A Coaching Power Tool By Camila Azevedo, Self-Discovery Coach, SINGAPORE
Why Does Acceptance vs. Denial Matter in Our Lives?
The transformation process, a key outcome of the coaching process, has its basis centered around self-awareness and acceptance. As individuals, we can only achieve true growth when we learn to accept who we are, and how we interact with people and the world around us. Most of us are constantly denying substantial and important parts of our identity, which just further delays our growth process. Accepting ourselves allows us to work with the challenging sides and the curve balls life throws at us in a healthier and more meaningful way while helping us find our purpose and value in life. Although very easy to accept the good things in life, real acceptance requires us to find light in the darkness, happiness in sadness, and growth in struggles. The beauty of acceptance is that it not only transforms our own life but, as we externalize our insights, it transforms our relationships with the people and events around us. This perspective shift is what allows us to refocus and repurpose our energy; it is no longer wasted fighting and denying ourselves, others, or the world around us. Now, we can use it to find healthier ways to move forward.
You either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness. -Brene Brown
Explanation of Acceptance vs. Denial
In our self-discovery journey, the denial stage prevents us from seeing who we are, acknowledging our thoughts and feelings, and taking responsibility for ourselves. The state of denial is a constant non-acceptance of what is inside of us and therefore without acceptance, there can be no transformation. All the characteristics inside of us are neither good nor bad. Our perception of these judgments is imposed on us by society at large. Instead, we must realize that how we use our characteristics can create good or bad outcomes. Yet, our actions are rarely in-line with our true selves or who we truly can be with acceptance, due to the simple fact that we know very little about who we are. As we go deeper into this journey and start finding more about our true selves, the tendency is to reject a big portion of our true selves based on societal connotations. Being aware of this process allows us to prevent the denial to take place, and instead focus our energy on fully accepting all parts of ourselves. In our internal essence, we are love and light, but we are in progress. We are imperfect and not a final product, however, that does not mean that we are bad people or live bad lives. It means that we are today exactly what we need to be, so tomorrow we can be who we truly are. Acknowledging and embracing our imperfections opens the doors to work on them in healthier ways that deeply transform ourselves and the people around us.
We are all in essence, good people learning and growing emotionally, socially, and morally, which implies that we will make mistakes. Being able to accept our mistakes and flaws as a part of our growing process is what helps us to shift from a denial state to one of acceptance. This shift is necessary for our growth and to challenge ourselves as we dig towards our inner wisdom. As this shift happens, we will be able to differentiate between our “lens” and the reality around us. This empowers us to make decisive choices on how to use all the characteristics inside of us – an empowered state, where what we have is enough to support us in going through life’s difficulties. Denial is a dead-end road that won’t lead us anywhere. Acceptance will guide us towards awareness, responsibility, and thus transformation.
Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes. Carl Jung
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines acceptance as “the quality or state of being accepted or acceptable”. When we look at the definition of accepted, we find “to give admittance or approval to; to endure without protest or reaction and to regard as proper, normal or inevitable. To recognize as true.” Those are very powerful definitions especially when we can relate them to ourselves, to our journeys, and our progress in life.
Self-acceptance is grounded on our internal wisdom; it allows us to focus on our values and standards rather than external pressures. It allows us to see ourselves as we are, and to embrace our feelings, motives, limitations, and abilities: “it accepts all without self-condemnation”(Berger, 1952). Self-acceptance goes deeper by empowering us to recognize our worth as equal to others, and it solidifies our belief that we are capable to cope with life.
Since we can only give to others what we have inside of us, our characteristics become a natural and unconscious projection of ourselves onto others. As we practice and live by self-acceptance, we become more able to accept others. There is no judgment, rejection, or hate towards anyone who has different values and beliefs. It helps us acknowledge the worthiness of people by bringing equality from a value and beliefs perspective. Relationships are healthier and more complete when responsibility is taken by the right side therefore, as we practice self-acceptance, we become responsible for the consequences of our actions and we allow others to take responsibility for themselves and their choices (Berger, 1952). Acceptance becomes love in action and empowerment in reaction.
Inner acceptance is about embracing all parts of who we are, both the good and the challenging, equally as one. As we stop running away from our shadows, we can use that extra energy to support ourselves by finding healthier ways to express our inner-self. Carl Jung transformed the idea of “acceptance” when he invited us to accept all of ourselves, including our “shadow”, or darker side: “the source of our creative and destructive energies”(McLeod, 2018). Our path to transformation is accepting our flaws and mistakes while embracing them as much as we do with our qualities and successes.
