Acceptance as the first step towards change and healing

Let’s admit it, nobody wants to hear criticisms or any negative comments about themselves from others because that would mean that we are not perfect. It’s a natural tendency to think we know ourselves better than others do because we are so used to how we behave or what we say and automatically think that who we are is perfect. Are we really though? I have come to believe that people often know us more than we know ourselves and they can provide a more objective perspective than we can provide ourselves.

One of my close friends and I went to the same school since we were 9 years old so we were very close and we continued keeping in touch with each other even after we graduated. I don’t remember how that conversation started but it was on one random day 6 years ago, she told me things that I never expected to hear, especially coming from someone so close to me. She told me some of my character traits, attitudes, and behaviors that I needed to work on. I’m not going to talk about the details as it was quite a long list but one of them was “you complain too much”.

I remember debating with her about it because I didn’t think I was like that. I thought it was just a misunderstanding so I tried hard to justify myself. My world was shattered and I was torn apart when she told me that because I never expected my best friend to “judge” me. It hurt so badly to hear someone criticizing me. I was in disbelief to hear that side of me from someone close to me. Shouldn’t she accept who I am because she’s my best friend? However, I now realized that the pain didn’t come from the truth. It came from the shattering of illusions in my mind. I was attached to the idea of who I was in my mind, so when someone told me that I’m something else, it shattered my fake illusion and idea. It was painful when I was forced to confront a different idea that wasn’t compatible with mine. Honestly, I could just ignore what she said but I didn’t want to lose my best friend so I tried really hard to work on improving those traits even though I couldn’t understand all of them back then. I also realized that my friend is not obligated to accept me or stay in the relationship if it doesn’t make her feel good because I am responsible for my behaviors.

I wrote a list of “Don’ts” on my Notes application in 2015 and used it to remind myself every day. “Don’t complain” was on the list too. I reminded myself to not complain whenever I felt like I was going to complain. Fast forward, one year later, I went to visit one of my friends in Australia and my friend asked “Hey Xinyi, is everything okay?” I asked “Why” because I was confused. What surprised me the most was when she said ‘‘It’s weird that you are not complaining.”

I can’t describe how surprised and touched I was when I heard that. I was surprised because it proved that I actually did complain a lot in the past, not just to my best friend but to others as well, but I didn’t realize it. I was touched because hearing her say that I don’t complain anymore means I am improving and getting better. Thanks for reading my long story but what I’m trying to convey is that sometimes people do know us better than ourselves.

If it hurts to hear it, look for the truth in it. If it comforts to hear it, look for the lie in it.

Ever since then, I’m committed to learning more about myself and to being a better version of myself. I am very grateful that my friend pointed out my flaws back then because I wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t because of her. I have also become more open to receiving criticisms from people because that’s how I can learn about myself and be a better person. Trust me when I say sometimes I would ask my friend “Hey is there something that you don’t like about me and how can I work on it?” But hearing the truth is not something beautiful. It still hurts to know something that I don’t want to hear. Sometimes it hurts so much I just want to ignore them. Just like when I first found out that my ex lied and betrayed my trust. It hurt so bad to know that someone I trusted lied to me. I couldn’t accept that and didn’t want to accept that. I rather think I was crazy than thinking that he lied because the truth hurts. But I wasn’t crazy at all. I was just in denial.

I am also learning to point out the negative behaviors of my friends who I really care for without any judgement. I know pointing out negative behaviors risk the relationship, but that doesn’t excuse any of us from doing it if we genuinely care about their best interests. I would rather my friends tell me the truth than pretending that everything is okay because people who truly care for you would want the best for you even if the best is going to hurt.

Nevertheless, many people aren’t strong enough or is open to listening the unpleasant truth- they want an easy way in life and always want to somehow not face reality and the truth. People often are afraid to hear the truth about themselves or anything, because they’re in denial about it. Often times we already know, though – deep down but are only interested to hear what we want to hear no matter if it’s true or not because we feel comfortable living in that illusion. Many people also feel by not talking about issues and confronting their problems, they are solving the problem – when in reality they are only making it easy for themselves. To be honest, I’m still not sure if I would be willing to see the ugly truth about myself back then if it wasn’t because I was losing my best friend.

Truth is bitter because when one gets the opposite of what they want, they feel disappointed. So it hurts them and exposes some of their vulnerabilities. But you continue to suffer until you take the first step. And the first step to healing or changing is acceptance.

Suffering = Pain + Non-Acceptance

By accepting that I used to complain too much, I was able to be aware and prevent myself from complaining. I was able to change. It took me some time to see the truth as it is but by accepting that I was being lied to, I was able to let go of the thought that I was crazy. By accepting that I didn’t completely heal from my first breakup, I was aware that I need to do a lot more inner-work. By accepting that I was not okay, I was able to let go of my suffering by seeking help and support from my friends and my therapist 🥲 Acceptance is allowing things to be as it is without to change things. It’s not easy at all to accept things that we want to be different and being vulnerable is terrifying but the power to heal starts from acceptance. Of course, there are more work to do after acceptance and your suffering won’t just disappear or you wouldn’t just change overnight after accepting. But the more we practice acceptances, the more we allow peace to enter within us.

In my opinion, when something hurts it’s usually because there is some truth in it that you are avoiding, and healing or change is only possible when you have the courage to walk out from denial. Also, don’t forget to listen to others. They may know more than you do—even about yourself ❤️

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