I am very happy to see more people talking about acceptance, of themselves and each other… More people talking about being their authentic selves…. More people discussing the concept of not judging a book by its cover. I think it is a wonderful thing to embrace our differences and to not force people into one little tiny mold.
However, I also believe there is sometimes a dangerous side effect to all that. It offers up easy excuses.
When we subscribe to self-acceptance it can also offer us justification for some poor behavior. “That’s just how I am” or “That’s just how she is” is often used to sanitize careless actions, lack of effort, or just plain laziness.
I remember being at a business dinner and one participant had his phone on the table monitoring a sports game and interrupting the conversation with his own updates about every five minutes whether we wanted them or not. Others at the table excused it as “That’s just how Joe is”. Truth is, Joe was just rude. His rudeness was swept under a rug of acceptance.
We all have a way of being in the world and if we get lazy, we can use acceptance to absolve all kinds of missteps.
That person who isn’t a morning person, do they really get to be rude and cranky when you say hello just because they aren’t a morning person because “that’s just how they are”? That person who has a tendency to speak their mind, do they really get to hurl insults and verbally vomit on someone because they didn’t take time to think about what they were saying because “that’s just how they are?”
That person who struggles with money management, does that give them a pass every time they make a bad decision because “that’s just how they are”?
That person with a quick temper, do they get to take it out on others because “that’s just how they are”?
That person who showed up for work, do they get to barely put in the minimum effort because “that’s just how they are”?
Perhaps the most important question of all… Are we that person?If we use self-acceptance as an excuse we need to require more of ourselves. Click To Tweet
After some introspection I realized that sometimes I am that person. I am an introvert and sometimes I use my self-acceptance on this point to avoid difficult situations. It’s an easy go to. This ends up hurting me in the end and keeps me from achieving what I really desire.
I also came to the realization (with the help of those angels I live with) that I tend to come off as short and abrupt in my communications sometimes. While it never sounds this way in my head, it only really matters what it sounds like to others. It is certainly selfish and lazy if I just accept it as is.
When we are THAT person, when we start using self-acceptance as an excuse, it would seem to be very a cowardly way of being. There are times when we need to require more of ourselves. This does not mean changing the core of who we are. It means becoming the best person we can be. It doesn’t mean that we need to be perfect either. It means that we hold ourselves accountable for our actions and in-actions.No need to be perfect but we need to hold ourselves accountable for our actions and in-actions. Click To Tweet
So…..What to do about it?
Identify and Acknowledge the Excuses
We have to look deep. It’s rarely pleasant looking at our shortcomings. If anyone says they can’t find anything they need to improve on than I say, “LIAR, LIAR, PANTS ON FIRE!” (I trust no one who thinks that they have nothing to improve on. That means they are either arrogant or that they are immature and have no self-awareness. *In this case I am being short and abrupt to hammer home a point). We need to look a little closer or have someone close to us give us some insight. There is usually someone in our lives willing to do the dirty work (sometimes way too many someones).
Once you have identified it you have to acknowledge it or you can’t fix it (Thank you, Dr. Phil).
Make a Plan
We have found our excuses, now we need to make a plan to require more of ourselves. This may mean changing a habit, finding a trigger, or identifying an alternate action. It has to be do something actionable.
In my case, my plan for not using my introversion as an excuse is making a commitment to saying yes to (and following through) situations that make me uncomfortable. When it comes to being rough and abrupt, I try to take a moment to think about my tone of voice and practice taking the edge off.
We get comfortable with who we are and how we present ourselves to the world. It takes courage to take ourselves into the uncomfortable and eliminate our excuses. This can be done one tiny step at a time if need be. When we muster our courage we also need to be forgiving when we fall short. However, self-forgiveness does not give us a pass, it gives us another opportunity to get it right.
It takes courage to try again. And keep trying. It’s a matter of personal integrity.
It is a great thing for us to accept and embrace what is unique about ourselves and others. It is not so great if it dissolves into a shelter for our lack of effort. Let’s require ourselves to be our best selves.
Have you ever used self-acceptance as an excuse? How did you combat it?