“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” ~Carl Rogers
To accept your body means to:
(a) appreciate all it’s strength, form, beauty and imperfection
(b) have an awareness of your body’s needs and actively care for those needs, and
(c) protect your body from unrealistic body image ideals that permeate our culture, while undermining body-esteem(1).
This may be a foreign concept to you because mainstream culture socializes us against accepting our bodies and instead promotes scrutinizing our bodies to conform to unrealistic and unattainable body images. Think about all of the forms of media we are exposed to daily: the row of magazines picking apart bodies of celebrities at the grocery store, intrusive online advertisements that pop up selling us fear around our own bodies and the more subtle ways movies and television promote a narrow standard of beauty by exposing our eyes and minds to a perpetual stream of thinness and youth.
For many, the result of this never-ending pursuit of ideal beauty and perfection can range from insecurity to hopelessness, from body dissatisfaction to outright body-hatred or yo-yo dieting all the way to a clinical eating disorder. It’s hard to imagine knowing someone who isn’t affected by our cultural messages that their body is somehow wrong or defective and that they should do something to change their body in order to attain a relentless standard of beauty.
We often want to see change in our bodies before we can think about accepting them. As Carl Rogers suggests, change can happen through accepting ourselves just as we are–right now–and setting realistic and sustainable health goals that support our well being, not a dress or pant size or clothing style. Instead of you changing to fit a particular size or style, what would it feel like to look for clothing and styles that fit you, just as you are right now? As we broaden our ideas of beauty and look for healthy role models in others who are comfortable in their own skin, we too can enjoy our lives fully!
The growing non-diet, Health At Every Size® community supports this paradigm shift. I encourage you to build a weight-neutral, body-supportive community around you with people who share body-positive ideals (see resources below).