The concept of acceptance can be a tricky thing. It isn’t about “sucking it up”, as it is often interpreted to mean. It’s about learning to “sit with”. When you think of acceptance being about having to endure, it immediately creates blocks. When you think about it as something you can sit with, you create clearance in front of you, giving you the opportunity to see what is ahead and what direction you may be able to take.
When I think about acceptance I think about the phrases “yes, but” and “yes, and”. Which one seems like it gives you a space to engage creatively and which one seems like it immediately throws up a barrier?
When I was applying for my mental health accreditation, I spent almost a year strongly attached to the “yes, but” and struggling every step of the way.
Yes, but I am a social worker, why do I have to respond to all this stuff?
Yes, but it’s so confusing.
Yes, but I don’t work within a medical model, why do I have to write like I do?
Yes, but it’s so expensive, why does it cost so much?
And on and on it went. I finally submitted my application and then I got asked to provide more information. My immediate response was…
Yes, but why do I have to do that? I had already spent so long on it.
Then I spoke to someone who helped me to change the yes but to a yes and. She responded to my annoyance (and let’s face it, raging imposter syndrome) by asking me if I really wanted to gain my accreditation. I responded with an enthusiastic yes. So then, she asked me what would I have to do to make that happen.
That’s when I changed from yes, but to yes, and. I said “yes and I am asking for your help to see where I can amend my application to meet the requirements”. I was an accredited mental health social worker within 4 weeks of that conversation.
In that moment I accepted that I would need to do more work to get where I wanted to go. I didn’t want to. I was so fed up with the whole process. But the process was just a stepping stone and I could throw up objections and complain and say “yes but it’s not fair” and all that was doing was putting barriers in my way. Instead, with guidance, I decided to sit with the understanding that in order to reach my goal, I would need to change some of the things I had done so far, and do a bit more work. I no longer had barriers, I had opportunities.
When we think of acceptance as something we need to be dragged to, we continue to say “yes, but”. When we think of it as something we can sit with, we start to see the power of acceptance, and then we can say “yes, and”.