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🌈 Acceptance & Grief: A Journey of Growth, Both Personal and Societal 🌍

Updated: Mar 15



Imagine peeling back the layers of an onion, each revealing a deeper version of yourself. That’s what the process of gaining Acceptance can feel like – shedding outdated ideas and values that no longer align with your true self. But this transformative journey isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. Grieving what we leave behind is natural, as understanding this grief journey is critical to fully embracing Acceptance.


Grief and Acceptance go Hand in Hand.

Think back to psychologist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s famous stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and Acceptance. Recognising outdated beliefs – those that no longer fit you – mirrors the early stages of this process. Feeling lost or angry is okay as you let go of the familiar ground. But remember, acknowledging and processing these emotions is crucial for growth.


Like a toddler learning to walk, embracing Acceptance can sometimes feel wobbly. But research shows that periods of self-reflection, where you question who you are and what you stand for, are essential for forging a genuine identity. 


I can relate to this grief process. In my late forties, I began unpacking the internal dialogue of the truth I had hidden since I was four years old before coming out publicly and beginning transitioning. I resonated with the loss, bargaining with my inner self, and the depression portrayed in TV shows with trans+ characters that I was trapped in the wrong body. However, after undergoing therapy for many months, I realised that I wasn’t trapped but simply in my own body. I just needed medical intervention to address some aspects of it. Getting through this experience has given me the insight to help others through their journey towards Acceptance.


Acceptance of Self and the Systemic

Acceptance isn’t just the work of the individual; it has to be woven into the fabric of our society. Take politics, for example. Scholars like George Lakoff argue that fear can fuel political ideologies, leading to division and resistance to diverse viewpoints. But what if we approach things differently with Acceptance?


Political psychology studies suggest that empathy is the key to bridging ideological divides. Understanding that fear, not malice, might drive someone’s beliefs allows for a more compassionate approach to dialogue. Remember, however, that progress can only be made in psychologically safe conversations - we all want to feel safe and valued, even if we disagree.


I am struck by the repeated comment from staff at client organisations that I am the first trans+ person they have ever met. That resonates as recent surveys report 54% of Britains claimed to have never met a trans+ person, yet they have a negative perception according to the survey results. It’s not who they know but rather what they don’t. I don’t believe that 54% of Brits are transphobic, as my work with organisations has repeatedly shown that you have to open the door to the conversation, even when the correct language is unknown, to create a psychologically safe space for everyone to learn together. Here’s what some clients have said in their own words.


Cynthia did a tremendous job creating a personable, safe space for everyone to speak openly and freely.”


Cynthia is great for creating a safe space to discuss and consider LGBTQ+ matters.”


Cynthia was able to open a conversation which had previously felt inaccessible and used the power of connection to stimulate learning, combat misinformation and promote acceptance.”



The Power of Conversation: Words and Stories

Communication expert Deborah Tannen emphasises the importance of non-confrontational language in building bridges. Instead of accusatory statements, choose words that invite discussion and understanding. Use stories to share personal experiences about how Acceptance has enriched your life and can create a shared narrative, fostering a sense of unity.


Just like education shapes our individual beliefs, research shows that informed discussions can also change societal attitudes. Acceptance and inclusion can contribute to a more understanding and welcoming world.


Based on Maslow’s hierarchy of psychological needs, we all need to feel we belong, after physiological and safety needs. When done effectively, Acceptance creates a safe space to be curious, leading to a path to understanding. The work done in that safe space that Acceptance creates to address diversity, equity, and inclusion within organisations has an outcome of helping employees feel they belong. Inclusive organisations actively include diverse voices and perspectives in conversations to ensure a richer understanding.


Using the technique of Acceptance without understanding helps my clients have conversations that they previously found difficult or uncomfortable. Many people who are uncomfortable with specific language or topics may be dealing with the fear of saying something wrong or offending someone. I was working with a potential client last year, and after I presented my research on ‘creating a psychologically safe space at work for trans+ employees while preserving the same for all employees’, an employee in the room came out to the organisation after my visit. The employee cited that I had given them a road map to creating the foundation of safety that they needed to be their authentic self at work. Acceptance was my foundation in creating that road map.


Lessons Towards Acceptance

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask yourself the tough questions – they guide you towards a more authentic you.

  2. There are specialists with lived experiences who can provide certified mentoring support for employees and teams living through a transitioning experience.

  3. Creating a safe and non-judgmental environment when communicating with others is essential to facilitate effective communication.


Acceptance: A Shared Journey

As we delve deeper into these concepts, it becomes clear that Acceptance isn’t just a personal quest but a shared societal endeavour. We can create spaces where everyone feels valued and heard by embracing the emotional journey of grieving and letting go, understanding the psychology behind our beliefs, and communicating with empathy and education. Let’s keep the conversation going – together, we can build a more inclusive and accepting world. ✨


Key Takeaways from the Article:

Individual Acceptance:

  • Acceptance is a journey of self-discovery involving letting go of outdated beliefs and values.

  • Grief and loss are natural parts of the acceptance process.

  • Self-reflection and questioning are crucial for forging a genuine identity.

Systemic Acceptance:

  • Acceptance extends beyond the individual and needs to be woven into society.

  • Empathy and understanding can bridge ideological divides in politics and other areas.

  • Creating psychologically safe spaces is essential for open and respectful dialogue.

  • Communication plays a key role in building bridges, using non-confrontational language and personal stories.

Impact of Acceptance:

  • Acceptance fosters belonging and understanding within organizations and society.

  • It creates a safe space for curiosity and learning about diverse perspectives.

  • This can lead to more inclusive and welcoming environments for everyone.


 

With over 25 years of dedicated leadership in the corporate, feminist, and LGBTQ+ realms, with a profound commitment to LGBTQ+ and women’s rights, I’m thrilled to be recognised by the British Diversity Awards. I stand ready to support, consult, educate, and advise on your next diversity challenge. Your journey towards inclusivity begins with a conversation. Reach out to me at cynthiafortlage@cynthiafortlage.com with any inquiries.


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