Have you heard this advice on how to practice self-acceptance?
- love yourself regardless of your body
- you need to love yourself and you’ll overcome your ‘trouble spots’ and learn to love them
- you just need to (fill in the blank – work harder, practice acceptance, stop focusing on the negative, etc.) a little more
If I had a penny for every time a client has told me some version of one of the statements above…
It seems that this type of advice makes logical sense. But the problem is that it treats your body as a thing or object that you can easily change. It’s like you’re a sculptor and your body is a lump of clay that’s easily shaped, molded and manipulated.
But you’re most likely not a sculptor and your body probably isn’t easily changed either.
The reality is that you’re more than your body. Your mind and body can’t be separated and as much as you may try to treat your body as if you can mold it at will, the further down the road of disappointment you’ll find yourself.
Developing a self-acceptance based on calm and clarity is the fuel for a self-relationship that moves you to what you want in life.
Although you may have a guess, it’s impossible to know what someone is thinking or what their beliefs are. It’s possible for them to remain private.
What isn’t private is another person’s body. You might even have a judgment or two based on your observation.
In modern society, the boundaries about what is okay to comment or what is okay to wear or even what is the acceptable language to use in describing the body isn’t clear either. Yet, all of these things do communicate something.
We see this daily from pop stars wearing costumes as bare as the censors will allow, to detailed discussions of meal and workout play-by-plays on social media, to commercials selling the idea of, “I’m so bad eating this decadently sinful treat!”
It is through your body that you experience life in the form of shape, texture, color, vibrance, pleasure and pain. When you practice self-acceptance – all of your life – the full catastrophe as Zorba said in the movie Zorba the Greek, you have a fantastic chance of being happy.
Who decides what’s acceptable?
We’re also bombarded with images—visual and mental—of what is the correct, most desirable, perfect shape to strive to become. It comes from the media as well as family and cultural ideas about what’s best.
The question is, who’s in charge of deciding what this should be?
It is common to make assumptions about who’s healthy and who isn’t based on snap judgements about appearance. Sometimes you might even do this in your thoughts about your own body.
One of the challenges in modern society is figuring out how to trust your self-knowledge when there is so much conflicting information available.
Too many choices, coming at you really fast makes for feeling overwhelmed and unclear.
The good news is that the process of change is directly opposite!
Lasting change takes time.
Change requires you to disconnect from the judgements you have and instead allow yourself to be in a state of curiosity.
The most important place to start from is self-acceptance. Now, don’t click away, that’s not code for – “let yourself off the hook.” Let me explain…there’s more than meets the eye here!
Acceptance does NOT mean:
- giving up your goals
- learning to love where you are right now regardless of your desire to change
Life is constantly moving and shifting and so are you. You can change your life, your body, your relationships, how you talk to yourself and many more things in life at any time, so you can practice self-acceptance.
Self-acceptance is a process
What acceptance means will change over time as you grow. It means integrating where you are right now while keeping your focus on the bigger goals you have for your life!
The purpose of acceptance is to help you get from where you are today and pointed in the direction of greater consciousness and growth.
With the increased consciousness you can thoughtfully plan with care and kindness.
The benefit is that the changes you make are more refined and speak to what you truly want…the possibilities are endless.
Making conscious change
Conscious change is a process that works best with a focused step-by-step approach.
It can look like:
- experimenting with what works or what doesn’t
- shifting and adjusting
- acclimating to the new reality
When you get off track and lose sight of the big picture where patience, kindness and acceptance reside you can over-focus on specific results as proof of failure rather than a step along the way to creating the life you want.
Immediate results would be nice, however what you learn about yourself in the struggle to figure it out will help you get what you need – faster!
Ask yourself this question from time to time: how has your life improved, even when you make small changes?
Conscious change allows you to focus on small changes, step by step. It helps you to keep you motivated so you continue adjusting what you’re doing so that you continually iterate, even if it takes a while.
How people change
In the past 30 years or so there has been much research and development published about change, the process of change and what motivates people to change.
The Transtheoretical Model of Change was founded by James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente (for more information look here) and is systematically and practically applied with Motivational Interviewing, founded by William Miller and Stephen Rollnick (for more information look here).
The Model of Change, while initially used to understand how to help people struggling with substance abuse stay on the road to recovery, has been expanded. Professionals in health, business, conflict resolution, etc. also find the stages helpful to understand how people make changes and what helps at each stage of change to stay on course.
For most people struggling with stress eating—those who have dieted and dieted and dieted and want to get off that particular merry-go-round—the insights about how people make a decision to change and what is necessary to pivot in another direction is helpful and self-acceptance is a big part of it (for more information on the decision to change look here).
Truly looking in the mirror and being clear with where you are right now frees you from evaluation and judgement so you can practice self-acceptance and make the change you need in your life.
There are three ways to do this – Knowing, Consciousness and Peace.
You know that you have to do something differently for things to change and it’s painful to go through the process of change.
When you want things to change, whether it’s for your body to be different, your relationship with food to be different or to feel like you can be present in the moment so you can change things is difficult.
A question that helps to narrow the focus is:
What is the most concrete thing that will lead to results you can see, feel, experience, and trust your self-knowledge, so that you can practice self-acceptance?
Often, the answer reverts to a quick fix like a diet. “Six weeks to bikini ready” or “do this cleanse and break free from sugar cravings.” It’s enticing, but not sustainable.
Ultimately you know that these tactics don’t lead to the long term change you really want freedom from stress, stress eating and burnout.
It’s a challenge to keep moving forward when the path is unsure and the changes you experience are ones you only feel from the inside.
Acceptance is the path to a long-term transformation of your relationship with your body, allowing yourself to begin where you are each day and keep moving forward.
Recognize where you are in the process of change and make a decision to take action.
It takes fortitude to stay the course of the slow road to change.
If stress eating is what you want to change, every time you log on to social media, go to the grocery store or even have lunch with a friend, you will be reminded that the process you have decided is best for you and it takes patience with yourself to stay on track.
Trust the process, notice how you’re different today than yesterday and celebrate your success by honoring yourself – moment by moment.
You are learning what you need to fuel you, mind, body and heart for the rest of your life.
Find what works for you and be confident in the changes you made so that you can live with peace of mind.
Freedom is knowing that you’re in control of your life.
In fact, you can get to a point where you no longer unconsciously give your power away.
When you treat yourself with respect and love, you’re able to open yourself up getting stuck on short-term results becomes a thing of the past and you can self-acceptance happens.
Self-acceptance is caring for yourself with kindness, love and compassion.
Kindness is the pathway toward change.
Compassion is the fuel for a more peaceful and fulfilling life.
Self-acceptance ultimately leads to more self-love.
For too long women, in particular, have accepted that feeling badly about their bodies and disappointment in their lives is the norm. The implication that women should accept being unhappy is madness!
If you can take the leap of faith—that love, kindness and compassion are the fuel that will help you change and support you to be where you want to be in life—then you already have a strong, supportive foundation to accept yourself and live the joyful life you want!