Anyone on a journey of self improvement will find themselves face to face with the elusive desire for self acceptance. After all, if you don't love yourself, no one else will. I've always found that less than encouraging! I am someone who has spent most of my life unaccepting myself and it is down right exhausting! In my journey to like me, I have found that what self acceptance is to one person is not at all accepting to another. Trying to accept ones self just the way we are can lead us down a rabbit hole of self judgment and the impending guilt that follows. Self judgment and guilt are not virtues of self acceptance at all. Infact, self judgement and guilt are as damaging, or more so, than not liking your reflection in the mirror. So it gets a bit confusing since self acceptance tends to be defined by other peoples opinions and sprinkled with a bit of hypocrisy.
So what is my definition of self acceptance? I personally believe that it starts with looking in the mirror and being in love with what I see. That is yet to happen for me although some days I dislike what I see less than others. After failing at the reflection love I usually remind myself that I am funny, kind and strong. One look in the mirror later in the day pretty much takes the steam out of my inner virtues attempt. I usually think that I really like me, I just would like to be a better version of me and then it will be easier to love myself. Most of the people teaching the world about self acceptance express the need to accept yourself right now, just the way your are. This is a very hard one for me as I cant seem to wrap my head around doing things that improve oneself whilst loving yourself as is. This is contradictory in my mind.
When I turn to the dictionary's description of self acceptance it is describes as 'the act or state of accepting oneself and recognizing ones own abilities and limitations.' Hmmmm, that doesn't seem nearly as stringent as what most of the self help people are shouting at me at all. Apparently I've been too hard on myself in my quest to not be so hard on myself. Maybe the description of self love would give me better answers. Interesting, it appears that Merriam-Webster really must not have been on a "true" journey to self improvement. Self love is simply described by "Merriam" as 'proper regard for and attention to ones happiness or well-being.' Maybe I have more self acceptance and self love than I realized. Maybe we can all work toward self love and acceptance without beating ourselves up for our lack of it!
Recently, I have found myself smacked in the face with proclamations of new found self acceptance and love on social media. Well of course! Social media is a great place to focus on other peoples impeccable virtues and our own lack there of.
This blog was inspired by the "self acceptance" soap box that I recently have been seeing a lot of people teetering on. Women are taking out their breast implants due to suspicion that they are making them ill. This blog is not to prove or disprove that theory but I have no doubts that many things we do to alter our appearance could be unsafe in the long run. Many of these woman that have had their implants removed are expressing that they should have loved each other enough to never get them at all. Yes, that makes sense, right? But what if the people speaking on their new found "self acceptance" had fat transfer (fat moved from other undesirable locations to their breasts) to take the place of their breasts after removing the implants? Is sucking fat from one part of the body and moving it to another part of the body more self accepting than implants? Or even safe? Its not natural and probably not safe, but this blog is not about all that.
I read a rather long blog about a woman finding self acceptance after having her implants removed and fat transferred to replace them. She blogged about how she was explaining it to her teenage daughter. I enjoyed what she was writing as teenagers today are inundated with mixed messages that has them over focused on appearance. At the end of reading the article, I wondered how this woman explained, or if she explained, the fat transfer she had done and how that fit in with her inspirational message of loving yourself as is. Was this woman seeing fat transfer as self acceptance and breast implants as not accepting of ones self? At this point you probably will need to make columns of things you can do to alter your body that ARE self accepting and things that ARE NOT. After all you want to get this right because self love seems pretty important in trying to become your best self.
I watched another woman speaking on self acceptance that I originally thought was very surprised at her new found self acceptance. If I got to the level of self acceptance she was touting I might find might self a bit surprised, because as a woman we are constantly reminded of the latest ideas about female perfection. Getting to a place of just liking yourself the way you are could be a bit startling perhaps. Then I realized she was in a permanent state of shock and as an Esthetician I immediately recognized she wasn't surprised at her self acceptance at all. It was a heavy dose of injected surprise. So is having Botulism stuck in your forehead every few months safe? Some women swear THAT has hurt them long term as well. Again, this is not about safety, as we can argue that all day long. My point here is that paralyzing facial muscles so they don't move anymore with Botulism, certainly doesn't fit my personal view of self acceptance. Although it does save you a lot of time editing those lines out of your social media pictures.... wait, I guess that also goes in the lack of self acceptance column. No wonder this has been so hard for me and others like me to truly get!
One of my favorite self acceptance judgement calls came from a facial client of mine. This woman no longer wore make up or colored her hair. She seemed pretty self accepting by all accounts and I greatly admired that about her. At one point she quit going to her favorite yoga class because the instructor got breast implants. Not because she feared for her instructors safety, but because she didn't understand how a "Yogi" could "butcher" themselves like that. I was a bit taken aback that she felt her Yoga instructor was an actual "Yogi" and even more taken aback that she felt that having silicone balls in her instructors chest would some how affect her Yoga experience. On a side note, this same woman got a face lift about 5 years later. So I guess she took a hard left on the self acceptance road or maybe she rationalized that a face lift was "keeping up on what you already have" and breast implants were "adding something you never had." I'm just gonna put face lift in a "might be some what accepting of ones self" column off to the side at this point.
So, why I am I even writing this? I work with women that desperately want to feel and look their best. They live in a world that looking youthful and healthy gets you way more opportunities. People that are grossly obese are viewed as lazy. Looking youthful makes you look more vibrant and perhaps more energetic. Pretty people present better in customer service positions. Too much make up is bad, no make up can rarely be pulled off. Too sexy is inappropriate but frumpy makes you look boring and lack luster. Women do better in their careers, in love and at life if they look young, healthy and fit.
