Asperger's,Autism Spectrum Disorder

The Importance of Acceptance

I’ve written about this topic before, but during these times it seems more important than ever. We live in a world increasingly divided, or at least it feels like that to me.

From an early age, I knew that I was different. It was difficult to accept, but over the years I tolerated it. It is only recently that I have fully accepted it, but in doing so, I’ve never felt more free. I was at a work gathering the other day and conversation turned to autism and I talked, as I have done many times before, openly about my diagnosis. Suddenly, a work colleague leaned over and asked if I was really autistic and replied with no hesitation, no embarrassment or fear that I am. It was only in that very moment I realised I had accepted myself a long time ago. It’s odd, isn’t it? How one can realise in a single second that everything is different from what is once was.

I don’t think I was ever really embarrassed or ashamed of being different, but I was always afraid of admitting it. People can be cruel, whether neurotypical or atypical, people can be very cruel.

Many times, people have in some way reacted negatively to my diagnosis– even when they don’t realise it or intend to be cruel, because they don’t understand the true meaning or weight behind their little, off-hand comments. They don’t know how a single sentence can play on repeat, like a broken record, in the back of my mind for days, months or years.

I used to believe I needed the acceptance of society, of family members, of friends or lovers. I even thought I needed the acceptance of complete strangers.

How odd is it that what I really needed was my own?

To tolerate it is to live with it. It can be an essential step towards acceptance. There can, however, be dislike hidden in all the dark corners of tolerance. When one reaches acceptance, we begin to let go of that dislike.

Often, I think of the serenity prayer and the wisdom that lies within it. In life, accepting what we cannot change is important because letting go of negativity in our life is healthy and good. Most of my life I tolerated lots of different things or people in my life, where I should have accepted that life was better without it. I thought I could live it, but it was impossible to do in a way where I can still respect and love myself.

It’s not just about accepting who we are, it’s also about accepting life, other people, work and the state of our planet. We need to stop looking for others to blame, we need to stop blaming ourselves and face the world as it is. It better to accept what we cannot change and focus on what we can do, so that we can search for ways to change the world – and ourselves – for the better.

When I was a teenager, I had friends with completely opposite political views, and we could discuss politics for hours on end. Conversations could get heated, but never in a way where we could not laugh about it. Now, I hate discussing politics because it is so very dividing. It’s not a discussion about how to make society better, it’s an argument that can be summed up to “I’m right and you are wrong.”

Was it always like that and I was just lucky to meet like-minded individuals who enjoyed a healthy, friendly debate about the world or has the way we communicate truly changed that much? Changed to the point where we can barely tolerate let alone accept a different points of view, different values or opinions?

I cannot say for sure, all I can say is that we need to tolerate each other more and move towards a greater sense of acceptance.

It’s starts within us, however, not with others. We cannot blame or criticise others for doing what we are not willing to do either. I believe that if we want to change the world, we start with becoming the kind of person we want others to be. Not a saint, not a saviour, but a happy human being doing our best every day. Once we have accepted ourselves, accepting the world and others is far easier. Once we have acceptance, we can work on becoming better people and making the world better too.

I wanted to write a PhD after I finished my masters, but it was not to be. I tolerated my failure, but I did not truly accept it and I kept wishing I’d find a way. I tolerated being unemployed, I tolerated looking for a job, I tolerated my new career and yet my heart was broken the entire time. I couldn’t accept how much it hurt to let go of my dreams in spite of how wonderful my life can be. I enjoy my new work very much, I love my colleagues and the freedom and flexibility I have, but what I wanted was something else; something beyond my current capabilities.

I tolerated everything every day, but all the dark corners of my heart were broken and filled to the brink with regret and pain. I don’t regret a lot in life, it is in fact a rather new experience in my life, but now I do regret not fighting for what I wanted in the past. Not fighting for my dreams.

And yet, here I am. The best colleagues I’ve ever known, the best flexibility at work and an understanding and kind-hearted boss. Work is fun and intriguing, frustrating and challenging – compared with the rather terrible conditions I have been used to, this is the best job I ever had.

I wanted to accept it, but I hadn’t, and I didn’t understand the importance of accepting nor did I know how to accept and let go. But somehow, accepting myself fully has made me accept the choices I’ve made, my failures and my successes. I truly have faith that I can accept where I am and start enjoying every day focussing on what I am doing, not regretting what I am not.

I don’t think I need to give up on writing a PhD one day, although I think it highly unlikely I will ever get to write it, we never know where life will take us. I am not sure I will want to write a PhD in the future, but I wanted to in the past and it was – is – difficult to let go of a dream that really mattered to me. That’s okay. Acceptance can happen in a single moment and then all is different, but it can also be something we need to work on. Something that takes months or years even, the important thing being that we recognise what we must accept and what we can change. Only that way can we truly create the lives what we want and find happiness with the lives we already have. Well, this is what I believe at least.

When I look at the world, I am sad, but not without hope. Acceptance can take time and be difficult, tolerance as well, but as long as there are people willing to do the work it takes, there is still hope. No one can more cruel to humans than other humans, but every day I see compassion and kindness in little moments here and there. That is what gives me hope that we can change for the better. I try to be a good person, not just by showing kindness to the people I encounter in my daily life, but in improving myself and becoming a better person. I fail as often as not, but that is perfectly fine. All anyone can do is our best. No one is perfect, except in that we are perfectly imperfect.

Accepting ourselves can set us free, in some ways. So I encourage you, see yourself as you truly are and love yourself, practice gratitude for what you have and claim freedom through acceptance. Accept those who are different from you, accept that others experience life differently, accept that which cannot be changed and focus on what can.

Easier said than done, I know this, for I am trying to do the same. So, what do you say? Will you change the world with me? Will you too work towards happiness? I should like the company, for it can be a lonely journey to bravely face ourselves with both honesty and compassion.


Life with Autism Spectrum Disorder is not always easy, but it doesn't have to be impossible. Since I was diagnosed myself, I have been trying to raise autism awareness and share my own experiences and thoughts about life as well as my search for a happy and fulfilling life.

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