The Power of AcceptanceBy Carla Dippel
This week I felt a real mixture of things. Restlessness… mixed with this sense of acceptance of exactly where I am right now. I’ve never been in this kind of place before. I’ve felt content at certain parts of my journey, but this contentment was usually dependent on an outside condition, a person or something that I felt defined me as me. And it didn’t last.
So this acceptance is something different. It’s rooted from something deep down… It’s starting to happen more and more. Sometimes it unnerves me. For most of my life, I relied on pain to motivate me. Guilt. Shame. I pushed and pushed myself to achieve or be some kind of idealized person, striving to satisfy other people’s expectations of me, the church’s expectations, what I thought God’s expectations of me were… (more on guilt in another post!)
In my process of healing, I am learning to trust my heart. A huge part of my old belief system was this belief that I was inherently bad at my core. I believed all my motivations and intentions were purely selfish and that I couldn’t trust myself to be good without really trying hard to be good, to act good. Digging out this lie and believing instead that I am good deep down without having to try changes how my growth is motivated. Though I still struggle with that old belief system from time to time, I am becoming motivated to continue growing now because I believe I deserve to be truly happy and fulfilled, not because I feel so guilty about how bad I am.
Acceptance of my current place, my current stage, my current “being” is very powerful. I’m saying to myself, “Here is where you are, and you are good. If you didn’t change a single thing about yourself from here on in, you would still be okay. You don’t have to work harder to increase or prove your value.”
I remember just after I had come home from college I was struggling with this truth. I had gained 20 pounds over my last year there. I had always believed I had to be slim in order to be okay, so this extra weight caused me a lot of anxiety. I remember the feelings, looking at myself in the mirror from all angles, needing to buy bigger clothes, feeling my stomach when I laid in bed at night, trying to test if I really was “fat”… Sometimes I would actually grab my waist in anger until it hurt. I felt disgust towards myself.
I decided to start exercising to lose the weight. But something powerful happened before that habit really started helping me. I was starting out on one of my first walks outside and suddenly just knew that I had to let go of this self-hatred related to my weight gain. It was dragging me down, making my efforts counter-productive, like a big iron plow I was dragging behind me all the time. I remember this feeling of acceptance washing over me, acceptance of exactly where I was at. I actually physically hugged myself and somehow in that moment was able to let go of the slave-master, self bullying way of motivating myself to change. The compassion that was living deep down inside awakened and overtook me at just the right moment, freeing me. Coming to that place of acceptance totally changed how I felt inside. I carried out my new exercising habits with this attitude of love for myself rather than hate and guilt.
I believe we were all created to thrive, and as I continue to remain true to my heart and where it is leading me, I will never stop growing. I don’t have to be afraid of feeling content in the “now.” This acceptance isn’t resigned or numb or deadened. It’s part of how I love myself. It’s an inspiring place to be, having a dynamic of peace mixed with a dynamic of being excited to move on to the next thing. Each stage of growth involves a plateau afterwards (and sometimes before!), a place to celebrate and rest and regroup for the next stage of the journey.