We all have circumstances in our life that we wish to change. Whether it’s a relationship, a job, or someone else’s perspective.
At some point or another, we must face reality. The truth is, we cannot change others, or the ways in which they act. We cannot control how others respond. And we have to learn to stop expecting others to always react and handle a situation the way we would if we were in the same situation.
Do we need to agree with everything everyone says, does or how they behave? Absolutely not. But our stress level significantly decreases when we learn to accept a situation instead of trying to change it.
Having different perspectives does not make one perspective wrong. Or not laughing at someone’s joke does not suggest we do not have a sense of humour. We are all different, and what stimulates us or what turns us off simply makes us who we are, and further highlights the differences in our personalities.
So learning to accept the differences in people, our perspectives, and our realities (whether we like them or not) is something we all have to do if we ever want to be at peace.
In my private social work practice, I see many clients who come in with such high levels of stress, anxiety and frustration because they have expended so much emotional energy on trying to micromanage everything in their life, in the lives of their partners, children, etc… a task that is virtually impossible to keep up for any extended period of time.
They have choices, which I help outline. They can choose to either continue to be frustrated and upset and try to change a situation which is virtually not in their control to change, or they could find a way to accept their new reality and learn to live with the situation so it does not slowly eat them up on the inside.
By helping them learn to change their thought patterns, I am able to guide them toward accepting their reality.
So what are some of the benefits of acceptance? Why bother changing our thought patterns and expectations?
Benefits of Acceptance:
1. To decrease our stress levels.
2. To learn to let go of past fears and traumatic events.
3. To learn to love ourselves and others unconditionally (without feeling the need to change anything).
4. To reduce the frequency of our depressive moods.
5. To help improve our sleep habits and our quality of sleep.
6. To feel more in control of our life.
7. To increase our self worth and self confidence.
So now that we know the benefits of acceptance, how can we begin to change our thought patterns and behaviours?
Changing our Thought Patterns and Behaviours:
#1 – We must learn to realize that we cannot control everything, or other people. On some level, we all know already know that we cannot control everything, however our behaviours are not always indicative of such. Wishing and praying for something to change will not necessarily make it happen. If we are able to come to terms with the fact that that on occasion, obstacles get in the way of our plans, and that we are far better off learning to accept that these things happen, rather than continue to be angry that our routine has been disrupted.
#2 – We must take a look at our life, and acknowledge to ourselves what we are thankful for. We must become very aware of what we have. It is far easier to acknowledge and admit the thoughts and feelings that we have before we go about trying to change them.
#3 – Everyone is good at something. We need to figure out what our forte is and be proud of what we can offer others. This skill allows us to gain perspective. By learning what we are good it, we are also learning to acknowledge, and admit, what we are not good at or what might need improvement. It’s even all right to laugh at our own incompetence. It sure beats crying over it.
#4 – Through taking deep breaths, talking to someone you trust, and by practicing cognitive therapy, we can stop our obsessive thoughts and replace this ‘thinking’ with trying to do something productive. We can be much more productive in expressing ourselves if we take a moment to figure out what we want to say and how we want it to sound. Learning to be less reactive takes practice, and gives us the ability to stop and evaluate what we want to say before we proceed in saying it out loud.
#5 – With help and support, we need to expose ourselves to our fears. Just like when we are learning any new skill, it is extremely scary to put ourselves out there, and make ourselves vulnerable. But how else do we conquer that which scares us if we don’t try? Or expose ourselves? Or practice these skills? Learning to ‘go with the flow’ works the same way. At first, we are all going to mess it up. But with patience, and practice, all will become easier, more familiar, and less scary.
There is no such thing as perfection. It is perfectly acceptable for life to be very good. The sooner we can accept our own limitations and the limitations of our loved ones, the less stressed and more at peace we will be.
I have noticed that, as my daughters are getting older, that they are becoming more a more conscious of the way their body looks…. This is totally natural, and I understand that. And I expect it. As they evolve through puberty, body image and how they look is of growing concern to them.
As a mom of three girls, I am ready, or I think I’m ready, for the many questions about breast size and changing body shape which will be coming my way, and the realization that as my girls’ bodies change, so will their attitudes and sense of self worth.
Not all questions are created equal.
Not all questions are straightforward with cut and dry answers. As a mom, some are more difficult to hear and even more difficult to answer. I struggle with questions such as the following, “Why do all the girls in my grade have a flat stomach except for me?” or “Why is it so hard for me to find bathing suits that I look good in?”
Both good questions.
What I want to yell out is, “I have no idea!” But, I cannot.
Hence the dilemma of all mothers.
As a mother, clearly it is hard to see our children suffer, be confused, but more so, question their own beauty as they compare themselves to their classmates and peers. So I tread very lightly when it comes to answering questions about body image. Children take what we say very seriously, and the last thing I want is to implant any negative thoughts about what our bodies are supposed to look like at any given age.
So how would I answer these questions?
Not without lots of thought, that is for sure.
My husband and I try to focus on the concept of healthy bodies. Eating right. Exercising. We offer to help our children in these areas. We ask them if they are open to hearing about healthier snack options, and we make the connection for them between eating right, moving a lot, and healthier bodies and feeling good.
We do not talk about weight, the number on the scale, or what size we are.
One of my daughters said that she wanted to start running. She is extremely athletic to begin with, and we figured she would be a natural at it. She has started walking, on our treadmill, a couple of times per week. She feels good when she gets off. So the connection is made between exercise and feeling good. The potential effect of weight loss will be a natural consequence for her, but we do not focus on that as a goal.
In addition to keeping active, we also attempt to teach the girls to make healthier food choices. We reiterate that treats are and should be considered a treat, not an entitlement. When they come home from school completely famished, their first instinct is to head for the cupboard and grab whatever they can get their hands on. Many years ago, our paediatrician said it right, “Children need to snack on real food, not snack food.” So when the kids come home, they are eating a boiled egg or a piece of cheese. Not cookies and sugar, which will only satisfy them temporarily with no real nutritional value.
This is not to say that they do not get their chocolate fix or the occasional ice cream cone. Of course they do. They are kids. But we try to teach them eating such foods in moderation and learning how to fill up on the healthier foods which will keep them fuller, longer.
Our goal, as parents, is to try and have them make the connection between the foods they eat, combined with the exercise they do, and how it makes them feel.
Eventually, it is our hope that these choices will become second nature to them. And that exercise will become something they enjoy and seek out on their own.
What are the chances? We can only hope.
Image from American Girl: The Care and Keeping of You.
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