by Amanda Rosinski, M.A.
Happy 2017! Our New Year has just started, which is often coupled with many different New Year’s resolutions. This tradition emphasizes a person changing something that is undesirable about themselves. This could be a trait that someone has, such as being unassertive, or a behavior that someone has, such as eating a lot of fast food. New Year’s resolutions aim to target those undesired aspects of oneself and change them to something more desirable. Common resolutions often include exercising more, eating more healthily, volunteering more time or donating more money to those in need, focusing more on a career or establishing a family, etc. However, when one examines New Year’s resolutions from an REBT perspective, these resolutions may miss one critical component in our journey to become more healthy – unconditional acceptance of self, others, and life. Unconditional acceptance involves accepting yourself, others, and life in their entirety even when you don’t necessarily approve of each aspect of yourself, others, or life. It involves restraining yourself from rating and judging yourself, others, and life. These ratings become irrational beliefs which lead to unhealthy negative emotions, such as anger, depression, and anxiety. But how does unconditional acceptance fit in with New Year’s resolutions?
One common resolution is “I’m going to exercise more and lose weight.” But before a person aims to lose weight, it may be more beneficial to work towards unconditional self-acceptance first. This does not mean that you approve of yourself being overweight, but rather that you accept yourself the way you are. This unconditional self-acceptance will be helpful if that person’s weight fluctuates again. Another resolution may be “I’m going to improve my career so I can earn more money.” But what if that person attempts to improve their career and fails? That rejection is part of life but it does not equal life. Unconditional life acceptance will help that person to see that this rejection is not preferable, but they can still gain happiness out of other aspects of life. Unconditional acceptance can be a helpful component of almost any goal, and can even be the goal on its own. Achieving unconditional acceptance of self, others, and life will lead to more rational beliefs, and more healthy emotions, which is a valuable skill for all of us.