Acceptance Is Not Agreement

Acceptance Is Not Agreement

Does acceptance feel like resignation to you? Like you have to give up on what you want and agree with something you don’t want?

Ouch! That is not the kind of acceptance I mean when I say, “All growth is through acceptance!” This insightful comment on “What’s Perfect About Perfectionism – Part 2” from Angelika Wetter (children 1, 4), Argentina, explains this really well.

I love your re-definition of perfectionism as “imperfectionism” and your application of SAY WHAT YOU SEE (SWYS) to it! The messy kitchen counter is a great example! Could come right from my home :-)!


When I read through your application of the three step approach to this example, I suddenly realized why my “imperfectionism” is still getting a lot in between me and using Language of Listening. Sometimes I feel a strong resistance to just SWYS and validate what is, and today I realized that my whole struggle with this is actually about acceptance. What you do in the first two steps – validate, observe, find perfection – is all about accepting what is to create a healthy foundation for problem solving. As you teach in your classes: “All growth is through acceptance.” It is kind of the core of what you teach.


Being grown up as an “imperfectionist” and without being conscious of it, for me accepting has always been equal to agreeing with what is, which would mean giving up on my wish to have a clean kitchen counter. I’m sharing this because I think that this might be true for other “imperfectionists” as well. In my imperfectionist understanding of acceptance, accepting something I don’t like would just mean to let go of my necessity of changing it, to let go of my love of an organized home.


Since I was curious, I looked up “to accept” in the dictionary, and I found that “to agree” is actually one definition of accepting. But there is another meaning, which I think is just the meaning of acceptance you use in SWYS:


to accept = to receive as valid; to understand as having a specific meaning


So that would mean, accepting the messy kitchen counter is not about agreeing with it, but about understanding that it has a specific meaning [to me], that something about this is valid. And there is the perfection you talk about.


I think becoming a real perfectionist is a lot about accepting life in a way that we can see the specific meaning [we assign to] everything and validate it before we go to problem solving. That’s what your whole work is about and why it is so unique. For me, it is not an easy shift to make, and it feels like this is going to be a life-long learning process. And I have a strong feeling that the same is true for my daughters, and that we have something to work on together.


Thank you so much for this wonderful article!

Thank you, Angelika, for sharing your thoughts and clearing this up for so many readers! For another example that brings Angelika’s points about acceptance home, you can read my daughter Betsy’s article “I Love My Body (Seriously!)


  1. Julia Kurskaya |

    These are precious words, Sandy! I have been thinking about “acceptance doesn’t mean agreement” several days before I’ve read the post of yours. I knew about it, yes, but only now I realize how huge it is. When I saw that both my present difficult situations – my husband and me, my daughter and me, when I kept thinking about them, they actually were both about me mixing acceptance with agreement. Even though I – kind of – knew about it for a year or so. I still didn’t notice how I kept mixing them. So, thank YOU for being there to remind about something so important!

    When my daughter was passing through the stage where no clothes would be ok, she was telling me with tears: “Nothing fits, everything is too tight/scratchy, etc. I don’t ever want to go outside! I cannot wear anything!”, I would accept it. I believed her. I had some of these issues when I was little. But, I went farther. I agreed! I thought, yes, she will never be able to go out. It was a dead end. And right after I was able to separate these two that you are talking about, I saw a decision. No, I don’t have to agree. I don’t agree to that! I told Masha that I knew all clothes seemed uncomfortable and I would help her. Together we will find a way. We added some creativity and there – she is fine going outside now, even wearing new warm clothes. And she’s very proud of that!

  2. Julia,

    I’m glad to hear that Angelika’s powerful discussion about the difference between acceptance and agreement was exactly the reminder you needed of how huge this is. Sounds like her timely validation of what you already knew was all you needed to see this mix-up playing out in your life. That awareness allowed you to catch yourself in the moment and break out of an old pattern (blind spot) that had kept you stuck. Congratulations!

    Acceptance lets us move on; agreement keeps us stuck, just as you described. Thank you for sharing your great example!

    I loved your CAN DO of “Together we will find a way.” It went straight to my heart – validating her experience of the problem, telling her she is not alone, and introducing the possibility of a solution…all at the same time. For children facing what appears to be an impossible challenge, it’s music to their ears.

    I’m curious about the “creativity” you added in finding a solution. If you’d like to share it, it might give other parents in a similar situation an idea to start with. Thank you <3

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