Acceptance is an attitude I am learning to extend toward other people and myself, and toward certain types of circumstances.

Acceptance toward People
Not everyone needs to be changed, just because I believe they should. "Should" thinking has become a warning sign to me.

In recovery, I have worked to acquire an open-minded willingness to receive people as they are in the present, with the understanding that all people are in the process of becoming. I need to allow other people their process, without any interference from me.

My alternative to accepting people was to reject them. By nature, I tended to reject any person whom I perceived as different from me, more or less gifted than me, would not listen to my unsolicited advice, etc. This was my ego—pure and simple. This was also insanity, because my thinking was based on the belief that others should perfectly match my expectations! When they didn't, I had a justifiable reason for rejecting them.

Now, I am learning how to make allowances for the fact that every person is unique and valuable despite background, ideology, religion, sex, etc. Most importantly, acceptance helps me to remember that each person is "in process" (i.e., at different stages of growth). For example, it is easy to accept that a newborn baby cannot eat a ten ounce steak. Adults allow a baby time and space to grow and mature. And in the meantime, the infant is given suitable baby food. Granted, this is an obvious example, but often adults expect children to behave like adults: "Big boys don't cry" and "You should know better" and "Don't be such a baby about every little thing." As an adult, I sometimes forget that other adults still carry within themselves that precious and vulnerable child. Where they are at this moment in their growth is different from me, and I need to be sensitive and accepting of that fact.

It was also important for me to distinguish the difference between acceptance and approval. I allow myself to feel approval or disapproval of other people's actions and choices. I am also free to express my feelings in healthy ways. When necessary, I can take steps to protect myself if another person's actions put me in danger. My boundary is: if another person's choices and actions do not affect me, then their choices and actions are none of my business.

Acceptance toward Myself
When I began my recovery, I was too hard on myself. I inflicted guilt on myself for all my problems. I blamed myself for my life circumstance. I berated and hated myself for being in the condition where I found myself. By choosing acceptance, I am learning to be gentle with myself. I am also learning to extend patience toward myself. Like others, I too am in the process of becoming. If I am accepting of others, I can extend the same courtesy toward myself. I can be patient and loving to my own inner child. Regarding guilt, it was necessary for me to accept responsibility for the actions and choices I'd made in the past. But the past is past, and I must accept the past. There is no reason to go on living in guilt, forever re-living the past in the present.

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Acceptance toward Circumstances
Through recovery, I am also learning how to willingly suspend and set aside my preconceived ideas, desired outcomes, expectations, and personal agendas in the face of circumstances I previously would have sought to control or change.

I am learning to make a conscious and deliberate choice to receive circumstances as they are, with the belief that the eventual result will be beneficial. Acceptance is beneficial for me, because I am relieved of anxiety, controlling, "helping", and other unhealthy behavior. Acceptance is beneficial for my Higher Power, because it allows God to order circumstances for the best possible timing, again, without my interference.

Choosing the attitude of acceptance is a powerful and beneficial recovery tool.

next: Patience

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2009, January 10). Acceptance, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 20 from

Last Updated: August 8, 2014

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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