About a year ago, one of my coaches asked me whether I was tolerating my husband’s behavior or accepting it. I had never thought about the difference but quickly realized I’d been tolerating it…and it was making me miserable.
This week, I heard the same coach tell me that she had tolerated behaviors in herself. I’d never considered that I might be tolerating my own behavior.
Guess what? I have been.
The Difference Between Tolerating and Accepting
So what’s the difference between tolerating and accepting?
Tolerating implies that you are “putting up” with something you don’t necessarily like or approve of. You aren’t interfering or protesting but are unhappy about the situation and enduring it anyway.
You grin and bear someone or something unpleasant. And you do so with “forbearance,” which means you exercise self-control, restraint, and tolerance.
On the other hand, when you accept, you recognize that whatever you don’t like—a behavior, situation, or opinion, is valid or acceptable. So you decide it’s okay and can live with it…without being unhappy, complaining, or criticizing.
When you accept something, you allow it into your experience without forbearance. You decide to live with it and not let it bother you.
As you can see, there’s a big difference between tolerating and accepting.
Are You Tolerating or Accepting?
You may still wonder whether you tolerate or accept someone’s behavior, including yours. So, take what I call “The Feel Test.”
Think about a person you know whose behavior you currently tolerate. How does that make you feel?
Now think about someone whose behavior you accept. How does that make you feel?
There’s a distinct difference, is there not?
Tolerating makes you feel angry, resentful, unhappy, and irritated, right? On the other hand, accepting makes you feel peaceful, content, empathetic, and unreactive.
If you do a Feel Test, you’ll no longer have questions about whether you are tolerating or accepting.
Stop Tolerating Other’s Behavior
As I said, I realized I was tolerating many of my husband’s behaviors. And doing so was driving me crazy and ruining our marriage. It was even impacting my health.
How did I change that situation?
First, I made a list of all the things I was tolerating. Second, I honestly assessed which behaviors I could accept and which I couldn’t.
Then, I accepted the ones I could. I stopped focusing on them or allowing myself to complain, get angry, or talk about them to myself or anyone else, including my husband. And that changed a lot—especially my mental and emotional state!
I then talked with my husband about the things I couldn’t accept. He agreed to change a few of them, which meant I didn’t need to tolerate them any longer.
While this is still a work in progress for both of us. However, between the acceptance on my part and the changes on his part, I stopped needing to tolerate much. We are still married—and happily so, which says a lot!
Stop Tolerating Situations
So far, I’ve mainly discussed tolerating behaviors in others. But you may be tolerating situations as well as behaviors. If you are enduring a situation, it’s time to look for new options or different choices. Then, once you find them, take action!
For instance, you might hate your job but have tolerated it for years to earn the income. Of course, that makes getting up each day to go to work pretty difficult, does it not? So find a new job. Or imagine your dream job, and then see if you can create it.
I tolerated a situation I had with one of my literary agents. I should have ended it immediately, but I waited…and was so unhappy. Instead, I should have broken my contract and found a new agent immediately.
Most situations can be changed. And if you don’t think they can, you are letting yourself be a victim of circumstance. You always have the power to make a new choice—even if that choice is to stop tolerating and accept instead.
What are You Tolerating in Yourself?
Now, let’s turn the tables. Take an honest look at yourself. What behaviors are you tolerating in yourself?
I realized that I have been tolerating my procrastination, stories, excuses, focus on negative outcomes, and lack of commitment and self-integrity. That’s a lot of things to tolerate. As a result, I’ve been pretty miserable.
By now, you probably realize you’ve also been tolerating your own behaviors. So, what do you do now?
Try the process I used.
First, decide which behaviors you can accept…fully. The ones that you can live without forbearance.
In my case, I decided to stop procrastinating, telling myself stories based on the past, and focusing on potential future negative outcomes. I also decided to “be” someone who is committed and self-integral.
I know that these changes will surely make me happier as time goes on. Also, several situations will change, and the new habits will move me toward my goals.
What are you Accepting in Yourself?
There’s a fine line between tolerance and acceptance. In fact, you could be accepting behaviors that need to change if you want to be happier, healthier, have better relationships, or achieve your goals.
But accepting yourself just as you are is a form of self-love. Instead of criticizing or judging yourself, you let yourself off the hook for some behaviors or mindsets.
However, you may think you have accepted something about yourself when you actually tolerate it. For example, eating ice cream more than a few times per week is not healthy for me. Nor does it allow me to lose the weight I want and need to lose to improve my health. But I eat it anyway and tell myself I accept this behavior.
Why? I enjoy it.
In fact, I know deep down inside that my lack of discipline around dessert is something I’m tolerating. Every night, I think, “Nina, you should not eat that ice cream. It’s not helping you in any way…other than maybe emotionally.” Then I feel bad about myself.
If like me, you are bothered by the fact that you have a behavior or mindset you say you have accepted, then you are still tolerating it. You’ve simply managed to disguise your tolerance as acceptance.
It’s Time to Stop Tolerating
Instead of continuing to tolerate the change things about yourself that you don’t like, change them.
I get that changing behaviors and mindsets can seem difficult. But, if it was easy, you’d probably have changed them by now, right?
But consider what will happen if you continue to tolerate yourself? What will you be or feel like in a year…or more?
You probably know the answer…
You will still be stuck, unhappy, and discontented with yourself and your life. And that’s not a good way to live, is it?
You know it’s time to stop tolerating and be happier. So decide to accept the things you genuinely feel good about accepting and change the others.
What are you tolerating that you plan to change? Tell me in a comment below. And if you don’t feel you can do that alone, click here. Or schedule a quick chat here.
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Photo courtesy of iudmilachernetsk.