Radical acceptance is a practice defined and developed by American Psychologist Marsha Linehan, the world-renowned creator of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Influenced by Buddhism, the practice of radical acceptance advocates the belief that the reality outside of our control must be accepted rather than fought against. It posits that fighting against yourself or your current situation can result in deep, emotional suffering, even greater than the situation that caused it.
What Is Radical Self-Acceptance?
Radical acceptance means accepting, without judgment or blame:
- Yourself and your individual identity
- Your current situation or circumstances
- Your life and your reality
- Factors beyond your control
Steps of Practicing Radical Acceptance
According to Linehan, there are 10 key steps to practicing radical acceptance in our daily lives, more generally. By following them, we increase our tolerance to distress and avoid succumbing to suffering.
- Recognizing the situations in which you find yourself questioning or fighting the facts of reality
- Reminding yourself that the unpleasant reality is outside of your control
- Reminding yourself of the events or causes that led to the current reality
- Practicing accepting with your whole self (mind, body, spirit)
*For example, employing accepting self-talk, relaxation techniques, mindfulness, and/or imagery to elevate the process of acceptance
- Listing behaviors you would engage in if you were to accept the facts and then engaging in those behaviors as if you have already accepted the facts
- Attending to your body’s sensations as you think about what you need to accept; leaning into the physicality of acceptance
- Allowing for disappointment, sadness, or grief to arise within you
- Acknowledging that life is precious even with the presence of pain in it.
Related reading: "What Is Radical Acceptance?"
Making Radical Self-Acceptance a Part of Your Routine
Many of us are dealing with complex, multi-faceted, sometimes painful realities that challenge our practices of radical acceptance every day.
That is why it is becoming increasingly essential to weave practices of radical acceptance into our daily routines in various ways.
It is up to us to create the environment within which radical acceptance can flourish by leveraging the factors within our realm of control to make it happen.
Whether we are able to practice mindfulness and the steps towards radical acceptance, as described in Linehan’s DBT, will determine whether we are fueled by our positive experiences or defined by our negative ones.
This article will explore six distinct ways to weave in and nurture radical acceptance into your day-to-day routines at home and work.1 Focus on what you can control.
While many aspects of our daily lives are outside of our control, many are within them. For someone looking to cultivate stronger practices of radical acceptance in their routine, defining your realm of control and finding ways to bend it to your will is crucial.
For example, suppose you have a supportive and relatively peaceful family situation. In that case, places like your home can offer a safe space to practice acceptance with our mind, body, and soul through meditation and relaxation. Further, deciding who we are surrounded by, what we are looking at regularly, and how our environment is arranged and enhanced allows the home to act as a canvas containing the images of our own choosing. We can provide ourselves with inspiration, comfort, beauty, or simple reminders of the best version of who we want to become. Then, our environment supports and replenishes us.2 Embrace the small things that make you feel positive.
Each day, we experience small moments of joy that can influence our experience of ourselves and our surroundings. Unfortunately, a lot of the time, our fast-paced routine of commuting to work, juggling professional and personal responsibilities, and attending events in our free time causes us to miss out on opportunities to live in the moment.
Being present and seeking out experiences that spark joy can make a huge difference in our relationship with ourselves and our realities. For example, paying attention to how our neighbors carefully groom their front yard or the playfulness of a household pet can spark positivity that fuels our appreciation for the present moment without allowing us to focus on fighting against negativity that we cannot eradicate.
Negativity and positivity coexist in every reality. We can take deliberate action to focus on the latter in small, but valuable ways.3 Seek connection with others in your community.
Connecting with our wider social circle can sometimes be a way to escape the responsibility of nurturing radical acceptance in your daily life.
However, there are also ways to cultivate radical acceptance through our social connections. Being with friends, family or colleagues, while also making new acquaintances can strengthen feelings of being more significant and appreciated in our communities.
For example, going to lunch with a friend or colleague after receiving bad news can distract you from focusing on the negative situation, provide additional support, inspire courage, and encourage you instead of feeling helpless in what’s happening in your life.4 Embrace your vulnerabilities.
The negative connotation and myths surrounding vulnerability have perpetuated the false belief that nothing is gained from exposing our vulnerability to others. Instead, we are led to believe that we should face life’s challenges alone.
In truth, embracing one’s inevitable vulnerability can be an incredibly freeing experience. In one of Brené Brown’s most popular TED talks, viewed by over 50M people around the globe, she suggests that embracing vulnerability is the “birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity.” Many of these benefits are also associated with radical acceptance.
Embracing the moments when we feel most vulnerable daily allows us to build a more robust acceptance of ourselves as holistic beings, combining strengths and weaknesses for ultimate wholeness.5 Explore causality impartially.
Practicing radical acceptance is often derailed by the mystery surrounding what caused the adverse events in our lives in the first place.
It is tempting to get bogged down in questions like “Why did this happen to me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” This line of questioning rarely leads us to something constructive in the long run, as many of the painful or sorrowful events in our lives are not directly triggered by us. This mind talk can cause us to feel powerless and empty.
A more productive line of questioning examines causality through the lens of an impartial third-party observer. This approach can be a much more enlightening approach to identifying the series of events that have led to the current reality and can help give us closure with circumstances that we may not be able to change.6 Spend “slow” time alone.
In an age in which speed and multitasking are raised on a pedestal and praised, slowing down the pace of life can be a much-needed alternative for those seeking radical acceptance of themselves and others.
Slowing down the pace of your routine once in a while and spending time alone can be a beneficial practice that opens up space for us to stop, survey ourselves, and re-evaluate our circumstances.
For example, carving out time for a mindfulness practice or meditation in your daily schedule can provide chances to clarify your idea of who you are, what you want, and what you care about, which are pivotal to effectively navigating your reality with confidence.
Radical Acceptance Can Be a Daily Ritual
There is no be-all and end-all solution to developing a strong sense of acceptance of ourselves and our realities.
Practicing radical acceptance in small ways every day is what has the potential to move the needle on how we define our relationship with circumstances outside of our control.
Even though investing in and making radical acceptance a part of our routine might initially emphasize our reactions to what is outside of our control, it directly affects the aspects of our life that we can positively impact, like our families, homes, jobs, and identities.
Whether we choose to reap the benefits of a healthier, more accepting relationship with ourselves and our reality is up to us alone.
If you want support to find more inner peace and practices of radical acceptance, Heartmanity can help. Transforming lives is our business! Take a step toward the best version of yourself through our coaching programs.