Pretty adolescent girls often get more boys or girls and are more popular and that extends right on into being an adult. Our brains are built for survival and our brains cling to love, safety and belonging. This is a proven fact. Love and belonging in our society are greatly based on appearance.
We all have our reason for wanting to look and feel our best. I am a Health Coach and an Esthetician and at 52 I kind of think people are more likely to view my advice as worth listening to if I look extremely youthful and fit. That is a lot to live up to since so many things factor in to all of that. A little filler here and there carefully placed, some Botox and possibly fat moved around from my middle to a more desirable area would probably make me look more worthy of giving health and beauty advice. I would certainly get more business. I could go "live" on Facebook and tell women to pay me money for my diet plans and do my work outs so that they will look more like me. I see this all the time in the beauty and wellness industry. I'm not for it or against it. BUT, I certainly wouldn't preach about self love and acceptance and call other women out for their lack of it while I'm lifting or moving things around, adding some cheeks here and a lip there and paralyzing my face. That would be hypocritical, and it would lead to comparison and self judgment which is the exact opposite of what I want for my clients.
Why? Because who am I to judge which column to put make up, hair color, filler, Botox or a tummy tuck in? Is there more columns to add? Slightly unaccepting? Mainly accepting? Just enhancing but still loving myself acceptance? Do I believe we should look within and love ourselves for who we are, the way we are, right this moment? Of course. But I also know that is a very tough journey. Most of the gurus preaching it fall into a different column than one of total self acceptance! They have redefined self acceptance to fit their narrative. You can be sure of that! I also don't believe that adding more self loathing and guilt over what we have done to ourselves in the past, what we are currently doing or may choose to do in the future is any more self accepting than getting a third arm.
I look at self acceptance like diet or exercise. I can tell a person to eat whole, fresh foods and to not exclude a macronutrient group. I can explain the importance of vegetables, drinking enough water, getting outside and moving their body. Most likely they are not going to change over night or figure out what foods and ways of preparing them are most healthy for them. They aren't going to love moving their body more if they are not accustomed to it. Its about baby steps and habit change. If they feel guilty for what they ate their whole lives or even today, they are going to judge themselves and eat more unhealthy comfort foods. I'm not going to go "live" on social media eating a sprout sandwich with a chocolate cake in the background.
If people feel guilty and judge themselves for being lazy or unmotivated or secretly self sabotaging they are going to continue to do more of the same. I'm not going to get on my soap box and make people feel bad about their choices because they are different from what my research says to be true about health and wellness. They are choices we make in the moment with the information before us. Guilt, self judgement and self loathing are more unhealthy than anything we can eat, drink, breathe or surgically shuffle around.
So, for my client that got the tummy tuck and then felt a little more comfortable in her gym clothes and it turned out to be a spring board to working out, that probably was not complete self acceptance. To my friends who get spray tanned to look slimmer at the beach until their diet kicks in "next summer," you should have loved your white glowing body enough to wear it proudly at the beach so you also fail at self love. To myself, who has hated her under eye circles since she realized that the person in the mirror was her own reflection, put the concealer down and see how long it takes until someone asks "are YOU okay?" That would be a day full of self love for me right there! Did I mention the new slimming body under garment I found? Hating myself every time I wear it! Don't get me started on crooked teeth. Leave those chompers be because you will probably forget to wear your retainer anyway you self loather!
Where do we draw the line with self acceptance and love? Is make up okay? Trying to build your body into that of a fitness model you follow on Instagram okay? Eye lash extensions? Padded bras? Shaving? No really, someone on their soap box needs to get down for a minute and clearly define this so all of these teenagers and grown ups know where self loathing ends and self acceptance begins. I need to know which column to put my pink and white manicure in because my natural nails are not nearly as beautiful to gesture with and I feel rally bad about myself for that!
I don't know what ACTUAL self acceptance is. I would like to no longer focus on my flaws and love the person in the mirror completely. I would like to look forward to trying non swimsuits in florescent lighting. I would like to just wake up excited that I am me, just the way I am. That is not where I am at. I have only found a few Buddhist monks that appear to be there and that has to be what true peace and happiness feels like. I live here, in the United States though and I have to find my way in this world where things just work differently. I am yet to find an author on the best seller list that speaks on self acceptance and love that truly walks the talk. I applaud that they are working on it and I applaud myself for working on it as well.
So, where does this leave me on this journey of self acceptance? The one thing I wont do is judge myself because the "surprised" lady with Botox is telling me to like myself as I am. I only have today and today I will remember to focus on my flaws a little less while I look inward and drag my true virtues into view so I can see them more clearly. I will struggle to find something worth loving as I stand in front of the mirror on one day, and I will be truly grateful that I am actually able to stand in front of the mirror the next. I will probably continue to put concealer under my eyes so no one has to worry if I am okay. I will remind myself that its who I am on the inside, not what is on the outside that absolutely defines who I am and what is truly important. Maybe I will try one of those self accepting messy buns that I cant seem to pull of in the very near future.
What I wont do is judge you for your facial paralyzing practices or moving your stomach to your butt. Why would I need to do that? That's the last thing YOU need and it changes nothing about me. Everyone is on a journey and we are all more advanced in different areas. Stop judging other peoples journeys and stop judging your own. Stop comparing (note to self). Not many people are perfect with their self love practice and all that I'm aware of. I don't care how many podcasts they are on or how many articles they have written. Its okay that you still cant give up sugar, just start with water. Its okay that you don't feel comfortable at the beach without your miracle tummy taming swimsuit and a spray tan. Heck, start with water there too. Everything starts with water, but that isn't what this blog is about either...
You do you. Self love starts with no longer judging yourself or feeling guilty. We are all stumbling to get self acceptance and self love right. So stop hating yourself because someone with a platform told you that you hate yourself!!