Life is full of situations that shouldn’t be the way they are! Sometimes you can fix these situations, but sometimes you can’t. Accepting things as they are is a powerful way to cope with situations that you don’t want or that shouldn’t happen.
Many things in life are beyond your control. Examples are everywhere: traffic, the weather, a burst bathroom pipe, difficult family members, or the death of a loved one — all things you don’t want or need, but things you cannot always prevent. Not having control over things can make you feel sad, angry, frustrated, or anxious.
Sometimes people try to gain a sense of control by trying to make changes, even if they’re unlikely to help. Other times people try to regain the feeling of control by ignoring what’s happening. The sad truth is that trying to change something you cannot (or denying it) only leads to more pain and suffering.
So, what’s a healthy way to deal with things beyond your control?
Accepting Things As They Are
To accept things as they are means to let go of your expectations of how things should be. Instead, allow things to be what they are. It means to say to yourself, “It is what it is, and there is nothing I can do to change the current situation.” This is a contrast to asking the universe “why is this happening to me?”
Why Is Acceptance So Important?
There are three main reasons why it is good to accept things as they are.
First, trying to change reality is a battle you’re guaranteed to lose. It leads to feelings of bitterness, anger, and sadness.
Second, acceptance allows you to recognize and face the actual problem. This can allow for problem-solving. For example, if you’re unhappy in your career, it’s impossible to make any changes before you face the reality of your current situation. Denying reality prevents you from problem-solving and may lead to more serious consequences — in this example, further years of career dissatisfaction.
Third, accepting things as they are leads us toward a sense of peace and calm. It is normal to feel angry, sad, or disappointed when you first acknowledge that you have no control over a difficult situation. However, acceptance will help you eventually feel lighter — as if a burden has been removed.
How to Accept Things As They Are
- Notice when you are trying to change or deny things that can’t be changed. For some people, warning signs include thoughts like This is unfair, It shouldn’t be this way! or Why me? For others, warning signs tend to be emotions like anger or frustration.
- Remind yourself that “it is what it is” and there is nothing you can do to change it right now. You may need to do these multiple times a day/hour/minute depending on the situation.
- Allow yourself to feel sad and disappointed; these feelings are healthy! At the same time, trust that acceptance will eventually bring you peace and calm.
- Seek out social support. Engage in self-care activities to help you cope with difficult feelings and improve your mood.
Remember: accepting things as they are does not mean that you have to enjoy what’s happening. It also does not mean that you are giving up. It simply means that you acknowledge that you don’t have control over the situation, and it is what it is.
September 14, 2020 by Rachel Chang, Psy.D.