About a year and a half ago, I apparently adopted “It is what it is” as a personal mantra. I use the word “apparently” because I certainly didn’t realize it at the time. I obviously heard it somewhere, not sure where, but I heard it and it made its way to that expansive and random region called my brain. I began saying it with more and more frequency, and then I began hearing it ALL the time. It was uttered on nearly every television channel, radio station, and even by a preacher from the pulpit. I’m sure that just further entrenched it into my vernacular. Some of those closest to me resisted its profound simplicity and grew increasingly irritated with how often I invoked it–especially when I would not knowingly when I heard anyone else espouse it so wisely.
A frequent argument of those who grew to loathe the phrase was “That is so defeatist. That’s just like giving up.” They were right. I agreed, on the giving up part anyway. It seems we disagreed on the benefit of letting some things go. I don’t declare things to be what they are simply because I don’t want to do anything to change them. Anyone who knows me knows that would typically serve as a greater motivator for me–the thought of changing something thought to be unchangeable. Nor do I proclaim, “It is what it is” as a dismissal of my abilities to enact universal change or a statement reflecting apathy.
For me, stating that something “is what it is” is an acknowledgment of my identity as a mortal. It’s a statement of humility. It’s the acknowledgment and acceptance that I am not so awesome that I can bend any and all things to my will whenever I want to, neither do I believe that my way is always the best way. I equate this phrase with the tenets of the Serenity Prayer. If it belongs to you and you don’t like it, change it. If it belongs to someone else and you don’t like it, find a way to live with it or let it go because it’s not yours to mess with anyway. And learn where these boundaries lie in yourself, in your relationships, in life.
I have found this phrase coming back to me over and over again in the clients I work with in my practice. I encourage all my clients to look for their responsibility in situations, to hold themselves accountable and then to only accept responsibility and accountability for that which is theirs and that which they can change if they so choose. As for the rest of it… let it go. It is what it is. It’s not yours; therefore, not yours to fix.
“It is what it is” is not defeatist, lazy, or apathetic. It is responsible, healing, and freeing. At least that has been my experience, and the experience of several others. If what you’re doing now isn’t working, give a shot. Serenity now!