For a long time, there were certain parts of me that I just could not, or would not, accept.
In particular, I’ve dealt with a deep fear of rejection that has affected me for most of my life. I spent a good while trying to “fix” my issues, but didn’t seem to be getting that far.
After discovering the spiritual path, I read lots of uplifting books, meditated (sometimes), and did my best to live in the present moment. But the same struggles were still there.
My lack of success in relationships and career was still getting to me. Sometimes, I wondered if things would ever change.
There wasn’t an “aha” moment when things suddenly changed—it was more of a gradual thing. I was influenced by the teachings of Jeff Foster, who says that acceptance can mean accepting that, right now, we cannot accept something, and also that trying to open our heart when it is closed is not honouring where we are right now.
It dawned on me that accepting something does not mean trying to change how I feel about it, but accepting every single one of my feelings.
Because sometimes, things hurt. And when we don’t know how to properly deal with our emotions, pain can stay hidden for many years. It is pointless and unhelpful to beat ourselves up for feeling a particular way about something.
For me, I was hurting because I couldn’t get over my fear of rejection and my fear of intimacy, so the relationships that I craved did not come. I’ve been through some awful things in my life, but this was the one thing that I felt pain about, more than anything. Even if sometimes I thought I should not be so bothered about it all, the pain wouldn’t go away.
In order to fully accept myself, I had to accept that the fear of rejection was there. That I had been held back in my career by a lack of confidence and other factors. That I’d had a difficult childhood.
One of my pet peeves is what is termed “spiritual bypassing“—where people try to use spirituality to avoid legitimate emotions by saying things like “the pain isn’t real” (try telling that to your inner child) or trying to get people to repeat affirmations every day. True spirituality is not avoidance of pain and does not exclude us from being human. In fact, the spiritual journey is coming face to face with our pain, allowing it to be there for however long it chooses.
It’s not an overnight journey, and my life is by no means perfect. But I have come to realise that, ultimately, when we are fighting against a situation, we are fighting against ourselves. Because everything in our lives is a part of us—the things we don’t like about ourselves, the people we struggle with, the money issues we have, or our fears and anxieties.
Here are two important things we need to remember:
1. Acceptance does not mean accepting something only if it will go away. So much of our energy is spent on trying to fix things, and whilst there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting something to change for the better and doing whatever we can to help ourselves, if we look at something from the point of view of needing it to go away, it will stick with us. Whatever we resist, persists.
2. But resistance doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. There will always be times when our minds will resist change or moving forward. There will probably also be times where our familiar mind patterns prevent us from doing something we would like to do. I have sometimes felt that I cannot take action in a particular situation. When this happens, we don’t have to beat ourselves up, but just do the best we can. Resistance can also be an indication that we are about to move forward in a big way. Sometimes, the best thing is to take action in spite of the resistance.
Accepting where I am, right now, has been a game changer for me. I do feel at greater peace within myself. There are still habitual mind patterns that rear their head, but the spiritual life is not about perfectionism. It’s about becoming the best version of ourselves and taking it all one step at a time.
Author: Andy Bowker
Image: Diego Sullivan/Unsplash
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Leah Sugerman
Social Editor: Callie Rushton