Roadblock to Happiness: Radical Acceptance

Roadblocks to Happiness-

Roadblocks to Happiness-

I’ll admit it. I can be extremely stubborn. I like to have control of my life and I get extreme anxiety when things happen that are unexpected or that don’t fit with my agenda.

That’s where Radical Acceptance comes in.

For those of you who do not know, radical acceptance means that you accept reality for what it is.

Sounds easy enough, right?

In theory, sure. I try to live by the golden rule of serenity. I attempt to ask my version of God for the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and the courage to change the things I can. I also think I’m pretty good at knowing the difference.

Unfortunately, this insightful piece of wisdom doesn’t usually come to me until after the fact. I know I’ve allowed painful emotions get the better of me time and again. I’ve let anger and resentment at a person or situation cause me to act irrationally or build to the point that I’m actually suffering.

The thing is, life is constantly throwing us curve balls. We can plan our days and our lives down to the exact detail and we can be more prepared than a boy scout, but things are still going to happen that don’t fit our agendas.

And in that moment that we realize that things are not going as planned… that you didn’t get the raise you were hoping for or that someone talked trash about you on the internet because they don’t agree with you… It’s so easy to forget the wisdom part of the serenity prayer.

This is the point where you find yourself saying things like “it shouldn’t be this way,” or “I can’t stand this.” Or perhaps- “They should have known better” and “Why is this happening to me?”

Sound familiar?

I remember once, after a particularly difficult break up, I spent months in a depression. I hated my ex for not wanting to be with me and hated myself for not being the person he was looking for. Had I been able to recognize that no amount of crying or begging or (really embarrassing) emailing would change the situation, I could have saved myself a lot of suffering.

I like to think I’m getting better at acceptance when things turn to shit. Or at least, I know what I need to do to get unstuck.

I’d also like to point out that it’s ok to have painful emotions. I’m learning that they serve a purpose. You just have to realize if your particular emotion is serving a positive or negative purpose. Even anxiety can serve a positive purpose. I know I’d never get my bills paid if I didn’t have a little anxiety over it, and then I’d have collection companies calling me and that would definitely produce negative stress. If you’re emotions aren’t serving a positive purpose, you have to learn to regulate them, but that’s a topic for another day.

If you ever find yourself stuck in an unpleasant emotion, here’s what I would suggest.

  1. Recognize whether or not you are fighting reality. If you aren’t sure, then ask yourself if there is anything you can do to change the situation.
  2. If there is something you can do in the situation, then make a plan. Problem solve.
  3. If there is nothing you can do, then practice acceptance and letting go. Sometimes this is tricky, but I find that simply telling myself “it is what it is” or reciting the serenity prayer does wonders if repeated enough.
  4. Change the way you feel. Write out a list of the positives that can come out of the situation. Smile. Remember your emotions are temporary.

The only other option is to remain stuck, and that’s no fun. As difficult as it may seem, accepting reality as it is, is the much easier option.

What do you do when you find yourself stuck? How do you go about accepting reality?


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  • Mwa

    Oh yes. I need that.

  • SuzLyfe

    I didn’t know that Radical Acceptance was a thing (as in, that it had a proper name, I knew that such a concept existed, duh). I like to think that I am an optimistic realist. So basically, a radical acceptor?

  • Gretchen Braun

    I love this post! I am actually pretty good at accepting things that are out of my control and not letting it bother me (my thoughts are if I can’t do anything about it, what good would it be to get upset?) but this is something that Dan struggles with. Even something as mundane as traffic can make him really upset and ruin his entire day. I need to show him this post and hopefully he can learn Radical Acceptance. Great post, Carissa!

  • Living on Cloud Nine

    This is amazing!! Life does throw us all curveballs, I try hard to go with the flow and immediately begin formulating a plan in my organized mind!! Now that plan may fail, but at least it made me feel better to sort it out. Thanks girl, I think we all needed this.

  • Stacie

    Whenever I find myself stuck I have to get out of my bubble – normally that’s been in the form of travel because for me there is no better way to kinda rediscover myself than by going somewhere new.

  • Bourbon & Lipstick

    I am terrible at accepting things out of my control (and admitting that I have no control) so this post speaks volumes to me. I am grateful for your vulnerability and candor.

  • Kasey Decker

    I am probably the worst at accepting that I can’t control everything. I like to pretend I can get it all under control until I have a complete meltdown because someone said something that wasn’t even mean. it’s always nice to know you’re not alone though!

  • Audrey

    Ahh, I struggle with this, too. When things change unexpectedly I lose it- my poor husband has gotten used to this and braces himself. Every once in a while I remain composed and his mind is blown. Haha. I’m so much better at radical reaction than radical acceptance 😉 I’ll keep working on it!

  • Ash @ The Nashvillian

    Oh, I totally understand this. I am definitely a planner and am always overcome with anxiety whenever something is thrown off schedule. Thank you for sharing this post!

  • Emelia @ Dream Big & Buy the S

    I never knew this had a name, but I love all the information. I need to let things roll more easily, and keep moving ahead. I get held up on little things, and am constantly working on ways to react better in the moment.

  • Kerry

    I am very stubborn too. I try to always reflect back and see how I could have reacted differently. Knowing what is out of my control and letting go of that is so hard but so important to learn.

  • Carissa


  • Carissa

    haha, that sounds like a good thing to be.

  • Carissa

    Good for you! I definitely need to be more like you!

  • Carissa

    thanks lady!

  • Carissa

    Travel is definitely a great way to change things up!

  • Carissa

    Aw thanks lady!

  • Carissa

    If definitely helps. We’re all in this together!

  • Carissa

    I’m definitely much better at rational reaction too haha

  • Carissa

    You’re welcome! Thanks for reading!

  • Carissa

    I just recently learned about it and am trying to be better at it also! It takes practice i think.

  • Carissa

    Very true! We’ll get there!


    needed this. currently going through a lot over here. just taking it day by day and trying so hard for serenity.

  • Kasey Decker

    don’t judge me, but I definitely read that in zac efron’s singing voice from High School Musical……

  • SMD @ lifeaccordingtosteph

    Sometimes, it is what it is and that’s all you can say about it. I know it’s a waste of energy to fight it when it’s like that so I just don’t. It’s a skill acquired over time for sure. I fought harder when I was younger against things I could not control.

  • Diana

    Such a great post Carissa! I think one thing we need to realize when we are upset over something is that it’s OK to not be OK. Society tells us that we need to just get over things already, and sometimes we just can’t do it right away, which in turn makes us even worst off. I think that understanding where you are at the current moment is so important and accepting that helps alot.