There was a time in my life, after my recovery, when I was in a position in which very little about my role, my life, where I would be traveling the next day, and who I spent time with was under my control.
The job of Miss America may seem very glamorous and exciting, but being on the road most days of the year — without the normalcy of things like driving your own car, picking up groceries, or visiting with family and friends — was disorienting. While there were many highlights, there were also low periods throughout that year where I yearned for connection with someone I had known longer than the five minutes after meeting them at an event. I wanted to sleep in my own bed, eat a home-cooked meal, and spend one day wearing something other than high heels.
In many ways, it was wonderful. But in so many others, it was overwhelming. There was a constant pressure to be “on,” and in some impossible way meet everyone’s expectation of what Miss America should act like, speak like, dress like, and look like.
But during that year, someone passed along incredible words of wisdom that really helped me on dark days: “Accept every situation as if you had chosen it.”
Upon reflection, I’ve learned that when I feel frustrated, anxious, or agitated about something, it’s usually because some element of the situation is either not in my control or not meeting my expectations. It’s easy to let negative emotions gain a foothold when observing the situation from the perspective of, “if only this had happened instead,” or, “if I were in charge,” or, “things shouldn’t be this way; they should be THIS way.”
When I started to introduce this phrase into my thinking, I noticed an immediate shift in my inner attitude, which led me to change my words, actions, and body posture. Acceptance is a wonderful trait to cultivate, but I find that sometimes it’s interpreted or explained in a way that is too passive.
Acceptance isn’t reluctance, or a shrug of the shoulders in defeat — it’s an action. It’s a decision to treat the current situation, circumstance, or reality as if it’s one you have chosen. It’s taking the power back rather than letting the world happen to us. Instead of allowing for frustration, agitation, or confusion, it’s stepping forward and choosing to face hard realities with courage and action. You can only change a situation and release its hold over your emotions when you actively accept it. That’s when you take the power back.
Now, it would be natural here to think: “Should I accept this pandemic as if I had chosen it? Seriously?” No one would choose to have a health crisis afflict millions across the globe, throw millions more into unemployment and job insecurity, and create lockdowns that separate loved ones and produce a mental health crisis. No one would choose that.
But I would argue that, wherever we are — in treatment, sheltering in place, working from home, or adjusting to a new reality — we accept our personal situations in an active, positive way rather than with reluctance and fear. Across the world, we’re all facing similar circumstances, lockdowns, and uncertainty.
Passive acceptance leads to more fear and emotionally shrinking from the moment. Active acceptance allows you to meet the uncertainty head–on and say, “I am not afraid.” Active acceptance says, “If this is my new reality, I’m going to put new boundaries and guidelines in place to maintain recovery.” Active acceptance is staying in touch or getting back in touch with your treatment team, reaching out for help when you need it, creating a new routine, and following a meal plan. Acceptance must be followed by adjustment.
Accept this moment as if you chose it. Choose how you will frame this current phase of your life in your mind: as one of opportunity, beauty, and newfound strength.