Is Acceptance the Missing Piece?
If you take nothing else away from this piece, I want you to remember this: you are perfect exactly as you are.
Yes, you heard me right. I believe this concept is so, so important; in fact, it just might be the missing piece for many of us, in terms of happiness and satisfaction with our lives. But I don't believe self-acceptance means we stay exactly as we are, not changing at all for the rest of our lives.
It is possible to want to change without thinking you suck, without believing you're ugly or fat or worthless. I believe life is a constant process of learning and improving. Resolutions, goals, and intentions are part of that. Our daily habits and environment are constantly changing anyhow; we might as well take an active role in guiding and shaping the direction of that change. Sure, it can take hairpin turns without warning. There are times we'll have more control and times we'll have less control. That doesn't mean we should throw up our hands and quit trying.
As a coach, I need to get on this soapbox because I have heard (directly and indirectly) from people who believe I am part of the diet industry that makes money off of encouraging women to hate themselves in a downward spiral of shame that keeps them turning to food for comfort, gaining weight, and starting back at square one.
What I would like you to know is that the values I hold dear and put forth in my business are the exact opposite of that.
The truth is that we have an obesity epidemic in this country and we have work to do to reverse this trend. It happens by moving our bodies more. It happens by breaking up with convenience foods and choosing real, whole, natural foods to put in our bodies. So that's what I help people do.
It's not about chasing a number on the scale or trying to make your body look like a model in a magazine whose body was Photoshopped anyway.
There is a third way, beyond joining the evil diet industry or accepting things exactly as they are. I call it compassionate change. It means change that arises out of loving yourself, not hating yourself. And it's a completely new language for most women.
Throughout our lives, we are taught to be perfectionists... to dread mistakes, and when they happen, apologize profusely and feel shame. That's a recipe for hating the fact that we are human.
I call bullshit. Perfection gets us nowhere.
Yet it is so pervasive in our culture that I almost have to sneak it into my programs! I do a little bait and switch with my clients, to be honest.
You see, self-acceptance is a habit we can work on like anything else—for example, through exercises, meditation, affirmations. I believe it's so important that I've created entire programs around it on multiple occasions..and not gotten enough sign-ups to meet minimum enrollment.
So now I sneak it in under the radar. It is the absolute foundation of everything I do as a coach. People are much more likely to sign up for four weeks of healthy eating and exercise, than to sign up for four weeks of working on self-acceptance.
But that's exactly what we do in these groups. Everything starts with a foundation of acceptance and self-love. If we first believe that we don't need to do anything or accomplish anything to deserve love, then we can pursue change from a place of self-love, without the twisted dynamic of self-sabotage, where we fail at our goals because we didn't believe we deserved to succeed in the first place.
Even so, it's sometimes a struggle to get my participants to focus on things besides the number on the scale or a clothing size. There's plenty to celebrate even if you don't see those measures move! You went 21 days without sugar? You gave up soda cold turkey? Say WHAT?! Do you know how amazing those changes are for your body, your health, your emotions? Let's do some celebrating together because that's AMAZING!!
So this trend I see makes me wonder... Why do we have so many ways of beating ourselves up? Why are we so reluctant to let go of THAT habit? I don't know, but it affects me too. And I can assure you that I don't want to play into this trend or profit from it. That's why this is the #1 habit I encourage people to break... more important than anything you eat or anything you put in your body. Of course, sometimes taking action helps reinforce the belief: if you start treating yourself like you matter, at a deep level that affects you and it becomes easier to believe that you matter. But if you feel like you're constantly giving up and having to start over, have you considered that your mindset might be what's holding you back?
I know that change is hard, and heck, mindset change is the hardest of all. These are the very thoughts in our heads, the fabric of how we perceive and relate to the world. It's hard enough to observe our own thoughts, let alone change them! But this is why working with a coach can be helpful. (Want to work on this together? Check out my list of programs or email me... address at the bottom of the page.) In my work with my clients, I hope that at least I might plant just the smallest seed of doubt so the next time that voice of "I suck" comes into my client's head, she's not quite as quick to believe it.