I believe in living authentically, which means being true to yourself - your identity, beliefs, values, purpose, and all the other things that guide our being. It is something I value and practice most of the time. However, this is much easier with groups of my choosing (like friends) than groups that aren't (like family). In the past, many of my attempts to live authentically often led me to reject those not like me, especially in my personal life. Sometimes, it looked like distancing myself from people. At other times, it took the shape of challenging and confronting others. As a result, some of my relationships lacked harmony and triggered many unhelpful emotions in me. Over time, I have understood myself better. This self-knowledge has helped me understand some of the reasons behind others' words and actions. I have become more mindful of the impact my choices have on others. I have internalized that I can be true to myself while accepting others.
I wanted to share one recent experiment, which helped me see the power of acceptance in action. To set some context for you, my journey of discovering and embracing myself started with rebellion in my teenage. My grandfather being my guardian, then bore the brunt of my outbursts. Given his age, he was set in his ways. Being a teenager searching for autonomy, I was clear I would live on my terms, even if I didn't always know them. Consequently, neither of us listened, and neither of us changed. We both left feeling hurt and more distanced. Despite our mutual care for one another, the relationship was not harmonious. My action of rejecting my granddad triggered a reaction from him. We were both holding this vicious circle in place. This friction sustained itself for years despite us living in different houses and our meetings becoming less frequent. In 2021, I was visiting my grandparents after nearly two years. I wanted this stay to be different from the previous ones, where I don't cause or feel agitation, hurt or anger. I wanted us to leave feeling positive emotions and remember this meeting for all the right reasons. On my flight, I prepared myself by reiterating many affirmations on acceptance. I resolved to listen and ask questions to understand their perspective and delay my response as much as possible. I set my mind on not debating or challenging them, even if that would occasionally mean doing some things that did not sit well with me. As I practised some of these resolutions, my usual spoken reactions translated to inner chatter and the inner chatter, with the help of grounding exercises, to silence. Holding back my typical reaction at that point helped the conversations unfold very differently. I was able to see a little more of their intentions. I met the underlying needs in their requests without giving in to every demand. As I asked questions, I learnt many stories about their lives that contributed to their beliefs. These were things that had remained unknown to me despite knowing them since my childhood. Later, when I reflected on my inner chatter in the context of everything I had now discovered, I was able to reconcile many of our differences. When that was not possible, I could still accept them for who they are and offer them my love and care. For example, my grandfather has the habit of washing every clean utensil twice - with tap water and then quickly with filtered water. I used to see this as paranoia for hygiene and always argued about the wasted water. I didn't acknowledge that he had formed these habits while nursing both his sons through serious illnesses. It only came from a place of abundant care and caution. In questioning him with my logic, I just denied his truth. Knowing this made it easier for me to be patient with them and see the greys beyond the black and white. The entire week passed without a single disagreement or argument, and we all slept peacefully at night! The atmosphere in the house had shifted from the frequent hostility to just one of calm and warmth. I left their house with feelings of gratitude and love. Over the past year, I have understood a few things about acceptance. It has become clear that accepting does not mean agreeing or condoning or submitting to circumstances. Acceptance is an internal process. It is simply acknowledging what is. Once you accept, it helps you shift how you write your life narratives. You don't feel like a victim of circumstances you cannot control. Instead, you can respond with agency and authenticity. Not only does acceptance help you heal yourself, but in some cases, it may also mend your relationships. Restoring relationships is possible when acceptance is coupled with empathic concern, nonviolent communication and clear boundary-setting.
I would love to hear stories of when you practise acceptance. How easy or difficult was it? What learning did you have?