Accepting Your Body Doesn’t Mean Giving up Hope
Body Acceptance is tricky
Let me start out by making one thing very clear, accepting your body doesn’t mean you’ve given in or given up on yourself. It doesn’t matter if you are overweight, underweight, or somewhere in between, every single person on this planet has body image issues. As I wrote about earlier this month in The Body Positive Movement, What is it, external pressure to feel bad or ashamed of our body is everywhere. This leads us to have driven desires for change. Either it’s to lose weight, or to have more curves it doesn’t matter – deep down we all have something we want to change about our physical molding.
As I go deeper into my journey on body positivity and acceptance one thing has become glaringly apparent to me. Accepting something I’ve hated about myself for decades is not an easy task. In fact, it’s damn near impossible.
The reality is, learning to accept your body is scary at best, and inconceivable at worst. We are talking about rewriting your core programming to stop sending negative messages when you catch a glimpse of what you don’t like, and instead, send out positive affirmations of love and acceptance. If you told me even last year that I would be able to look at my body in a way that didn’t leave me filled with shame and hatred, I would have laughed in your face and rolled my eyes.
Body Acceptance; Fight AND Flight
I have to admit to you guys that as I learn to love my body I’ve felt so many mixed emotions. It’s been a real struggle. I’ve felt stubborn, and angry. What’s worse is the sense that if I stop fighting my body that I’ve given up. Which leads to the real core of my problem, fear. I’m afraid that by accepting my body the way it is will mean two things:
- Everything I blamed being fat on is a lie
- Acceptance means giving up and living forever in a body I feel trapped in.
My Body, My Excuse
I’ve been waging a war against my fat body for all of my life, and yet it’s the only body I’ve known. It’s given me an excuse for every failed relationship, a buffer for every reason to not risk getting hurt. My fat body has held me close when I won’t allow anyone else to do so. I’ve hated my body for so long, that I didn’t know just how abusive and undeserving of it I am.
When I began to unravel that hatred, to become softer to myself and my body, the fear that flooded me was crippling. Not because I didn’t want to love myself, trust me on the most basic of levels that’s the kind of love I crave the most. No, it’s because when I accepted that my body is worthy of all the things I’ve denied myself for so long I had to face the reality that I’m to blame not my body. I’m the reason I keep relationships at arm’s length, it’s my low self-esteem, insecurity, and lack of worth that led me to make choices that hurt me.
My entire existence I told myself that I was a magnet for abusive men because my body was unlovable. I never gave myself the go-ahead to chase my dreams because how can someone who let their body get so out of control actually deserve to have success in life? I used being fat as an excuse to lead a mediocre, lonely life. Fear of facing that monumental reality kept me from accepting my body.
Am I just giving up?
Another great fear about accepting your body comes from the myth that being okay with the body you are in now means you’ve given up on yourself. The dreams of whatever you may want to change are just going to lay by the wayside and never happen. I know when I think about being in this body for the rest of my life, and just accepting it I feel hopeless and scared. The kind of scared that claws at the back of your throat and can make your chest feel tighter.
Recently while listening to a podcast about fat acceptance, I was overwhelmed by this feeling of sadness and utter despair. ( I won’t name the podcast because this is my own opinion about what was said and not a reflection of the original author) The gist of the episode was that diets don’t work (which I am 100% in agreeance with). Furthermore, that overweight people are healthy, your body has a naturalized weight, and that you should just accept that you are fat and be happy about it.
I remember how upset this entire thing made me for two reasons. The first being that as a 40 something listening to a 20 something about being overweight and healthy, while my knees and back were in obvious pain from just trying to walk my dog around the block, I was highly aware of the disconnect in her message. Secondly, I felt hopeless. As if accepting my body means I’ve accepted the inevitable reality that I’m going to be miserable, fat, and in pain the rest of my life. THIS IS FALSE!
It’s this false fear that by loving your body now, you have resigned yourself to a miserable life. One in which you just accept what you hate about yourself and give up. When you live in that kind of fear it makes trying to create any kind of change or acceptance in your life a struggle.
Accepting your body isn’t giving up, its giving permission
Accepting your body isn’t giving up. Instead, you are giving yourself permission to end the emotional abuse of self-hatred, negativity, and excuses that have plagued you for God only knows how long. You are giving yourself permission to let go of insecurity and stop trying to control things that, for the moment, might be out of your control.
