Last updated:

May 24, 2024


 min read

How To Accept Reality When You Don’t Want To!

Learn how to accept reality with strategies from various therapeutic approaches. Discover how embracing the present moment can enhance mental well-being and personal growth.

“What would it be like if I could accept life--accept this moment--exactly as it is?”  – Tara Brach

Human beings are social animals and it is an innate desire for any human being to be loved and respected, which adds meaning to their existence. But, when there is lack of love and respect which is a basic need, the individual doubts their ‘self’, blames self and their fate, and compares with others. Sometimes an individual places high expectations on themselves and when they are unable to fulfil them, it gets difficult for them to accept the reality of their failure and question their self-worth.

Accepting reality, especially when it's challenging, is crucial for mental well-being. The inability to accept reality often stems from various psychological factors, including fear, anxiety, or past trauma. Individuals may develop maladaptive coping mechanisms, such as denial or avoidance, to deal with distressing realities.

Factors that Interfere with Acceptance

1. The individual lacks the ability to accept; you are unable to accept really upsetting circumstances and realities.

2. The individual thinks that by accepting a difficult situation, you are making light of it or accepting the realities, and that nothing will be done to stop or alter unpleasant situations in the future.

3. Emotions get in the way. These include extreme sadness, fury at the person or organisation responsible for the traumatic experience, outrage at global injustice, intense embarrassment about oneself, and guilt about your own actions.

Commonly seen defence mechanisms people use to accept the reality-

1. Denial – the individual refuses to accept facts, doesn’t address the past events or present disturbing events.

2. Suppression – the individual consciously chooses not to think about the past unpleasant and disturbing events from the conscious mind.

3. Projection – the individual tries to project their own unacceptable thoughts and feelings onto someone else.

4. Avoidance – the individual ignores or sidesteps the reality, which is mostly seen in relationship issues or financial issues.

5. Sublimation – the individual converts the unacceptable impulse into an acceptable outcome, like going for a walk instead of fighting with the spouse when feeling upset.

But, it is important to note that when an individual is using defences to protect or safeguard themselves, the individual is not helping themselves and creating more barriers in accepting the harsh reality and paralysing their capability of growth and healing.  

Different Approaches in Acceptance

Let us understand a few approaches or modalities on how they help an individual in accepting the reality-

Person Centred Approach

When an individual experiences conditional positive regard, which means that some experiences are rewarding and some are not, the individual develops a sense of worth. But, when an individual experiences unconditional positive regard, which means accepting self and others for who and how they are without any judgments, the individual develops self-understanding and self-acceptance. The more unconditional positive regard, the more fully functioning person they are and less use of defences against a threat are used.

Rational Emotive Behavioral Approach

According to Albert Ellis, self-evaluation is an ingrained human tendency, that the individual rates themselves according to their success, relationships, approval and validation from others. When they match with their standards of achieving success, there is a positive evaluation of self; but when it doesn’t match, and then there is a negative self-evaluation.

REBT suggests two ways of accepting the reality –

1.     Humans are unique, complex, fallible, and it is illogical to evaluate based on their actions and traits as they are not stable. Values and worth of an individual are different from their being/ self;

2.     There is no need to have a price tag attached as humans are not objects for sale and hence, one should accept themselves unconditionally with all their strengths and weaknesses.

The approach suggests to focus on the factors within their control, which is the individual himself/ herself- their thoughts, feelings, beliefs, values, spending time, spending money, their present, etc; and accept and let go of the factors which are beyond their control, which everything and everyone but the individual- other people’s thoughts, feelings, beliefs, values, spending time, spending money, individual’s past and future, etc.

Mindfulness and Acceptance Approach

Humans suffer due to cognitive fusion and experiential avoidance, leading to psychological inflexibility. Cognitive fusion is trying to equate reality with thoughts, and experiential avoidance is to avoid unwanted private experiences of thoughts, feelings, memories, or sensations. Acceptance helps to maintain psychological flexibility, by willing to accept the experiences occurring in the present moment without any judgments or without using any defences like suppression or denial. The individual then chooses to have actions that align with what matters to the individual the most.

Radical Acceptance Approach

Radical refers to the whole, total, and all-encompassing. It is acceptance of your body, heart, and mind. That's when you let go of your resentment and cease resisting reality and acting out because it's not as you want it to be. Even if you may not agree with the facts regarding the past and present, reality is what it is. Everyone's future is limited (but only reasonable constraints need to be accepted). Everything has a reason, even the things and circumstances that hurt and distress you. Despite going through difficult times, life can still be worthwhile.

Step-by-Step Guide to Accept Reality

Following is one of the ways to accept reality and there are many other ways too..

·   Observe – are you fighting or questioning reality.

·   Remind – reality cannot be changed and it is unpleasant to experience the harsh reality.

·   Remind – there are causal factors for whatever has happened and acknowledge the reality and the causal factors behind the reality.

·   Accept – using the whole self, with mind, body and spirit. Practice accepting, unconditional and non-judgmental self-talk using relaxation, willingness, imagery.

·   Note - try to note advantages and disadvantages of accepting and rejecting reality.

·   Notice – sensations in physiology when trying to accept the reality and if there is resistance to accept the reality. Also allow the unpleasant emotions like disappointment, sadness, grief to arise and not run away from them.

·   Acknowledge that life is worth living amidst the pain!


Accepting reality is a challenging but necessary part of personal growth. By understanding the distress, seeking appropriate treatment, and utilising resources, individuals can learn to navigate difficult realities with resilience and strength. Acceptance is a process that takes time. Be patient with yourself and allow yourself to gradually come to terms with reality.

“The boundary to what we can accept is the boundary to our freedom.” – Tara Brach

Rocket Health India provides online therapy services tailored to the Indian context, offering culturally sensitive and personalised care. Their team of experienced therapists can provide support and guidance in navigating the challenges of accepting reality.

If you're struggling to accept reality, reach out for support. Visit Rocket Health India to learn more about how online therapy can help you on your journey to acceptance.


Bailey R, Pico J. (2023). Defense Mechanisms. StatPearls (Internet). Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing.

Linehan M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets (2nd ed.). (pp. 342-344). The Guilford Press.

Pramanik, Suchismita & Khuntia, Rooplekha. (2023). Decoding Unconditional Self-Acceptance: A Qualitative Report. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy. 41. 1-18. 10.1007/s10942-023-00517-y.