The journey to being and loving the person you were meant to be – brings up the question “how is acceptance different than giving up?” I do this work with clients often, and the question I get asked is: if I accept something, doesn’t that mean I am just giving up, or letting myself go?
It’s a good question.
To give up, by definition, means to cease making an effort, or resigning yourself to failure. It means you just stop trying.
To accept something means that you are no longer resisting it. If you haven’t accepted something, you judge it as bad or wrong. But to accept means that you are able to move toward it without judging it. You move from a reactive state of thinking, physical emotion and tension to an inner state of understanding, knowing and openness to what is. You’re no longer consumed by it – it just is.
So what’s the difference between acceptance and giving up?
Accepting isn’t giving up. Accepting is being able to be around the thing or situation and not be reactive about it. When you accept something, you can still try to improve. The difference is that you’re moving forward, rather than getting mucked up in the bad feelings of giving up.
Say you’re unhappy with your weight, or how your body looks. Some might say that accepting your overweight or out-of-shape body would be “letting yourself go”, or giving up on yourself. In contrast, accepting your body means to be with it and not judge it. Maybe you know that you need to lose weight to be healthier, but you are accepting who you are at this moment. It doesn’t mean you can’t try to change. But you are seeking change from a place of I am enough rather than I must be different to be good enough. Giving up has different energy around it. You stay stuck in the pattern of hating your body, rather than having the spaciousness to allow for healthy self-improvement.
Maybe you are a runner and your goal is to qualify for the Boston marathon. It’s a difficult race to qualify for, but it’s a dream of yours, so you train hard. Your race times are pretty far off of qualifying time, but you keep at it. You reach a fork in the road where you can either quit or you can accept where you are, and that you need to give yourself more time to reach that goal. You also assess whether your goal is realistic and accept, without judgment, the result of that assessment.
Acceptance helps you stay in a place of enoughness.
When you accept something, you already know that you are enough, just as you are, without needing approval from anyone else. Your worth is not determined by your failures or successes. Your worth is already inside you. If you decide to accept that you likely aren’t going to qualify for the Boston marathon, you can accept it and not make it mean that you are giving up because you are a failure.
With acceptance comes peace.
The energy is different. Giving up feels so negative and final. Acceptance feels like leaving the door open for possibilities. It’s spacious and has a roll-with-the-punches feel.
When you accept something, you are not attaching to an outcome.
Through all of my struggles, I learned how to not attach myself to a circumstance or thing that brought me sadness and anxiety OR happiness. Again, accepting something means you are not passing judgment on something as good or bad. The book The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer taught me this concept. Read it if you’re curious. Life is so much freer when you can just let something be there without getting stuck in the negativity of it.