Accept and Commit.
When I work with women who want to feel more free and whole and alive, everything we do comes down to these two things.
If you are feeling stuck in self-doubt, guilt, fear of other people's opinions, your freedom lies inside Acceptance and Commitment.
Here's a primer to get you started:
Acceptance is acceptance of way more than you want to accept.
Our media and pop-psychology culture wants to sell us the fantasy that we can make ourselves feel happy, make our children listen, make our partners love us. Then we feel like failures when we can't achieve those things.
Freedom comes from bravely acknowledging all the things we cannot change, and we can only accept. Acceptance doesn't mean liking or condoning or colluding, but it does mean not attempting to control that which we have no power over.
Here's the short list of what we must accept, if we want to live meaningful, present, authentic lives:
We Accept All Of Our Emotions.
Emotions will come and go, surprise us and be predictable as fuc%. They are inner experiences that happen, neurons firing and waves of history washing over us. We can feel rage and envy and grief everyday for the rest of our lives and still choose a good life. We can do things that are more likely to elicit emotions we want, but ultimately we can't control them.
We Accept All Of Our Thoughts.
Like emotions, thoughts are automatic inner experiences, some are wise and some are noise. Some serve the life we want, and some seduce us toward betrayal. We cannot wait for certain thoughts to go away before we live a life worth living. We can have hateful, jealous, selfish thoughts and still make choices that serve us. We can create thoughts and story lines that serve us, but can't control the ones that don't.
We Accept Everything That Other People Feel, Think, and Do.
You cannot ever make someone do something or feel something or think something. You can attempt to have a positive influence, but the other person's inner experience and choices are fully his or her own. Again, this doesn't mean you stay passive in the face of disrespect or boundary violations, but you give up on pretending that you can make the other person do or feel or think something.
We Accept that All We Have Control Over is Our Actions.
They can be private actions, like what we choose to pay attention to and how we relate to our thoughts. They can be public actions, what we do with our time, energy, and words. We accept that this the only thing we control.
Once we have a full grasp on Acceptance, we can put our energy into committed action that serves a meaningful, vital life.
We accept that we cannot control all of our emotions - we will feel sad, mad, lonely, spiteful - but we can live a life that feel real, authentic, in contact with what is true, and in service of what matters to us.
We Commit to Act on Our Values and Serve What Matters to Us.
Our values are perfect and need no explaining or defense. They are those things that feel true and right, just because they do. They are things like Love and Beauty and Connection. They are things that we can serve through how we live. Each moment can serve your values or betray them. We commit to feeling more alive and whole by acting in accordance with what matters to us.
We Commit to Being Endlessly Compassionate With Ourselves as We Fumble Through.
Self-compassion is an act, a way of being with yourself in the face of inevitably failing to live according to your values. We accept that we will have tons of non-compassionate thoughts and feelings toward ourselves - shame, guilt, contempt - but we choose to counter those with tender, sweet, optimistic forgiveness. Because if we don't, we will won't have the wherewithal to get back to living our values.
We Commit to Paying Attention.
We accept that our comfort-seeking, problem-solving minds will always want us to numb out, check out, and avoid discomfort. We also know that letting those parts of us run the show will result in a restricted, false, lifeless life. Instead, we commit to making contact with what is happening, within us and around us. What is real, rather than simply our stories of what may be. We commit to being more alive by being more awake.
We Commit to the Discomfort of Living a Meaningful, Vital Life.
When we give up controlling our feelings, thoughts, and other people, we must embrace more visceral discomfort. When we say, 'No' to someone and they are disappointed and think we are selfish, we don't run away from those feelings by back-pedaling or numbing out. We sit in the discomfort of living our values and being awake to life. We commit to paying the price of discomfort in exchange for the life we want to live.
It brings me tremendous joy to see a woman celebrating how uncomfortable she felt asserting her needs with her partner, but doing it anyway. It's delicious to hear a woman set a limit with her child, and be with the child's frustration without needing to fix it, avoid it, or berate herself for it.
It's sacred to bear witness to women doing the rebellious, radical thing and not taking responsibility for more than what is hers to bear. Within this acceptance of what is not hers, and commitment to what is, magic can happen. She can live a valued, purposeful, radiant life.
If you are loving this idea of getting freedom from over-responsibility so you can step into creating a more meaningful, vibrant, authentic life, I invite you to take the leap and schedule a complimentary Catalyst Session with me. Together, we will home in on what you want to be different in your life, what fears and narratives are in your way, and what specific actions you need to take to make your desires reality. Request your session here.
With love and optimism,
I'm Dr. Jessica Michaelson and I coach women who want to trade in guilt and responsibility-overload for vitality, meaning, and connection.