Recently, I went to an event to share experiences, thoughts, and feelings with fifty other people on the issue of acceptance. My interest is piqued by topics that resonate with coaching clients. We all see the world from different hilltops and the views of the valleys in between can vary hugely. Here are some insights I gained that you may find helpful in understanding and dealing with acceptance in different contexts.

Pain relief

One of the most common experiences where acceptance arises is in responding to serious health conditions. For example, if you have a terminal or life-threatening illness, suffer from acute pain or live with trauma, what part does acceptance play? Currently, much is being made of the language people use. Research finds consistently that the language of battle, war, and fighting is not helpful in facing cancer. Why? Because it increases the pressure to win and, if you are losing, that can be demoralising or blameworthy. Also, fighting takes energy and that can be counter-productive.

Your issues are in your tissues. Resist and they persist.

However, there is a paradox here. When does acceptance become being (too) passive, resigned or stoic? For many at the event,  acceptance is facing up to things on your terms. How? By being assertive and taking control over what you can.

Doing the right thing

Many of my clients face relationship difficulties at work. They struggle to accept the poor behaviours of their managers or the inappropriate practices and systems within their organisations. Therefore, coaching conversations can revolve around the values-fit between the person and their employer. Sometimes, people come to accept what they can’t change and simply focus on what is within their control.

However, with a trust deficit in public life, what about unethical situations and the politics of your organisation’s culture? If we accept the unacceptable, are we then complicit? Acceptance is often a choice with dilemmas. Do I stay or do I go? What will I accept or reject during my job hunt and career? Your values and core beliefs will help you decide on the right thing for you.

A sense of belonging

When we start a new job, move to a new location or join a new group, we want to be accepted. This is about a sense of belonging and relates to our identity. Again, there are different permutations. For example, you may feel you belong when you find your tribe, the comfort of like-minded people who are similar to you. Alternatively, it’s the diversity that attracts you where belonging has a greater emphasis on accepting others who may be different from you. That’s when the mindset and skillset of emotional intelligence and cultural intelligence help with integration and acceptance.


It’s harder to accept others if you don’t accept yourself. A consistent theme from my coaching clients is their struggle with going against the grain of their personality and natural preferences. Why? Because of the expectations of other people to be like them or feeling under pressure to conform to a cultural norm that is uncomfortable. The trick is to reframe your thinking. Play to your natural self, talents, and strengths – with more skill. Adjust your behaviours and perspectives without changing the best of you. Self-acceptance is fundamental to self-esteem and self-confidence. It also helps you empathise with other people.

We’re all unique – just like everybody else.

In summary, it seems to me that at the root of acceptance, in all its forms, is being compassionate, non-judgemental, coming to terms or being at greater ease with yourself and others, a situation or set of circumstances. Healthy acceptance is an enabler.

What does acceptance mean for you? How does it work for and against you?