How To Accept Others For Who They Are (Rather Than Who You Want Them To Be)
The world is a complicated place full of diverse individuals all trying to make sense of what’s going on around them. It’s easy for us to try to impose our own worldview on those around us, thinking that our point of view is more important, more insightful, or more enlightened than those with differing opinions. The problem with that perspective is that few people want to entertain the notion that they might be wrong about how they perceive the world to be. And those that want to change the opinions of others often do a terrible job of convincing without insulting or offending. All too often we see people dig in their heels on beliefs when they feel attacked, particularly if they don’t feel like there is a problem with how they see the world. And you know what? It may be the case that the person trying to do the convincing is wrong. Or, more likely, that there is no concrete wrong or right. The ability to accept other people for who they are, rather than who you want them to be, is important for everything from healthy relationships to maintaining professionalism in the workplace to positively influencing the people around you. There is something powerful in making a connection with a person who accepts you as you are and that you accept as they are.
How do you do that?
Understand that it’s impossible for you to know everything.
The key to accepting others for who they are is to dismantle one’s own ego. Humans are judgmental creatures by nature. We often feel like we need to have an opinion on anything that stokes the smallest flame of our emotion, and when we get emotional, we often tend to stop thinking clearly. How many times have you made a bad decision while you were feeling emotional about a situation? Probably more than once! But we don’t need to have an opinion on every single little thing in the world. In fact, it’s often better if we don’t because then we can be more open and receptive to new ideas and perspectives. Every person that you cross paths with in life will know things you don’t know, have experiences you haven’t experienced, and carry a different worldview than you do. These are great things! It makes every person a learning opportunity when you can set aside your own perspectives to simply listen and be with that person in their world.
Understand that the only person you can change is yourself.
Accepting other people as they are is much easier when you understand that the only person you can truly change is yourself. It doesn’t matter how much pressure you exert, how much influence you try to exercise, or how convincing you are; a person who does not want to change will not change. Period.
Because change is simple, but it’s not easy. It’s simple because you can just set a new goal and start working toward it. It’s not easy because it usually takes consistent effort and work over a long period of time to create meaningful change. And a lot of people just don’t want to do that. Far too many people think that they can just sculpt their friend or lover into the person they desire. This will usually backfire when the victim realizes that they are being coerced or guided in a direction they don’t necessarily want to go in. They may be perfectly happy and content with the person they are, for better or worse. And even if they have serious problems or flaws, no one can change that but them. The truly difficult part of this realization is loving someone who has serious problems or refuses to make good decisions. You can absolutely love and try to influence that person in a positive direction, but that doesn’t mean they will actually do the work to improve. It doesn’t mean that they are willing to dedicate the energy and motivation to making the change. And it doesn’t mean that they can even see a problem with the way they are or their choices.
Engage in the activities and interests that the person is passionate about.
It’s much easier to accept someone for who they are when you have a better understanding of that person’s different interests and perspectives. A good way to put yourself in their shoes, get to know them better, and get to understand them is to partake in the activities that they enjoy and explore the things they are passionate about with them. That is, assuming that these are healthy, non-destructive activities. The differences we share with one another can separate, but they can also help bring us together if we are open-minded enough to do a little exploration. Exploring these differences can help us relate, understand that person’s feelings, or perceive the world in the way that they do. Differences are something to celebrate, not fear. Exploring them together can help foster and grow a healthier relationship.
Remind yourself how it felt to be judged about who you are.
A good way to tune into one’s empathy is to remember how we felt when someone judged us about some facet of our personality. People love to be overly critical about things that they are not interested in or passionate about. Perhaps you worked really hard on something and the person it was for didn’t appreciate it, or maybe you got excited about some activity that another person attacked and tore down, or maybe you were just attacked for something you believed to be a core part of your personal truth. No matter what it was, everyone has something that they feel sensitive and vulnerable about. We bury it behind our walls so that it stays safe and whole, so that we don’t have to worry about what other people think of it. And we would all be better off if we tried not to visit that same kind of judgment on the people around us; the people that we claim to care about and love. No one likes to be judged. It doesn’t feel good. And it’s a good thing to remind ourselves how we felt when other people judged our choices, likes, or passions when we start feeling critical of others. In doing so, we can reground our mind and stay more accepting of others.
You don’t have to be understanding or accepting of destructive or disrespectful behavior.
The manipulative and destructive people of the world like to throw accusations of judgment to defend toxic behavior. While it is important to accept people as they are, it’s equally as important to know when to say this isn’t for me or enough is enough. Far too many people make excuses for destructive behavior from the people that they love and write it off as that just being how the person is. Maybe that’s true. Maybe that is how that person is. But that doesn’t mean you have to hang around to be victimized, bullied, or harmed by their behavior. Healthy boundaries are an essential part of any good friendship or relationship. And if someone is partaking in toxic behavior that is negatively affecting you or your life, then you have every right to walk away from it without trying to save that person from themselves or change them, because you won’t be able to even if you want to.