Lately, I have been fortunate enough to be counseling several adolescent girls. Of course all of them spend a lot of time thinking about how they look (they are teenagers), but listening to the way these girls talk about their bodies has me thinking a lot about shame and how critical many women are about their own bodies.
When I listen to the conversations of women around me I hear a lot of complaining; their butts are too big or too small, their arms sag, or their waists aren’t small enough. They complain about wrinkles and freckles, and hair that is too curly or straight or not the right color. Then there is the big one: almost every woman believes she is too fat.
Recently I was introduced to the “thinspiration” websites. I really got sucked in by some of these blogs and manifestos. I was horrified and fascinated. “Thin is more important than healthy.” “Without food I am perfect.” “I want to be light as a feather, barely there.”
How much energy (time, money, thoughts) are you spending on diets, workouts, clothes, makeup, surgery, etcetera, etcetera? Here is the reality: you cannot buy or diet or exercise your way to self-love and self-acceptance. There is no point at which you will say, “This is it. I am perfect and I can love myself now.” It is an illusion slipping ever farther from your grasp. This is the truth that is hard to face.
Is it possible to begin accepting yourself exactly as you are? What if you said, “I am thin enough, I am tall enough, I am young enough, I am toned enough, I am beautiful enough. I am enough.”
Here is a secret: only when we truly accept and love ourselves the way we are can we begin to change. But there is no cheating. You can’t pretend here. There is no change until you truly accept.
Here are some small steps to help you begin the change:
- Notice the next time you criticize yourself in front of the mirror. Stop and breathe.
- Notice the next time you are tempted to compare your body favorably or unfavorably to another woman. Stop and breathe.
- Pay attention to how much time, energy, and money you devote to making yourself look younger, thinner, or “better.” Think about what else you might spend those resources on if you already felt good enough about yourself.
Self-acceptance is not easy, but you deserve it. If you find it too hard to do on your own, therapy can help. A therapist can offer you a safe, non-shaming place to talk about all those feelings and tools to begin making changes to your life.