We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses. Carl Jung
Accept- then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it…This will miraculously transform your whole life. Eckhart Tolle
Denial is the refusal to admit the truth or reality of something and therefore, self-denial is the refusal of one’s own internal world, interests, and needs. Freud’s psychoanalytical theory introduced the concept of denial as a defense mechanism of the ego to avoid challenging situations. He described denial as the refusal to accept and acknowledge the existence of a situation or a feeling related to it(Telford, K., Kralik, D., and Koch, T., 2006). Self-denial prevents us from being authentic and honoring all that we have and are within. Jung went further and recognized that when we deny our shadow or darker self, we push it into the collective unconscious, the unknown part of the mind that houses memories and impulses, which ends up causing emotional and social disturbances. He stated that self-denial goes against our nature and that we need to come into contact with everything that we have an urge to deny(Mehrtens,n.d.).
Internal conflicts are most often created by self-denial. We deny our intimate feelings, thoughts, and the challenging characteristics inside ourselves but that does not negate its existence -rejecting them does not make them disappear. On the contrary, it results in us reacting and behaving in ways that contradict the incomplete “self-image” we have created, or the image we want others to have of us(Stein,1998). Once we fully accept all of ourselves, we no longer subconsciously react to our flaws. Instead, we can choose to respond in healthier ways – acceptance is our tool to bring empowerment back.
Denying what you feel will not make it go away. It ensures that it never gets resolved. Unknown
Denial too, is a remote location. One so well masked that many people deny having even heard of it, let alone having been trapped in it. Liberty Hunter
Coaching for Acceptance vs. Denial Is a Collaborative Effort
Coaching is a partnership that facilitates growth, discovery, and changes in an emotionally safe environment based on acceptance, compassion, and empathy. The goal is to help individuals realize their potential, access their wisdom, increase their awareness, redefine self-responsibility and transform into their full authentic selves. However, there is no transformation without acceptance. Therefore, shifting a client’s perspective from denial to acceptance is a very important step toward their transformation. The coach’s role in shifting this perspective is to first identify the denial. We see denial when clients use judgmental statements towards their feelings and thoughts, also when comparing themselves to others, or using victimizing speech which disempowers themselves. Once denial is identified, then the coach can bring awareness to the effect of such denial on their views of themselves and their life. Powerful questions about the fundamental assumptions within a client’s statements will challenge their values or lack thereof. This perspective will bring healing to the client’s journey. Yet, the “who” of the client needs to be explored with a lot of empathy and compassion. Once the client is aware of their denial perspective, the coach can partner with them to find their unique path towards acceptance and transformation.
Coaching Questions to Shift Perspective:
- What type of relationship do I have with myself? With others?
- What is the quality of my thoughts? What are they telling me about myself?
- What are my challenging characteristics? How am I working with them? How would I like to work with them?
- How are those characteristics defining me?
- How would I define self-worth?
- What repetitive feelings and thoughts do I have about myself and the world around me?
- How are those feelings and thoughts serving me?
- How am I honoring myself fully?
- What does it mean to accept all of me?
- What could you accept about yourself? What is challenging to accept about yourself?
- How could I look at my “shadows” differently?
- What am I denying in this situation?
- What could I embrace that would help me achieve my goals?
Sometimes all it takes is a tiny shift of perspective to see something familiar in a totally new light. Dan Brown
Our Self-Discovery Journey: Acceptance vs. Denial
Acceptance liberates us from the mental and emotional conflicts created by denial. Denying parts of ourselves prevents us from fully accepting ourselves, and it limits our ability to face the world inwards and outwards. It also prevents us from creating a real connection with others because, as we deny our characteristics, we will project and reject these traits in others.
Transformation is the magical space created by awareness, acceptance, and responsibility, because as Jung stated, “What you accept you transform.” As we mix those ingredients in our self-discovery journey, we arrive at our unique path to transformation. In this special space, we have the strength to be vulnerable, to honor and be proud of who we are, and to understand our place in this world. This creates the simplest definition of authenticity. As Brene Brown said, “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are”. I will say that acceptance will play a major role in getting there.
The Inwards Journey is imperfectly perfect, sometimes painful, but always transformational. Camila Azevedo
Berger, E. M. The relation between expressed acceptance of self and expressed acceptance of others. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology
Telford, K., Kralik, D., & Koch, T. Acceptance and denial: implications for people adapting to chronic illness: a literature review. Journal of Advanced Nursing
Mehrtens, Sue. (n.d). Jung on Delusion. Jungian Center for the Spiritual Sciences.
Stein, M. Jung's map of the soul: An introduction. Chicago: Open Court.
International Coaching Federation.(n.d).