For most people who struggle with weight issues, (I speak mostly about overweight because that’s my wheelhouse of experience) the underlying problem goes deeper than eating. Yet we get so focused on controlling food, restricting what we eat, and jumping through hoops only to be let down again and again. We then internalize those “failures” and project them through body image hatred.
Simply put, You gain weight when you eat too much, the extra weight is a physical representation of your failures to control your food intake. After a while, you start to hate that physical representation. Soon every time you look in the mirror all you see is a failure.
When you begin accepting your body, something shifts. You take that pressure off of yourself, and the so-called failures begin to lose power over your self-image. All that energy you spend trying to change your body can now be channeled elsewhere. Like creating a balanced relationship with food, or learning a new hobby. I’ve come to find that working on myself as a whole being and not just a body has allowed my relationship with my body to heal.
This gives me space to create a healthy mind AND body perspective I’ve been missing out on my whole life.
Accepting your body is about embracing Honesty
Here’s the trick. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself if you want true acceptance and the peace it can bring.
Facing what is hurting you is part of letting it go. I hate that walking hurts me. I feel so weak and unhealthy when a ten-minute walk feels like an accomplishment. Walking up a flight of stairs reminds me that I’m miserably carrying around so much weight. Having to sit down after that flight of stairs to catch my breath creates a chorus of negative thoughts in my head. It’s usually in the face of my physical struggles with weight and mobility that I have the hardest time accepting my body.
When I was younger I felt invincible, carrying weight was no problem. Not anymore. My age has caught up with me. I can feel it in the aches of my knees and the huffing and puffing just from walking. What makes it worse is the feeling of defeat and shame when I think about those things. So for the longest time, I tried not to think about them. When I decided enough is enough, it was time to be real about the issues I was facing.
Which is why I decided that accepting my body as it is today, was something I needed to do. I’m a firm believer that you can’t change something you are too busy hating. It takes a lot of love, support, and energy to build an entirely new way of life. If your mind and heart are consumed with negativity you won’t have the time nor the energy to build. Only destroy. I think I’ve spent enough time destroying my self-esteem and value.
What happens if I struggle to accept my body?
Ever notice that it’s easy for you to accept someone else’s body, yet when it comes to loving your own it feels impossible? I used to wonder why that was until I started my self-worth journey.
Most of what I used to say about or to myself was completely negative. WORDS HAVE POWER. If you don’t control the negativity running rampant in your brain, then those words will control how you feel and see yourself.
Imagine only hearing terrible things about your body all day. Little thoughts that just slip in as easy as taking a breath. Do you think it would then be easy to wake up one morning and tell yourself “okay I love my body” and all of that damage just goes away? Not very likely.
What happens then is you wake up some mornings and nothing you say makes you feel ok in your own skin. THOSE DAYS WILL HAPPEN! It’s important to understand that it will happen. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to be perfect. Accepting your body doesn’t mean you feel great about it every day. It just means you recognize that some days it comes easy.
Oftentimes people struggle with the message and imposed pressure of “love yourself, love your body!” Not so much because of the concept, more so due to the days that ARE harder than the rest. Those days leave you feeling inadequate like you’ve failed or let yourself down again.
On those days, try to remind yourself that this is all a journey, YOUR journey. This is your story of becoming. Take a breath, relax, and let the pressure go. There is absolutely no competition in this. Accepting your body happens on your terms!
The Bottom Line
Learning to accept your body doesn’t mean you’ve given up hope. You can still create the changes in your life and within yourself that you have always wanted.
It can be hard to push past the fear and have honest conversations about how you feel in your body. Despite those real worries, learning to accept who you are right now is like breaking free of what is holding you back from recognizing your true value and worth!
Learning to love yourself as you are now isn’t a prison sentence to stay trapped unhappily in your current state. More importantly, it’s not a competition, there are struggles but no failures on this path! This is your story, write it how you want, but try to add love into the chapters.
If you find you have more bad days than good, you might want to check out this article from NEDA (national eating disorder association). It’s one I have read a few times on this journey.
You can’t grow if you aren’t willing to let go! When it comes to accepting your body, facing honesty, and staring down fears what do you really have to lose? Nothing but years of negativity and self-doubt! Let’s toss that crap in the can! Remember you are never alone on this journey! Until next time, stay safe!
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