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We humans are an interesting lot. We battle with our own demons; we battle with other people’s demons. We work ourselves up all in a tizzy over things that don’t really exist and don’t have to be in our lives. How many times have you seen this? Two people foaming at the mouth over the stupidest thing, all because they can’t stand each other yet inexplicably refuse to do something about it.
Accepting other people how they were instead of how I wanted them to be used to be an excruciatingly difficult concept for me to grasp. I felt completely powerless in my life, and in my attempts at happiness and empowerment, I insisted that everyone and everything around me had to change according to my specifications. I felt entitled to be in the presence of people who were kind, understanding, and cooperative.
I absolutely refused to accept my reality as it was. I wanted something else. Something better, something brighter, something that I felt was a truer reflection of me and my desires in life. I wanted the life I felt I deserved. After all, don’t we all deserve to be treated with kindness and respect? Shouldn’t ethics and morals and just good old fashioned manners be something that all humans deserve? Well, yes. But just because you deserve something doesn’t mean it’s going to just fall in your lap.
But I couldn’t understand that. I thought that if I deserved something, it should be granted in my life. And if it wasn’t granted, that meant that someone or something was actively perpetrating a grand injustice against me and I was a powerless victim.
Like a fair-weather friend who was never there for me when I needed her, but would always guilt me into getting her out of trouble.
Or the sleazy men I’d always run into in Hollywood.
I refused to accept the people and the circumstances that I didn’t like in my life. In my mind, accepting them would mean that I was okay with them and that I’d given up. Folded in my coat; laid down my sword. Hung my head and said to Life, “You win, Life. I’m just going to be miserable from now on and go sit on that couch over there and numb my pain with bon-bons and re-runs of ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians.’”
And so I railed against them. I refused to accept them, and so they stayed in my life, at odds with me, making me more and more miserable.
But, finally, after I had made myself sufficiently mournful, I realized that the key to freeing myself from these people, and to finding self-empowerment and happiness, was directly correlated to accepting them – exactly as they were.
I feel our society tends to associate the word “acceptance” with “advocacy.” There seems to be a general feeling that if you accept something, you’re by default advocating for it. While it can mean advocacy in some cases, it doesn’t necessarily have to. Dictionary.com says to accept something is to be open to it, to receive it, to concede, to acknowledge, to consider true or to believe in.
The first step to taking undue power from a toxic person and empowering yourself is accepting that they are who they are – and that they won’t be changing anytime soon, certainly least of all from your efforts. The only way anybody ever changes – including you and me – is from an internal impetus, not from someone raging or begging or cajoling them to change.
You can accept a toxic person without having to like what they do or even like them. It simply means that you see this person as they truly are.
By accepting a toxic person, you see them for what they really are at this particular moment in time. Not as you thought they would be. Not as you wish they would be. And definitely not as you think they could or should be, sometime in the mystical future. No. As they are RIGHT NOW. This creates a boundary between you and them. You cease seeing your relationship with this person as one entity by which you are enslaved; rather, you start seeing them as a separate entity and yourself as a separate entity.
The Truth Sets You Free
Accepting them doesn’t mean you have to like what they do or even like them, but you have to know what you’re dealing with. It’s about recognizing what is actually there versus what you wish was there. You know that phrase “know your enemies?” This applies here. When you see someone or something with perfect clarity, free from judgements and wishful thinking, you cease to live in a land of delusion and fantasy. Instead, you come face to face with reality, and only when you see what you’re really working with, can you take the next step!
Accepting a toxic person means you’re letting go of your dissatisfactions with them. You no longer expect them to fulfill you, nor do you feel the responsibility to fulfill them. Accepting that things are as they are takes the sole responsibility off your shoulders and can be very empowering. Too many times, people refuse to accept their reality, yet are completely miserable, so they subconsciously internalize the source of their misery. This only results in them feeling innately flawed and incapable of happiness. But what’s really making them miserable and enslaved is their refusal to accept reality and consider the notion that they can let go.
Regain Control and YOU Decide
Letting go is very empowering because it allows you decide what you want to do next. Can you can live with this toxic person’s flaws, or not? If you can live with their flaws, then focus on their positive qualities and love them despite their negative ones. No one is perfect, after all. Remember that what grows is what is watered more often, so think about that. You can either water their good qualities or their bad qualities and watch them grow accordingly. Also keep in mind that if you throw yourself full-force into weeding out their bad qualities, you risk neglecting their good ones.
If, however, you find their flaws are unacceptable to you, you remove that person out of your life. Either way, you’re happy. Because you’re living in REAL LIFE, not in an internal struggle that you have created for yourself based on fantasy.
Acceptance is the Only Catalyst for Change
Seeing someone for who they are allows you to make the decision to change your life for the better. Change is the active verb in self-empowerment. You can’t change if you don’t know what you’re changing FROM or what you’re changing TO. Accepting that someone is toxic and won’t change means that you recognize WHAT in your life you want to change. Accepting is the first step.
By allowing another person to be themselves, you’ve released them from you talons. You no longer have to struggle with them. You’re free to struggle with something else – hopefully, something more positive and productive this time around.
A theatre professor I once had would always offer this piece of advice with an enigmatic (if perhaps self-indulgent) twinkle in his eye: “It is what it is and isn’t what it isn’t.”
There isn’t much you can do beyond that, now is there? If you like it, keep it; if you don’t, move on.
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