Sondra Malling, LCPC, BC-DMT, GL-CMA
The Serenity Prayer, most commonly attributed to Christian theologian and writer Reinhold Niebuhr, has been made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous and other recovery programs. The first and most renowned stanza goes like this:
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
You don’t need to be Christian or in recovery to find the wisdom in those four lines. If the word “God” does not fit your cultural, religious, or spiritual beliefs, you can replace it with your own higher power–or lack thereof–and still benefit from the message.
Most of us struggle with acceptance. Think about the last time you faced a change you did not like. You probably fought it in some way, even if the fight was futile. And that probably didn’t make you feel any better about the situation, despite all the energy you exhausted by fighting.
It is also a central tenet in Buddhism: resisting the way things are creates suffering. Therapists sometimes call letting go of resistance “radical acceptance,” meaning that you accept where you are and how you feel in the present moment, even if you don’t like it. If you can learn to accept change and identify what you can realistically control about the situation, you can stop suffering and find a sense of serenity and peace.
Resisting fundamental truths about ourselves can also create suffering. The most fundamental truth about humans is that none of us are perfect. As a recovering perfectionist, this has been a hard pill to swallow. In my journey to let go of my perfectionism, I am inspired by the Other Serenity Prayer, composed by writer Eleanor Brownn:
God, grant me the Serenity to stop beating myself up for not doing things perfectly,
The courage to forgive myself because I always try my best,
And the wisdom to know that I am a good person with a kind heart.
To free yourself from suffering, let go of thinking, acting, or feeling perfect. Let go of your notions of how things should be in an ideal world. This letting go can be deepened by working with the patterns of resistance that live in the body. When you resist change or hold on to perfectionist ideals, it is evident not only in your mind but also in your body.
In dance/movement therapy, you can learn to identify patterns of breath, muscle tension, and movement that attach you to your suffering. This suffering may be self-inflicted perfectionism or holding on to a toxic relationship that you know is no good for you.
By loosening your holding patterns in your body, you can let go and find serenity.