Have the serenity to accept the things that can’t be changed: Understand and accept your permanent weaknesses; accept the past.

Have the serenity to accept the things that can’t be changed: Understand and accept your permanent weaknesses; accept the past.

beach and sunset positive-thought

by Dr. Clayton E. Tucker-Ladd

First, be sure you have the fault being considered. Would others agree that you have the negative trait? Are you sure you aren’t exaggerating it? For instance, do you reject compliments in your weak spots? Are you sure you aren’t miscalculating the consequences of the weakness? For example, suppose you know you have a bad complexion.  Are you sure it is as unattractive as you think it is? Is it correctable (medicine, surgery or cosmetics)?  Suppose you are of average intelligence. Can you compensate in school by working very hard?  Can you become such a caring, giving friend that your intelligence doesn’t matter?

Secondly, be sure it can’t be changed. Remember any learned trait can theoretically be unlearned, even though “you can’t change the past.” Was your negative trait modeled and/or reinforced by a parent?  Was it developed as a way of coping in the family?  Did the peer group encourage this trait? Are irrational ideas part of the problem? Is something like your “critical parent” involved?  All of these kinds of “faults” are correctable.  Some people do lose weight after years of over-eating; “hot heads” do learn to control their tempers. It’s possible.

Other examples: if you have never learned to speak in public or always felt inferior to a highly educated person or always been a pessimist, you can change. Don’t accept these kinds of negative traits (unless they don’t concern you very much).

Thirdly, be sure you don’t confuse an unchangeable cause with an unchangeable trait. You may be stuck forever with critical parents, mean siblings, and/or rejecting peers in your past, which contributed to your low self-esteem, but you may be able to reject those old judgments by others and learn to judge yourself more favorably. You may have had other childhood traumas–deformity,poverty, illness, a learning disorder, etc.–which contributed to yourself-doubts and low self-esteem. You can’t change these facts of life. But you can change how you view or feel about these facts.  And, you can still overcome these handicaps and learn to evaluate yourself fairly and constructively. 

Lastly, there may be, of course, some of your characteristics that can’t be changed: height, body build, facial and physical features, lack of abilities or talents, some diseases, and perhaps mental illness. You can “forget about” the things that can’t be changed or you can look at them differently, such as accept them or make up for them.

Quite often, you may realize your negative trait can be changed but it just isn’t worth the effort. That may be a reasonable decision; if so, put the matter behind you.

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