The Importance of Self-Acceptance on Body Image

The Importance of Self-Acceptance.

“We can’t hate ourselves into a version of
ourselves we can love.”
― Lori Deschene

In order to unconditionally love your body, you’ll
need to acknowledge and accept your whole inner self. Literally all
of it, including the parts that you currently consider completely
fucking unacceptable.

It’s a tall order, I know.

Accepting isn’t the same as loving, though.
Accepting just means you acknowledge the reality and existence of
everything about who you are with open arms and compassion, and
without resistance.

It’s worth noting here that accepting something
about yourself isn’t the same thing as giving up on
self-improvement, or resigning to never changing it. Again, it’s
just acknowledging that this part of yourself exists, and more
importantly, that this part of yourself doesn’t make you any less
worthy of love, connection, or belonging.

Most people fall into the trap of thinking that the
only appropriate way to meet a perceived “flaw” is with
rejection, resentment, resistance, and judgement. The hope is that
by not accepting the truth of who they are, they will
“motivate” themselves to change. Sadly, the exact opposite
tends to be true.

Changing something about yourself is actually
extremely difficult when you reject and condemn it. Likewise,
it’s pretty damn easy when you’ve truly accepted it, and
recognize that it’s existence doesn’t make you any less worthy
of connection.

Let’s use weight loss as an

Let’s say you hate the weight you’re at right now,
you consider it completely unacceptable, and you’re fully
convinced it makes you less worthy of love, respect, care, and
belonging. Despising what you see in the mirror every day, you join
a gym in a burst of hate-fueled motivation. Desperate to lose the
weight quickly, you show up every day, pushing your body past its
limits, and cutting way back on calories. After about two weeks
your body is exhausted, you’re starving all the time and have
massive cravings, and when you step on the scale you haven’t lost
as much as you feel like you “should” have, given how miserable
you are.

So what happens? You dive face-first into a late night
binge at Taco Bell, and wake up the next morning feeling so utterly
defeated and worthless that you never go back to the gym again.
“Why bother?” you think, furious with yourself for being too
weak to succeed yet again.

Now let’s look at what happens if you accept your
weight. You might think “this is the weight I am at right now,
and it’s perfectly acceptable and understandable, and it
doesn’t make me any less worthy of love, respect, acceptance,
kindness, and belonging.” Along with that thought, you might
notice that your moods, energy, and mental clarity have been a bit
low, and that you get winded easily. Noticing this, and also
accepting your current weight, you think “I am worthy of having
better care, more energy, and a more active life.” You join a gym
but decide to take it slow. You showing up twice a week to the gym
for months, staying within a conservative level of effort until
you’ve built a solid exercise habit, on top of making a few very
subtle changes to your diet, like focusing on getting more
vegetables and cutting out soda.

What happens? Over time you see results: better sleep,
more positive moods, more energy, increased strength and endurance.
Motivated by these results, you continue showing up and feeling
good. Over the long term the composition of your body naturally
changes, perhaps losing some fat and gaining some muscle. You enjoy
these changes to your shape or size, but you also recognize that in
and of themselves, they don’t make you any better, happier, or
more worthy of love, acceptance, or belonging.

Do you see how much easier it is to make positive
changes from a place of acceptance, rather than rejection? It may
seem counter-intuitive, but resisting, resenting, shaming, and
judging yourself for who you are in this moment is never going to
lead to positive change.

So let’s talk about self-acceptance.

Our society teaches us generally what it means to be a
good/normal person, and we are often shamed or punished for the
ways in which we diverge from that definition.

While the specifics of what it means to be
“good/normal” is different across cultures, races, religions,
and genders, from an early age, we are constantly comparing what we
notice inside of ourselves to the cultural definition of
“good/normal.” When we find things inside ourselves that go
against the messages we’ve received about what is
“good/normal,” we tend to categorize it as “bad” and
“unacceptable.” To avoid punishment or shame, we try to hide
those things, banish them from our psyches, bury them deep down, or
even deny their very existence in the hopes that they will
eventually go away.

They don’t, of course.

The key to the parts of ourselves that we reject and
deny is that we unconsciously (or consciously) believe they pose a
threat– most often that threat is to connection itself. It feels
like if anyone ever found out about that part of us, they would
hate us, abandon us, reject us, or punish us.

