Acceptance is a heavy word. A word that many pretend they understand and that they’ve given, under the guise of “nothing’s changed; we still love you.” Those who believe that acceptance is simply the lack of showing outward disgust and rejection do not know the true meaning of the word. In reality, “[Acceptance is] a person's assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a process or condition...without attempting to change it or protest.”
A friend of mine has struggled with her father’s acceptance towards who she is, and her acceptance of her own identity. Although I could only offer guidance from the sidelines, the pain I saw her experience is something I will never forget. My strong belief that far too many people in the world today don’t understand tolerance and acceptance has stemmed from my experiences and seeing how the lack of understanding and true acceptance can break people. To me, true acceptance is looking at your children and loving them no matter the gender they love or who they are. It is not off-handed comments about every girl who she looks at for more than a moment, or the malcontented look in her father’s eyes, or the disappointment-both her father’s, for who she is, and hers, that her father is so stubborn in his ways that she cannot accept his own daughter. While her father is not outright telling her that she is an abomination, or that he wishes she was different, she can read the expression in his eyes when he looks at her. He claims that he accepts her, but he is wrong.
The people at school claim to be accepting, too. They paint themselves with words like “accepting,” “kind,” and “understanding,” as if the title would be enough to make the people around them think so, too. Yet, if anyone, any student who seemed just a little different, were to speak too loud, or not quite fast or fluent or eloquent enough they will be quietly rejected. Any number of socially inept things is sure to cause the masses of cruel youth to turn their backs on anyone. Not outwardly, of course, but just enough so that when they’re out of earshot and behind the curtains of their hands, they can exchange remarks about their clothes, their hair, their speech, and not be rebuked or admonished. Young impressionable teenagers are a scary thing, partly because they are too concerned with the acceptance of their peers and how they are viewed by others to even look at those of others, and also because in attempts to appear superior they will attack the weak and the different. They weave lies and masks to make themselves appear more ideal to others, never looking at those who they’ve stepped on in their rush for acceptance. As much as anyone can try to protect themselves from the terror that is chaotic teenagers blind to the suffering of others, the fear of rejection will always be there. These people do not know what acceptance is regardless of how they desire it. They do not know that it is loving someone and helping them with the flaws that need helping, and teaching them to accept the ones that don’t. For those who have been hurt and rejected for the sake of the self esteem of others, acceptance is not attainable; for those who do the rejecting, acceptance is something they crave for at the expense of refusing others.
Self acceptance is another thing many people struggle with. As painful as rejection is coming from others, sometimes it’s when it comes from oneself that it hurts the most. There are many types of people who have more trouble accepting their own faults than being accepted by others. Whether it’s those who look at their body and are unhappy, or those who compare their skills to those of others and yearn for more, or those who are simply not comfortable in their own skin, it’s an issue that anyone may find themselves struggling with. These people struggle with a type of acceptance that is different from that of others; they not only require the tolerance and validation of others, but also of themselves. Several years ago, someone told me, “you are enough,” and those words have become ones that I am able to think of when I have these doubts myself. That is acceptance. That is not simply tolerance, it is the embracing of a person for all of their flaws and problems. People may think that those who struggle with self acceptance are weak, or unstable, but they are wrong. These people who look down on others may even have issues such as these of their own. For the boys who feel like they aren’t allowed to show emotion, and the girls who force themselves to starve, aspiring for an ideal that is neither healthy nor achievable, for the artists or the musicians or the students who cannot look at something they’ve achieved without feeling envious of someone else’s work, or feel pride, and for those who feel like they’re alone in the world, self-acceptance is more than just tolerance. To them, self-acceptance is feeling happy, truly content, and proud of who they are.
Derived from the Latin root 'acqui?scere' meaning to find rest in, acceptance is welcoming all of one’s flaws, realizing that they are not flaws at all but idiosyncrasies, and coming out all the better for it. We are all good enough. Good enough for ourselves, good enough for others, and good enough to face our own flaws, as well as the flaws of others.