As I’ve mentioned before, I struggle with beating myself up. I’m my own worst enemy. I’ve been trying to figure out how to accept myself as-is and yet not be seen as passive or ambivalent to my flaws. I’ve always felt like this should be possible and yet I can’t quite get there. After reading the first two chapters of Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach, though, I have a better sense of how this could work for me (and maybe for you as well).
What is radical acceptance?
Radical acceptance is not fighting with life, but flowing with it.
When we get lost in our stories, we lose touch with our actual experience. Leaning into the future, or rehashing the past, we leave the living experience of the immediate moment.
There are two parts of radical acceptance: “seeing” what is happening now and “being” with those feelings and emotions without pushing them away or beating yourself up.
Clearly recognizing what is happening inside us, and regarding what we see with an open, kind and loving heart, is what I call Radical Acceptance.
What isn’t radical acceptance?
Radical acceptance is not resignation.
Acceptance might suggest that we resign ourselves to being exactly as we are, which often enough means “not good enough.” However, as psychologist Carl Rogers’s seminal insight proclaims: “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” Our deepest nature is to awaken and flower.
Radical acceptance is also not an excuse for self-indulgence or for being passive.
Radical Acceptance acknowledges our own experience in this moment as the first step in wise action. Before acting or reacting, we allow ourselves to feel and accept our grief for how the earth has been polluted, our anger about the destruction of wildlife, our shame about how we have been mistreated, our fear about what others may think about us, our guilt about our own insensitivity. No matter what the situation, our immediate personal experience is the fundamental domain of Radical Acceptance. This is where we cultivate the genuine wakefulness and kindness that underlie effective action.
Why is radical acceptance so challenging?
For one thing, radical acceptance goes against the grain of our cultural norms. We are taught to strive for more, to climb a ladder, to do it better, faster, stronger, harder. We are taught we aren’t ok just as-is.
Radical acceptance is also seemingly counterintuitive. Won’t accepting your flaws lead to apathy or excuses and make it harder to change?
The truth, it seems, is just the opposite. If you aren’t accepting of your flaws and yourself, to begin with, you won’t have the foundation (i.e. the energy and confidence) you need to actually make meaningful change.
After understanding more about what radical acceptance is and isn’t, I don’t feel like it is out of reach for me.
I need to just keep reaching for it.