Radical Self-Acceptance

I've heard this term a lot in my podcast and reading circle over recent months and it got stuck in my head. Self-acceptance is something I've been working hard on this year, but what's so radical about it?

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I think of radical self-acceptance as accepting everything about yourself. Everything. Just as you are right now in this moment. Not when you've been in the gym for a month or lost another 15lbs, or got a better job or found a better partner ... just you, as you are, right now. 

Okay, that sounds pretty radical, given we're constantly pushed to want more and achieve more for ourselves we often find our happiness in life is conditional upon things like I listed above.

But what if you didn't do all that? What if you were okay with you, as everything stands, right now? 

I think of this as the difference between being the moon and being the stars. The moon has no light source of its own, it only shines as a by-product of reflecting the sun's light. No offence to the moon but I do not want to be the moon. I don't want to be only as good as my lifestyle looks, my dress size or my job title. I don't want to be reflecting someone else's light to show my worth. I want to the be the sun; responsible for my own light not reliant on an external source for me to shine. In order to do this, I have to love myself, accept everything and know that me, and just me, is good stuff. 

And therein lies the challenge. 

While I've been working on ditching the diet mentality I've had to face up to the fact that I'm not 26 anymore. This is me at 26 (dancing around my living room, naturally): 



Size 10 and looking the skinniest I've ever been (mostly due to poverty - there was nothing glamourous about it). I worked hard to lose weight (before being on a limited budget really did the work for me), I loved losing weight and I was really good at it. What I was terrible at was finding my stopping point and switching to maintenance. I never found that point. I never enjoyed my body even at its lowest weight. I still thought I was fat and lived every day in fear about gaining any weight back. What fun that level of batshit anxiety was!

At the other end of the spectrum, I'm not 21 anymore. This is me at 21: 



Size 20 and officially at my heaviest. I didn't enjoy my body then, either. For different reasons, granted but I still didn't like myself and that's the common factor here. 

Now I'm 36. This is me at 36:



So I'm no longer a 10. I'm also no longer a 20. I'm also no longer defining myself by a dress size (mostly because I wear anything from a 10 to 16 depending upon the store and the way the wind blows). But I like me now. I enjoy my body now. A lot. My body is freaking awesome. I'm learning what maintenance is by no longer dieting, I'm learning who I am by my definitions, no one elses and I really like the person that I see looking back at me in the mirror everyday - something I never felt at 21 or 26. That batshit anxiety about every bit of food I put in my mouth is on the way out, finally.

Could I try harder to change my appearance? Sure. But why should I if I don't want to? I'm perfectly happy with my appearance. I spent the last few years of my life killing myself with guilt for gaining some weight, meaning I'd go exhaust myself in the gym and restrict my food until I was so hungry that I would have to sit on my hands to stop me from going to eat toast. Sat here now, I can confidently say that it did not feel like it was worth it.

So why should I bother?

Because you've let yourself go and gained weight.

A lot of people see a weight gain as losing control ('letting yourself go' is the phrase I associate with this). But is it? When the same amount of effort has gone into your body, albeit in a different way to what the norm assumes (less time calorie counting and smashing intensive cardio sessions, more time engaging in self-love and self-care) is that really losing control? Is it any less work intensive? I don't look how I did at 26 because I'm not the same person as I was at 26. I'm more confident in myself, my work, my passions, my words, my body - every aspect of my life is better now than it was back then. I've gained so much in my life over these last 10 years as well as 30lbs. I'm fitter, I'm faster, I'm stronger and more flexible too. Have I let myself go? No, I've worked harder than ever to look after myself more than I have done in my whole life. 

Why does that 30lbs make a difference to any of that? 

Simple answer: it doesn't.

So I might look a little different. I don't care. I feel different and that's awesome. If that's what radical self-acceptance is then bring it on; fuck all the society norms and watch me shine like a bright, burning star.


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12 comments:

  1. My favourite post to date! I almost filled up. Im SO glad you've found you're happy place with yourself. I hope to get to that point someday too x

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  2. Woo-hoo, let's hear it for body acceptance in our 30s! I bounce between a 12-18/20, depending on the retailer/time of the month, but that's juuuuuust fine with me!

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    1. I think the older we get, the better everything gets, especially the confidence within ourselves.

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  3. Such a great post! I'm not a size 10 anymore and ironically I feel happier and prettier now as a size 16 because I'm not stressing about my appearance as much. Do I want to ge healthier - yes but that is not the same as trying to lose a load of weight and more about wanting to be able to run 10k again.

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    1. It's the stressing that does the damage, mentally, not at bit of extra weight on our bones!

      Health at every size is the way forward :)

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  4. Such a great post! I'm not a size 10 anymore and ironically I feel happier and prettier now as a size 16 because I'm not stressing about my appearance as much. Do I want to ge healthier - yes but that is not the same as trying to lose a load of weight and more about wanting to be able to run 10k again.

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    1. This is exactly why I'm a big advocate of the HAES movement (Health At Every Size) because health has nothing to do with the size of a person and health-shaming people because they're a larger size than what society accepts as 'healthy weight' is not an acceptable thing to do.

      But you're right about not stressing about your appearance, it makes life so much better!

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  5. Such a great post Alex, I've been feeling really down recently because I've put on a bit of weight but reading this made me feel like actually - it's not the end of the world. Nothings really changed, the only person that probably noticed.. is me.

    Thanks for linking up to the #LifestyleLinkup

    Lyndsay | Fizzy Peaches

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    1. I remember when I would put on an old pair of jeans and they'd feel tight, I'd feel like a total failure at life because I'd gained 5lbs. Looking back now, it sounds so ridiculous. No one even noticed! It was all in my head.

      There's another great post in the Linkup about comparing ourselves to another version of ourselves and how that can be destructive, it's worth a read!

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