come to believe, it is that many points of self-discovery often come about through the smallest, most mundane of moments.
Last Monday, my first day of starting a new job, a number of technical difficulties arose. Whether it was my second computer monitor not working, to the sound on my laptop not functioning, nothing was coming together.
When it rains it pours, so the saying goes, right?
But rather than get upset and frustrated, I accepted that this was how the universe was going to treat my first day of training and accepted it for what it was – a lemon of a day.
It wasn’t until hours later when I was in bed with a cup of tea and a book, minding my own business that I realized oh my God, I accepted something just as it was, and it was so easy to do.
I thought of how it had felt to just accept the moment and the situation as it was, meanwhile coming up with a Plan B to make the best use of my remaining time for my shift.
Why was this insignificant task so monumental in the moment? Because accepting things as they are is something I find crazy hard to do.
When experiencing anxiety, psychologists may rely on a common set of skills known as Distress Tolerance Skills (as mine did) to combat or to reduce the level of anxiety we may find ourselves in. These skills are meant to help people deal with overwhelming emotions and/or thoughts, at least for a temporary duration, until the situation, thoughts or emotions are able to change.
There are 2 main types of Distress Tolerance Skills: Crisis Survival Skills and Reality Acceptance Skills.
I think you might be able to see where this is going.
I have straight up told my therapist in the past that accepting reality as it is in a particular moment is incredibly hard for me, like … no bueno, can’t do it. So you can understand my surprise when I managed to enact the Reality Acceptance Skill, without even giving it much thought.
The crippling action of overthinking, will naturally make you think of the thing you don’t want to think about EVEN MORE. It will also make you overthink the way things could have turned out in a particular situation. It creates false scenarios and realities in your head, tossing your conscious and your peace of mind up and around like a game of beach volleyball. If accepting it is what it is is the sandy beach, then my inability to do so is the volleyball soaring high through the air, over the net, never touching the ground.
Despite it being an easier time on our heads to merely accept things as they are, it can be really hard.
As an aside, I honestly kind of hate it when people say it is what it is – like yeah, no shit Sherlock – things are as they are but in this moment, I don’t want them to be the way they are – it blows.
At the same time, this has become my motto as of late and I am starting off a new month trying to adopt this mindset. Perhaps it’s because it’s what I need in my life and it’s something I need to work on, perhaps it’s because I know that by not accepting it is what it is (whatever it is in the moment), I am only causing myself more stress and anxiety.
As I’m finding too, when you start by accepting the small moments that muck you up in life, as they are, it makes it easier over time to start accepting the big, terrifying, upsetting moments, as they are. This is not to say you can’t express sadness, frustration, or angst over what has transpired – but by accepting it is what it is, no matter the situation big or small, you will make it easier for yourself to re-adjust to life after the moment hits you.
Why So Hard To Accept?
I think the majority of humans have hopes for how various situations will turn out throughout their lifetime. Sometimes we make those hopes too high, so that when reality hits us, we’re crushed. We want it altered and we wish to find some way around the way things have turned out.
Many of us also like to feel some level of control over our lives; control over what we know, what is attainable and what is tangible. When we lose that control, it can be hard once again to accept it is what it is. We may have potentially lost our grip, we gained frustration and we experienced emotions. In some cases, we even refuse to accept, or come to terms with the situation or experience for a prolonged or even indefinite period of time. We wanted it to happen that badly, that the reality of it not happening, can be too much to bear for some people.
While I have never experienced this level of inability to accept it is what it is, I feel for people who do experience it.
However, I think the one point that ties together both theories above and is possibly the most important point of all three, is the feeling of helplessness to an extent that comes with accepting things as they are in some instances. When you’re someone who is a fixer of situations, experiences, even people in some circumstances, you like to fix problems, provide solutions and work to overcome conflict relatively quickly. However, for a fixer, accepting it is what it is is a difficult pill to swallow.
What do you mean I have to accept it is what it is? If only I could do this to fix it, or make this aspect right. If only I was able to do this instead of this, that would be the correct way. Then what I wanted to happen, might actually happen.
In reality, it’s possible there’s nothing you could have done to change the situation – it would have turned out the way it did, whether you fixed things or not. For someone who’s a fixer (like me) it’s especially important, prior to sending myself into a spiral of “fix-it mode”, to question whether the situation even needed fixing.
It’s also a good self-soothing reminder that you may not have been solely responsible for how things turned out. If it’s a situation where there’s other people involved, some onus or responsibility may be on them for the way things turned out, too.
Get Out Of Your Own Way
There’s another line people say that I kind of hate and kind of love that I’m going to say now, that I feel has relevance to this conversation, as well.
“Recognize that life happens for us, not to us” – or something like that. I’ve heard Tony Robbins say it, I’ve read it on Instagram, there are a few variations of it but you get the jist.
If you’ve lost control of a situation, or it didn’t turn out how you thought it would or how you wanted it to, we often resort to a sort of why did this happen to me? mentality. I feel like self-pity when it comes to our circumstances is a pretty common occurrence and further exacerbates the feelings of helplessness mentioned before – but maybe it didn’t happen to you, maybe it happened for you.
The quicker you can accept it is what it is with whatever you had hoped or wanted to happen, the quicker life will actually bring you what NEEDS to happen. Better yet, life may bring whatever it is you need when you least expect it. It’s when you need whatever it was you were hoping or wanting to come to fruition in the first place the LEAST, which is when life delivers what you NEED the most.
That being said, life will not deliver what you NEED until you are fully ready to accept it and that is why it’s important to accept it is what it is.
Holding onto something because you had hoped or wanted it to happen (an event, a person, a job, a trip, an experience – literally anything) will only leave you stuck in the past and unable to align yourself to receive whatever it is life feels that it needs to give to you – that which is often even more in tune than what you had originally hoped for or wanted.
But first, you need to get out of your own way.
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