Self-acceptance isn’t easy when we’re constantly told that we aren’t “enough” or that a positive body image is reserved for those with a “perfect” physique.
Like many, I spent years comparing my body to others and obsessing over losing weight so I could look “perfect.” I was convinced that if I lost weight, wore a size 6, and had thin, muscular, thighs that I would suddenly be happy, healthy, and without troubles.
However, if you spend all of your energy focusing on “fixing” your body then you won’t have energy for things that nourish you. Instead of focusing on losing or gaining weight, we should seek physical activities that not only support our health, but spark joy within us.
When you make self-love and body acceptance dependent upon the size of your body, you will never find happiness. I learned this the hard way.
When you make self-love and body acceptance dependent upon the size of your body, you will never find happiness.
I had a gastric bypass in 2005. I lost over 100 pounds. Three months post-weight loss, I was so miserable that I wanted to die. I had no idea who I was or what I wanted and needed out of life beyond being thin.
I finally was thin, but I still didn’t love my body or myself.
The Self-Acceptance Lie About Creating a Positive Body Image Through “Perfection”
Nearly every time I scroll through Instagram, Facebook, or any other social media site, I see post after post from fitness “influencers” advertising “a simple program,” that will get my body “perfect,” or “rock hard” in no time.
Along with the right exercise plan, these folks promise to provide the tools to eat healthy, avoid junk food, and ultimately help others lose weight or gain muscle mass so they can feel confident sporting that sexy little black dress, swimsuit, or short shorts.
I’m here to tell you that all of these boot camps, six-week detox programs, fat burning pills, and smoothie mixes are bullsh*t. The whole idea of getting your body perfect or rock hard is bullsh*t. Your body is ALREADY beautiful!
The whole idea of getting your body perfect or rock hard is bullsh*t.
There is a pervasive amount of messaging out there that tries to convince you that your body needs fixing and, in order to truly enjoy life, you must lose weight or bulk up (this industry can be just as harsh to very thin folks as it is to thick folks!).
These self-proclaimed “experts” use tricky tactics to sell their programs. Most posts feature a “before” and “after” photo to sell the idea that, with their program, you too could look like them – so hurry up and buy now!
It is a lie – a huge lie created by the fitness industry and the media. This lie helps keep their bank accounts full and keeps you feeling as if your body isn’t good enough because it doesn’t fit the patriarchal standard of beauty.
Here is the truth: If you have a body, then you already have a perfect body.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t strive to be the healthiest version of yourself possible. You should! The benefits of exercise and movement are plentiful.
The fact is that much of the fitness industry has chosen to focus their messaging solely on the benefits of weight loss and muscle gain as a means to morph our bodies into perfection.
They don’t encourage self-acceptance to form a positive body image. Instead, they encourage self-deprecation to make you buy their products and programs with the hope of self-acceptance sometime in the future.
Don’t Believe the Lie! Use These 5 Tips to Find Self-Acceptance and a Positive Body Image at Any Size:
Below are five tips that you can put into practice right away to help you build confidence and a positive body image as you work toward self-acceptance.
1. Know and Accept That Your Body Is Constantly Changing
The only constant in life is change. This includes both your physical and emotional body – they are different every single day.
Our bodies literally are designed for change. There are between 50 and 75 billion cells in the body. Individual cells have a finite life span. When they die off, they are replaced by new cells.
Some live longer than others. For example, red blood cells live for about four months, skin cells live for two to three weeks, and colon cells only live for about four days.
Your body is changing all of the time. Don’t base your worth on your physical appearance or physical abilities because they will change. There literally is nothing about your body and its capabilities that is constant.
2. Practice Gratitude for All Aspects of Yourself
Your appearance is only one aspect of who you are. Practicing gratitude for qualities that are independent of your physical body helps you to recognize that you are so much more than your body.
Your body really is just a shell. The shell is merely what houses you while you live in this world and experience being alive.
Your personality, intellect, and mannerisms are what make you, you. Not your appearance.
Celebrate and affirm yourself every day. Consider writing down at least one thing about yourself that you are grateful for that has nothing to do with how you look.
Repeating mantras each day are also very helpful with the practice of gratitude and self-acceptance. I like this mantra: “I am whole, complete, and unconditionally loved. I am grateful for my body, as is.”
3. Be Kind to Yourself
It is just as important to be kind to yourself as it is to be kind to others. You deserve all of the compassion that you show those you love. Compassion is a tool for healing the shame and disdain you have felt about your body.
Don’t be hard on yourself. The journey to body acceptance is hard. There will be days when you don’t like what you see in the mirror. That’s okay.
It’s important to put in the work to reverse those thoughts and to be kind to yourself when you’re struggling. Rather than condemning yourself for having negative thoughts, just notice them and do your best to let them go. Every second is a new chance to begin again.
4. Buy Clothes That Fit Your Body Now, Not “When You Lose/Gain Weight”
One way to begin to love and accept your body as it is right now is to buy clothes that fit you well and feel good. If those jeans you just tried on will fit you perfectly when you lose/gain 10 pounds, don’t buy them!
When you buy clothes with a goal to lose or gain weight, it encourages you to keep focusing on morphing your body rather than living in such a way that you are healthy, happy, and confident.
Rewarding weight loss or weight gain with new clothes is an incentive that rarely works. Sure, you might feel motivated for a day or two, but eventually you just end up feeling frustrated and shameful.
When you are wearing something that fits well and makes you feel good, you are much less likely to criticize your body.
5. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
Comparison is one of the best ways to bring about self-hatred and shame. Seriously, it is a really toxic habit that we have been taught by the media to engage in. It is a waste of time to compare yourself to others and your past self.
Yep, you read that right. You shouldn’t even compare yourself with the person you were yesterday or 10 years ago.
Remember earlier when we talked about how we constantly change? Well, comparing yourself with the person you were yesterday is just as damaging to your self-worth and self-acceptance as comparing yourself to your neighbor.
It’s not about what your body used to look like or what it used to be able to do. It’s about embracing who you are at any given moment.
Self-Acceptance Is the Key to Having a Positive Body Image and a Healthy Relationship With Yourself
Finding unconditional acceptance for your body can be hard. Really hard! I don’t expect anyone to love everything they see in the mirror every single day.
The love you feel for yourself shouldn’t come with conditions.
However, you can strive to embrace your body, no matter what it looks like, and work to establish an identity independent of your physical appearance or how your body performs. That is the beginning of experiencing freedom from the oppression of the “perfect body.”
You are perfect and beautiful just as you are. It takes time, patience, and kindness to move from a place of body shame to a place of body acceptance. The love you feel for yourself shouldn’t come with conditions.