From the Book “If life is a game, these are rules” (RoL)
Rule 1 – You will receive a body, “Acceptance” is the first chapter of Rule 1
“I find that when we really love and accept and approve of ourself exactly as we are, then everything in life works.”
— Louise Hay
If you are one of the rare and fortunate people who already experience your body as perfect exactly as it is, with all its foibles and strengths, then you have already embraced the lesson of acceptance and can fast-forward to the next lesson. However, if any small part of you believes that you would be happier if you were thinner, taller, larger, firmer, stronger, or some other physical alteration you think would magically transform you life for the better, then you might want to spend some time learning about the value of true acceptance.
Acceptance is the act of embracing what life presents to you with a good attitude. Our bodies are among the most willing and wise teachers of this lesson. Unless you spend a large percentage of your time engaged in out-of-body experiences, your body shows up wherever you are. It can be like an ever-present benevolent guide or a life-long cross your bear. The decision is yours, based on how well you learn this lesson.
For many people, their body is the target for their harshest judgements and the barometer by which they measure their self-worth. They hold themselves up to an unattainable standard and berate themselves for coming up short of perfection. Since your physical shape is the form in which you show up in the world, it is very often the way you define yourself, and often the way others define you. The way you view your body is directly related to how close you are to learning the lesson of acceptance.
Imposing harsh judgements on your body limits the range of experiences you allow yourself to enjoy. How many times has a potentially wonderful day at the beach been tainted by your judgements about how you look in a bathing suit? Imagine how liberating it would be to happily walk across the warm sand without feeling self-conscious. Think of all the activities in your life that you have deferred until you look different, better or perhaps even perfect. I have a friend who dream of learning scuba dive, but refuses to even try because she worries about how she would look swaddled in a tight rubber wet suit. Complete self-acceptance would allow her and you, to fully participate in all aspects of life, without reservation, immediately.
Like many women I know, I spent years preoccupied with my thighs. I didn’t just wish they were thinner, I was actually engage in a private war with them. I wore the longest Bermuda shorts I could find, even on the hottest summer days, too embarrassed to expose them. I was convinced that my life would be enhanced if my thighs were firm and tight and didn’t jiggle. I wanted my thighs to cooperate with my agenda of how I was supposed to look. I had disowned them, so of course, they reciprocated and stubbornly refused to magically transform themselves into taut, supple, wiry limbs. Suffice it to say, my thighs and I were not peacefully coexisting.
I finally decided to put an end to this cold war by vowing to learn to love my thighs. This was easier than done. It is easy to love those parts of yourself that you already perceive as lovable, but far more difficult to give up your beliefs of how you should look. I decided to spend a few minutes every day giving positive attention to my perceived enemy. Every day I massaged rich vanilla-scented lotion into them. As I did this, I concentrated on sending them mental message of partial then complete acceptance. For the first few weeks I felt ridiculous, but eventually I got over that. I still didn’t look forward to seeing my thighs exposed in the harsh bathroom light every morning, but at least I didn’t immediately cover them with a bath towel so as to conceal them from my own eyes.
As time passed, I actually did begin to appreciate my thighs for their strength and reliability. I gratefully acknowledge the support them give me, and their ability to sustain me on my daily three-mile run. Much to my delight, they responded in kind and began to cooperate by firming up. The key here, however, was not that they change in order for me to accept them. It was because I accepted them that they eventually aligned with my wishes.
There is much documented proof that the mind and body are connected, so acceptance of your body is not only essential for your emotional well-being, it is essential for your physical health, as well. Denying your body complete acceptance can lead to illness, whereas practicing acceptance can heal disease. Even the modern medical community now embraces the value of self-acceptance for its power to maintain a healthy mind and body.
You know you are moving in the right direction when you can accept your body exactly as it as in its present form. True acceptance comes when you can embrace and appreciate your body as it is right now, and no longer feel that you need to alter it to be worthy of someone’s love – most especially your own.
Does it mean that you should never endeavor to improve your body? Or that you have to be resigned to what you have been given? Of course not. It is perfectly natural and human want to be at your physical best. What this does mean, however, is that you need to stop criticizing, judging, or finding fault with your body even when you are not at your healthiest or most attractive. The drive for self-improvement is completely healthy as long as it comes from a place of self-love rather than a feeling of inadequacy. The question to ask yourself when you want to be sure of the source of your desire for a new hairstyle or more sculpted biceps is, “Do I feel like I need this new body shape [or hair color, wrinkle cream, wardrobe – the list is long] to make me happy?” If the answer is yes – and be honest with yourself – you might want to spend some time working internally on the lesson of self-acceptance before you spend time and money searching for an external solution.
I frequent tell my clients and students, “Love all the parts of yourself, and if you can’t love them, change them. If you can’t change them, then accept them as they are.” As you grow and age, your body will present you with some very challenging things that you simply cannot change. At the extreme end of the spectrum, you may be afflicted with a physical disability, or a debilitating disease, or some other physical ailment that makes your body that much mountable the task may seem. The Special Olympics are filled with people who have accepted their bodies despite obvious handicaps.
How can you begin to learn the lesson of acceptance? Be recognizing that what is, just is, and that the key to unlocking the prison of self-judgement lies in you own mind. You can either continue to fight against your body’s reality by complaining bitterly and immersing yourself in self-deprecation, or you can make the very subtle but remains the same. Acceptance or rejection of your body only carries weight in your mind; your perception has no bearing on how your body actually looks, so why not choose the ease of acceptance rather than the pain of rejection? The choice is yours.
What are you not accepting about your body?