Accepting our limits might not be the popular narrative of the personal-development world, where we’re told the only limits we have are the ones we impose on ourselves, but nevertheless, hear me out. Such sentiments are well-meaning and indeed appropriate when we’re held back by limiting beliefs we’ve acquired with good reason, but which are not reflective of our current reality. But we all have limits, physical and mental – that’s not a shortcoming but a fact. Even in the case of limiting beliefs, such as, “I’m not good at maths” or “I’m a failure”, we must first become aware they exist and accept them, before we can begin the process of challenging their validity and creating more constructive ones, thus freeing ourselves from their bind. Recognising and allowing our limitations is not resigning ourselves to them, but opening our options so we can respond skillfully to our present situation.
Awareness lets us see clearly
Awareness enables us to see things, and see them as they really are; not as we wish them to be or think they are when viewed through our unique lens, which we assume is transparent but in reality is layered with filter upon filter of life experience. But awareness should come with a warning, so here it is: Once you walk this path there’s no going back – you can’t un-see that which you have seen. More oft this sounds like “ignorance is bliss” and that can certainly appear to be the case. Why then, would we actively chose to peel away our reality-distorting filters?
The answer comes in moments of crystal clarity and eludes me in emotional hazes. The moments of clarity have shown me that it really is the only way. As a rallier against the inevitable for so much of my life, endearing though it may be in some ways to have such passion, such perseverance, such willingness to hope, it is delusion no less. The art is to retain the hope without the delusion. To allow things to be as they are, and to respond accordingly. It takes less energy, and is more effective. If I need things to be different before I can do, be or feel a certain way, I will never be free.
What’s outside of our control
Have you ever tried to change someone? You know they’re in the wrong, there’s no question about it. They should change, why should you? You’re in the right, after all. Yet they won’t. And you have no ability to make them. There you are in a whirlwind of unfairness and rage and there they are, unmoved in their imperfection. Your heart is pumping, heat rising, voice raising, tears flowing, and you are suffering. But you are not suffering because of them. You are suffering because you have not (yet) been able to allow them to be what they are. “They shouldn’t be allowed to be as they are.” I hear you cry. Ha! How futile to rage against that which already is.
Accepting our limits
With awareness you see it. They will never change, at least not as a result of your deep desire, insistence or any embargo you impose. And with acceptance of this reality, choices emerge. Accept them as they are. If that’s not an option, walk away. If that’s not an option, change yourself – grow a thicker skin, be more assertive, more patient…. We always have choices, but sometimes we don’t like the ones we have.
Whether it’s people, a job, our finances, or the climate, the same thing goes… Channel resentment of others into making new friends; anger that your job could cause so much stress into kindness toward yourself; anxiety due to existential threats into action to address them. You can spend all day trying to move a boulder with your body weight and sheer will. Or you can recognise the laws of physics and check out the options actually available to you. That is, if you’re willing to allow the boulder to rest in its immovable nature, and your limitations as a human in theirs.
Setting ourself free
Acceptance isn’t resignation. It is wisdom. And it brings peace. Ignorance might appear to be bliss, but it’s a poor person’s bliss. Storms may still rage when we do not like the reality we are confronted with, leaving us momentarily wishing we could unsee what we have seen; unknow what we now know to be true. But in our newfound wisdom we can moderate the storm’s intensity, duration and the damage it inflicts, and redirect that valuable energy with intention. Untethering our capacity for peace, for happiness, from factors beyond our control, is freedom. A freedom worth peeling for.
Does acceptance sounds like an appealing concept? Delve deeper by joining one of our upcoming mindfulness courses.