Self-acceptance is a gift which is best kept to yourself. It’s the same with accepting your situation, even when that can seem tough to do, initially.
Getting used to changed circumstances and adapting to them is an important life skill. It’s difficult enough to handle, but many people do it well and it is one of the hallmarks of personal resilience.
We each face life’s challenges in our own way and, while most of us are capable of it (by treating the challenge as a learning process, for example), it can seems that those around us would rather we suffer and rail against our fate, even though we’ve come to terms with a difficult situation.
Chronic illness is an example. It can debilitating enough without having to manage the reactions of those around you. I knew one person who, when she received a diagnosis of what later proved to be a terminal illness, simply stopped seeing about half of her friends because of what she called “their attitude about my life.”
In another case, I was speaking to a man in a hospice who said “I was diagnosed (with a terminal illness) months before I eventually told my family because I knew they’d dramatise it. I was struggling to cope with the news myself, I couldn’t have dealt with their emotions as well”.
It doesn’t have to define you
I remembered these examples when I was speaking a friend who has had to deal with the life-changes that living with chronic illness can bring. After a few years’ struggling to accept, he had come to a point where he realised that he was more than his illness and that he would not let it define him. He accepted it as unavoidable and got on with his life.
Although it limits what he can do, it need not hamper his ability to live his life well. Sure, he said “I had to get my head around what my condition means to me. I learned to approach everything by looking at the possibilities for me, rather than the impossibilities as defined by others.”
So he spoke about how, to protect his self-acceptance, he had learned to stay away from other people’s opinions, which he said, were overwhelmingly negative. “If I’d listened to any more of it I’d never have been able to hang onto my optimism, I’d have been swamped by their negativity and pessimism. I had to do a lot of filtering out of what professionals and others told me the limitations would be.”
For example, he told me, when his diagnosis was confirmed he had as yet virtually no noticeable symptoms, but the doctor helpfully handed me a wheelchair brochure!
That was several years ago and the anticipated infirmity still hasn’t shown itself. “If I’ve learned one thing from this, it is that other people act as if it’s not acceptable to accept yourself. My advice? If you are happy with yourself as you are, keep it to yourself and get on with your life”, he said.