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It’s Not a Binary Decision: Acceptance or Healing    

It’s Not a Binary Decision: Acceptance or Healing

BY MADY MAIO

Ah, acceptance. Self-love looks like this to me: You’re pretty cool, but I bet you can be cooler, and only then when you achieve “cooler” will you feel those things called presence and happiness that people are always referencing. I’ve been plagued with the mindset that only with constant evolution will I get to visit that idealized place sans conflict.

I would like to share a quote with the Local Optimist class by psychotherapist, Bruce Tift, which wraps up this concept nicely: “We postpone acceptance until there’s a certain type of improvement.” Sound familiar? We’ll be our best selves when we reach that number on Instagram, develop a unicorn startup, enter into a relationship that fuels us both sexually and emotionally, get the keys to our beachfront Spanish bungalow, have a body that feels confident enough to wear a crop top, etc etc etc, blah blah blah.

This concept that we need to heal ourselves in order to accept ourselves can be exhausting. Because the funny thing that our linear-based society doesn’t tell us is that there will always be more to heal. Haven’t you obtained a goal just for it to be replaced by an even more ambitious one? Ya, me, too. I achieve the thing and never take the moment to revel in and honor my achievement because, hey look! There’s that next shiny thing that can be obtained with even harder work and grit. Alas, the cycle continues! 

How do we unlearn that acceptance is something that only the future us gets to enjoy? I host a podcast with my sister, Scout, called Okay Sis, and that experience has tested this exact paradigm for me. Scout suffers from bipolar depression, so she’s had plenty of practice with monitoring her mental health. I admire a lot of things about her, but what I admire most is her ability to earnestly and unconditionally accept herself without anyone else’s judgements seeping in. She understands that there are wounds to heal from her past, and there will undoubtedly be wounds in her future that will need healing, but accepting her present state doesn’t interfere with those processes. Acceptance and healing are not mutually exclusive for her. 

Of course Scout has lofty goals that direct the course of her life, but she also has the gift of being hyper-conscious of the micro wins. When Okay Sis reached 1,000 listeners, she called me crying. When we went to lunch with one of our listeners, she was humbled that we’ve even impacted one person with this project. When we did our first live podcast recording with Cassie and Michelle Randolph with an audience of 100 people, she followed it up with grace and gratitude. 

I’m not there yet. I still struggle from the idea that improvement causes acceptance, that the completion of a goal will allow me to finally be present. To me, acceptance can feel lazy, as if I’m settling for a version of myself that isn’t “there” yet,  wherever the fuck “there” is. Jocelyn K. Glei, host of the podcast Hurry Slowly, said, “How can settling for self-love really be settling? How can it be problematic to just like yourself right now while you're in the process of healing? It's not a binary decision: acceptance or healing.” 

How can settling for self-love really be settling? How can it be problematic to just like yourself right now while you're in the process of healing? It's not a binary decision: acceptance or healing.

Say it again for the people in the back: ACCEPTANCE OR HEALING IS NOT A BINARY DECISION. Do as Scout does and practice both, simultaneously, whether it’s messy or graceful or frustrating or freeing. Give yourself permission to marry the two sensations. 

So, let’s go. Here is me celebrating me:  I accept that I’m feeling a bit anxious about the current state of the world. I accept and admire that my body craves daily exercise and movement. I accept that I scroll through TikTok for about an hour a day and that it brings me intense joy to attempt those stupid dances. I accept that I am intrinsically motivated to move forward with passion projects. I accept that I feel more confident when my hair is blown out. I accept past wounds that are still healing. I accept that binge-watching Vanderpump Rules brings me release. I accept that I have a hard time feeling proud of myself. I accept that our podcast listenership and community is growing and being fostered. I accept that I like to drink wine and take selfies. I accept that I feel conflicted by the notion of acceptance. 

Tag, you’re it. 

Mady Maio, Okay Sis Podcast

@MadyMaio @OkaySisPodcast