The need to accept one's faults and shortcomings; or accept oneself in whole, with all faults and shortcomings; or self-acceptance is being repeatedly stressed by psychologists.
However, I've always had problems with this. Whenever I was hearing something along the lines of "acceptance is a necessary precondition of change" from a professional therapists I would usually start arguing with him. This is what was reaching me:
To be able to change something in your life you must decide you want to change nothing.
So for example, an alcohol addict must decide he will continue drinking until he meets his grave in order to be able to stop drinking? This seemed to me to be either an oxymoron or a particularly twisted form of self-delusion.
Today I read in a newspaper an interview with a professional psychologist and dietician, who was criticizing people who oppose the promotion of self-acceptance among obese people. She elaborated that the dichotomy between obese people accepting their bodies and the fact that obesity is unhealthy and is a both personal and societal problem to be solved is a false one. She pointed out that people who think that way are thinking stereotypically, that this stems from lack of knowledge, that this is a way people cope with cognitive dissonances, etc etc. She claimed that according to research positive motivation is far better than negative motivation that stems from the society rejecting obese people and from obese people not accepting their bodies; instead, if the society accepts obese people and obese people accept themselves, we will take a step closer towards solving the problem of obesity. She explicitly claimed that this does not mean, contrary to a popular belief, that an obese people will not wish to lose weight.
Ah. So apparently, contrary to what I was understanding, "acceptance" in the mouths of psychologists does not mean "decision not to change". Then what does "acceptance" mean?
- to agree to take something
- to say yes to an offer or invitation
- to consider something or someone as satisfactory
- to believe that something is true
Definitions 1-2 seem clearly not relevant here.
Definition 3 seems to me to be this exact faulty definition that I had in mind and that was preventing me from understanding was psychologists were really trying to communicate. For example, I suppose, the verb "accept" is used here in the same definition as in the sentence "*The editorial board rejected Mr. Smith's paper two times already, but finally accepted the third revision for publication*". So the paper had to be changed two times until finally it was deemed satisfactory and no longer in need of change.
Finally, definition 4, while not obviously inapplicable, nonetheless doesn't seem to be relevant here: I have feeling psychologists, when they are saying that obese people should accept themselves, don't actually mean "obese people should stop deluding themselves into thinking they are thin".
Therefore, what does a psychologist mean when they say "acceptance" or "to accept"?