Acceptance vs Resignation

Person in a dress, and covered in sunlight, hugging themself.
I want to talk a bit about the difference between accepting what is and resigning oneself to what is.

What’s the difference?

I’m going to try to describe something with very subtle nuance. I’m not sure how well this is going to get across what I intend, but I’d like to try.

In my own Journey of figuring out I’m Autistic, reframing my life with that info, and trying to make things better yet running into lots of difficulties and road blocks (both external and internal), I’ve noticed a subtle yet important difference between accepting the situation for what it is and resigning myself to the situation.

Acceptance is more like, “Well, this situation isn’t what I wanted, but this is the current situation and I’ll deal with what it is.” Whereas resignation is more like, “Well, that’s the way it is and there’s nothing I can do about it.” The second is significantly disempowering; it often leads to inaction, to staying stuck in that situation instead of feeling capable of doing anything about it.

Resignation is the one we see more often. It’s this feeling of, “Oh, that sucks and there’s nothing I can do about it, so why bother trying?” And then you just stew in your own juices, often generating resentment, and sometimes learned helplessness.

That the world was against me, and nothing that anyone suggested could possibly work.

It’s negativity. Intense negativity and frustration. It leads to lots of complaining, possibly so much complaining and negativity that other people don’t want to be around you, and it may even drive people away (which reinforces the negative thoughts and leads to more rumination).

I’ve been in that intense negative space, convinced that nothing would ever work, that it was useless, that there was no way out, that it was going to be like that forever. That I was broken, and no one understood, and they were all idiots anyway. That the world was against me, and nothing that anyone suggested could possibly work (to be fair, a lot of it didn’t work, but maybe some of it could have if I had been in a different headspace).

From resignation to acceptance

Clearly, I’m still here and writing this to you, and I have a pretty good life now, so what changed?

It wasn’t my circumstances that changed at first. Those did change, but only very slowly over several years, and only after things started changing inside me first.

The start of it all was figuring out that I’m Autistic, not broken. Realizing that for three and a half decades I didn’t have a key piece of information about myself, and reframing my whole life with that new info.

That wasn’t the only thing that made a difference, but it was the turning point for me.

Unbeknownst to me (until I looked back at it years later), it helped me subtly start moving from resignation to acceptance.

Accepting that this is the brain that I have, and the life that I have, and the circumstances that I have, and that I can deal with it (a little bit at a time). That I can and will face my life head on. Even when it’s hard, and slow, and icky, and uncomfortable, and uncertain, and not what I wanted it to be: I will deal with what it is.

I’m simply dealing with the reality of what is in front of me, one moment at a time.

When I made that mental shift, I found parts of my life that I could start trying to change. (Others took a long time before I managed that.)

I think that the shift from resignation to acceptance was about trusting myself to be able to deal with whatever the situation was. Trusting myself (now, every day, and every moment) to be able to face the situation in front of me, and sometimes to be able to do something about it. When there’s nothing to do, at least I’m not pretending or wishing (much) that it were otherwise. I’m simply dealing with the reality of what is in front of me, one moment at a time.

I hope I’m making sense here. What are you getting from this? I’d love to read your take on this in the comments below.

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Heather Cook

Heather Cook

Hi, I’m Heather. I’m an Autistic writer, advocate, and life coach, and I'm building a life I love. I help other Autistics to build their own autism-positive life. I love reading, jigsaw puzzles, just about every -ology, and Star Trek!

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