Acceptance can be a hard pill to swallow. Recently a friend of mine was complaining about her job and how much she dislikes it. As much as she would love to do something different such as going back to school to follow her dream, her life right now is too complicated by work, family and fear of the unknown.
I did what any friend would do; I listened, we discussed options, and when there was nothing more we could come up with I told her, “You have three choices---you can look seriously for a new job, you can begin the process of pursuing your dream career or you can accept the fact that you have to stay at this job now and try to deal with it.” Once these last few words left my mouth I felt an incredible sadness for my friend. Did I just tell her she should give up and not make the change she so desperately wants?
From the time we leave the womb, we begin to learn acceptance. Acceptance is defined as agreeing or believing something to be true. We discover at a young age that whether we either accept or not, there are consequences to our actions and these consequences can either be positive or negative ones. I still remember the time my mother was ironing and had to leave the room. She told me not to touch the iron or I would get burned. I did not believe her so I touched the iron with my whole palm and screamed in pain. She was right, I got burned, and I never did that again, at least not on purpose. My point is that we learn acceptance by the consequences we experience, have seen others experience, or when we contemplate what the consequences may be.
Prior to writing this post I had asked others about their views on acceptance. One said that it depended on what the “acceptance” was because some things are easier to accept than others such as knowing that she would never to be a supermodel. I believe that the term acceptance can only be used if there is a plausible chance for that action to occur. I could send my picture to a modeling agency. While it is possible that the agency would choose me to model, the likelihood of me being chosen would probably be 0.000002% unless, of course, I sent it to an agency for the blind. I am okay with that because I know I may not have supermodel looks, but my beauty is apparent in other ways.
Acceptance and the amount of control a person has in a situation go hand in hand. Let me explain. It is much easier to accept something that we have control over; however, as the amount of control wanes, acceptance becomes more difficult. In the last 10 years, for example, I have had to deal with cancer, inflammatory arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and seven surgeries. These health issues caused me considerable fatigue and joint pain. I still worked full-time as a nurse practitioner and I was trying to continue to do my other hobbies such as playing softball which I have participated in for most of my life. I was not going to let my health issues control my life and how I was going to live it. Well, all that happened was that I was in pain most of the time, tired, and irritable. This was not the life I wanted to live either. I had to come to the realization and accept that there are some realities I cannot change.
Instead, I concentrated my efforts on the things I could change. Are there times I say screw it, I am going to do it anyway…yes, and I do pay the price. But at least it was my decision and that I can live with. Many times I have felt that acceptance is giving up. But, as I have gotten older and wiser, I have come to realize that if I feel that way, then either I have not exhausted all my options or I have not come to terms that what I want is just not possible.
I want to take a moment to go back to the friend I wrote about earlier. I spoke to her a few days ago and I told her that, just like starting a family, there is never a perfect time to make a change; you just have to decide when it is a better time. She should use this same philosophy with either changing jobs or starting a new career and fear of the unknown should not hold her back from her dreams. She should remind herself every day that she is a strong and intelligent person who can and will do it but it just may take a bit longer than she hopes. You see, I went through this same thing.
I had worked for over 11 years in a medical practice. I loved working with the patients, enjoyed the staff, worked well with the doctors, and gave 110% to the practice. What I became tired of was feeling unimportant by my employers yet respected by the patients and the staff. I thought if I accomplished this and that, my employers too would see my value to their practice and respect me as well, but to no avail. It wasn't until I had a health crisis in 2012 to help open up my eyes.
My physician wanted me off work for 6 weeks. I told my employers what was wrong with me and what my doctor said but I felt I could come back in 2 weeks so we reassess at that time (health care providers make the worst patients). One of the doctors asked me if I could at least come in to do “sick call” (patients who are ill come in to see me without an appointment between 7:15 am to 8:00 am). I was dumbfounded and that was my moment of clarity. I realized I only have control over what I do and it was time to stop hoping for change by others. I quit my job, decided to take time for myself and get my health back in order, travel, and decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I did find a new practice to work at and I am treated like a colleague and thanked for all that I do which makes me feel like I do make a difference.
While I was researching acceptance, I spoke to a very wise psychologist who told me that acceptance should only be your last choice. I disagreed with her; however, after writing this, I have to say she is 100% correct. Acceptance can only occur if there are no other plausible solutions. I can tell you this; I am thankful everyday for stopping the excuses of why I could not leave my old job and I am glad I did make a change, however, I also know that I will never let that situation occur again.
If you are contemplating something, do not give up unless there is no other solution--only then will you be able to accept your situation without any regrets. While acceptance can be a hard pill to swallow, it still can go down and be exactly what the doctor ordered.
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