Let’s take the example of a man, who is brought up
with the message that a good/normal man is masculine, stoic,
self-sacrificing, and silent. This man might find within himself
bits of sensitivity, weakness, fear, emotions, and insecurity, and
decide that in order to keep his status and connections safe, he
must push all of those bits of himself down into oblivion, and deny
their existence forever. Those parts of himself might become so
loathsome to him, so dangerous and disgusting, that he finds
himself resenting anyone else, male or female, who displays these
traits, and find himself drawn to hyper-masculinity in the form of
violence, porn, and an obsessive need to look big, strong, and

A woman on the other hand might get the message that
in order to be “good” she must be small, delicate, passive,
feminine, and selfless. Afraid of all the non-small, non-passive
parts of her that she discovers inside, she becomes terrified that
her very existence poses a threat to connection and belonging. She
takes all of her aggression and “selfishness” (aka her strong
sense of self and boundaries) and stuff them down out of reach,
along with her needs, desires, intuition, anger, sexuality, and
voice. She skates down the middle, careful to be enough of
something, but never too much. Confident, but not too confident.
Funny, but not too funny. Successful, but not too successful.

It’s not only cultural messages which teach us to
reject parts of ourselves, either.

Many of us have specific memories of being shamed for
something about our personalities, behavior, or bodies which we
tagged forever as “unacceptable.”  Maybe your sister always
called you dumb, or your dad used to comment on your unladylike
manners or your mom worried about your weight. Whatever it was,
these moments land in our brains as red flags for disconnection,
letting us know that something about who we are is dangerous and we
must stay on high alert to fight it off.

Self-acceptance isn’t easy. But it is absolutely a
requirement for healing body image and walking around with an
unconditional sense of self-worth.

If you still carry shame for any part of who you
are– whether it’s about the kind of sex you fantasize about, or
how much you want out of life, or how hungry you are for intimacy
or attention, or how unkind you can be in your own mind– you will
always need an outlet for that self-rejection.

Your body will always be a convenient location for
your self-hatred, offering a tidy distraction and protection from
the truth of your own hatred.

Think of it like this: all the parts of yourself that you reject
get locked away in a corner of the deep dark basement of your
psyche and treated like garbage with no food, no light, no human
contact for years.

You, (the You who lives on the 5th floor of your
psyche, with sun streaming through your windows enjoying the view
and getting on with your life) rarely think about the basement.
You’re far too busy with work and family and relationships and
hobbies and routines and life.

So you carry on, happy-ish, thinking you did the right
thing by locking those parts of yourself in the basement.

But two terrible things happen.

  1. The first is that you are desperately lonely, and
    always feel like something is missing. People who meet you and
    don’t like you make you feel worse, because you’re paranoid
    that they suspect, or can tell, about the parts of yourself you
    have banished to the basement, and you live in fear that they know
    and already hate you.

    People who meet you and like you make you feel guilty, because
    you know you’re pulling the wool over their eyes, and that they
    would despise you if they ever knew the truth of who you really

    You meet people all day, unable to fully connect with any of
    them, no matter how they treat you, because you are constantly
    distracted by guarding your secrets, and are never able to be fully
    authentic anyway, because you have far too much to hide and

  2. The second is that sometimes you are there happily
    working on the fifth floor and you think everything is fine, when
    you suddenly hear screaming coming from the basement:
    blood-curdling, primal raging enemy-screams.

    One might call these moments shame spirals, “imposter
    syndrome,” anxiety/depression, self-loathing, beating yourself
    up, or bad body image days. They arise when you remember that these
    severed parts of yourself (fueled with rage and hatred for having
    been chained up in the dark for so long) exist, which means that
    you are inherently a monster.

Plus, occasionally, one or more of your basement
captives will break loose and take over the whole building with
extraordinary violence in vengeance for the war you have waged
against them, leading to exquisite levels of self-sabotage and
out-of-control bad decision-making.

Self-acceptance is about recognizing that we
all have these parts of ourselves, that they’re normal and
natural, and that (if you don’t wage war on them first) they’re
not dangerous.

We all have flaws. We all have the capacity for
unkindness, gross habits, and weird shit that we like and want and
do and are. These parts of ourselves do not make us lessworthy of
love, connection, or belonging.

Self-acceptance is about letting those parts of
ourselves out of the basement, raising the white flag of peace, and
gently integrating them into our sense of self.

What happens when you do this is that you restore
yourself to psychic wholeness, and stop being afraid all the time.
When you stop hiding and protecting your secrets, you can connect
with people more fully– so the feelings of loneliness and
isolation cease, and those moments of “I am worthless garbage”
ease up.

Don’t get me wrong. Self-acceptance takes courage,
patience, compassion, and tons of self-examination. But it’s
worth it, because on the other side of self-acceptance you actually
have access to unconditional body love, confidence, wholeness,
aliveness, and a deep feeling of unshakeable, unconditional

The post The
Importance of Self-Acceptance on Body Image
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Jessi Kneeland.

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The Importance of Self-Acceptance on Body Image