When I was a junior in college, I spent three months in a psychiatric inpatient hospital.

 

Not as a patient. As a chaplain.

 

I chose it for my semester-long internship while studying in San Francisco and I worked three days a week on the unit. My main job? To listen.

I remember my interactions with patients so vividly

 

Even though they happened over a decade ago. There was the older Mexican woman who, through her broken English and my rough translation skills, told me about the people talking to her through the TV.

 

Then there was the man in his late 20s, with a strawberry-tinted beard and thick Irish accent, who drank 40 cans of beer a day working as a longshoreman. He fought alongside the IRA in Northern Ireland and fled for fear of being executed.

 

And there was the woman in her 50s who kept quietly to herself and sat alone in her light blue hospital gown near the window. She burned all of her identification and gave away all of her possessions–so sure she wanted to die–only to survive the jump from the Bay Bridge.

As I sat across the table from these people, something curious happened

 

They came looking for me during my shifts. They talked to me and opened up about their painful experiences.

 

I wasn’t doing anything special or teaching any life-changing tools or skills. I was simply listening.

 

There is power in telling your story to another human being and being heard without judgment.

 

Acceptance.

 

My 15 years working in mental health have proven that to be true time and again. My clients have made significant changes during our work together quite simply because they have felt safe, valued, and worthy.

 

Acceptance.

 

It remains the foundation of the work I do with clients, and it’s what I teach them to do for themselves.

 

I believe that you have inherent worth–just as you are. Whether you change or stay the same, it doesn’t matter. You still have value.

 

I believe that your story is worthy of being heard. Not changed. Not altered in any way. Just heard. With openness and curiosity and wonder.

When I offer that to people, something curious happens again…

 

People change.

 

Because acceptance creates the best possible conditions for growth.

 

Until you can learn to hear your own story without judgment and offer yourself unconditional acceptance then lasting change will remain just beyond your reach.

 

Start now. What’s something you’re grateful for about yourself? What’s something you’re good at or comes naturally to you? Leave a comment below then start a list and add to it every day for the next 7 days. Be genuine and specific!

 

PS. My inaugural signature program launches soon (scheduled to start in the beginning of January). I’m looking for a small group of people to join me as I kick it off. Acceptance and change will be at the heart of what we do. If you’re interested in learning more, sign up here!

 

PPS. I love this article on acceptance from mindbodygreen. Go read it!

 

The Serenity Prayer — chances are you know this one. (If you don’t, I’d like to invite you out from under your rock. It’s a pretty nice world out here, most of the time.)

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

No disrespect to Reinhold Niebuhr who penned this back in the 1930s but I’d like to give it a quick update.

I commit to accepting myself for who I am,
Changing the things that I can,
And learning how to balance the two.

How hard is it to change? Answer: HARD. It’s even harder when you’re doing it from a place of self-disgust. That’s why the Serenity Prayer is still so applicable today. It gives us a hint as to how we should go about this whole changing thing.

You cannot change until you learn to accept yourself.

 

Life is a balance between acceptance and change. In order to start on the path to change, you first have to know that you are WORTHY of being, doing, and having better. That’s where the real motivation lies. If you know you’re worthy of having the life you desire, you will stay on track when things get tough (or get back on track more quickly when you slip up). And isn’t it true on the flip side that in order to fully accept yourself you have to embrace the ways you fall short? Ignoring the parts of yourself that you’re not so fond of isn’t acceptance, it’s denial. You’ve gotta love the whole package.

 

Everything that I do as a coach includes these two pieces. I help my clients learn who they are, LOVE who they are, and practice better self-care. I also help them create a vision for their future, set goals and make a plan, and take practical steps to achieve them.

 

If you find yourself starting and stopping on your goals, breaking promises to yourself, and having a hard time changing the things in your life that need to change, step back and take a look at how you’re feeling about YOU. Are you trying to change from a place of self-acceptance and love? Or it from a place of self-loathing? Are you speaking kindly to yourself? Or are you berating yourself every time you mess up? If it’s the latter, you’ve uncovered the problem.

 

Your next move is to dive deep into that negative self-talk, pull back the curtain on your shame, and shine a light onto those dark places. It’s hard work but it’s the only thing that will lead to lasting change. And it’s worth it. YOU’RE worth it.