Do you deserve to be loved, completely and with abandon, if you are not thin? Are you worthy of self-acceptance if you are not at your dream or ideal weight or body shape?
There are women who would look at me and consider me fairly thin or ‘small’. Others would see my arms and hips and the roll around my belly when I sit and consider me fat or at least chubby. I am 5’5.5″ (that half inch is important!) and weigh 144 lbs-ish.* It fluctuates due to my Hashimoto’s. I am in a healthy BMI range and my waist circumference, too, is in a low-risk range but my body-fat percentage is high. I am sharing this openly because I think we, as women, are often curious about the specifics of other people’s lives. And this helps put my story in perspective. I have been obese, about 60 plus pounds heavier than now, and I have been close to 20 pounds smaller when I was barely eating.
In both situations I was desperately hurting inside, using food and other addictive habits as methods of numbing or control to help ease my inner turmoil.
When I was a bigger size I experienced jeers and stares and even unkind comments and comparisons from some male family members (ex. Why can’t you be more like your sister?) And this fed my shame.
When I was a smaller size I received approving comments from many people but inside all I felt was fear. And rage. And a knowledge that I would never be good enough.
My heart breaks a little today as I write this.
But I have come to a place of greater peace and wholeness (I am yet a work in progress). Still, I am not thin and am well aware that this can be judged harshly in our world, especially in the holistic health realm. And I struggled with this reality as I studied and yearned to work with other women, to share the light of hope and encouragement with them. And I considered never stepping out because I dislike conflict and meanness. But ultimately, I decided that I will step out, with courage, and love others, and help educate and encourage them that they may come to truly and completely love themselves. Rolls and all. Cellulite and all. Scars and all.
For the most part I focus on promoting what I love instead of bashing what I hate. But I take a firm stand against messages in our culture which encourage women to bully their bodies into submission, or shame themselves skinny. Not only is this ineffective long-term, but YOU ARE WORTH MORE THAN THAT!!! Your worth does not come in the form of skinny jeans. And it isn’t all about body size, either. If you are lean but your fingers or teeth are crooked, your eyes too close together, if you are missing a limb or struggle with acne… you are deserving of complete, unshackled love. Now. Just as you are.
It isn’t that I promote obesity, any more than I promote any particular weight or shape or style of dress. I advocate for health – peace of body, mind, and spirit. And the starting point for this view of holistic health is self-acceptance and self-compassion. When we get to the place where we can be at peace in our own skin, or look into the mirror at our naked selves and see beauty, then progress begins. So, to be clear, self-acceptance doesn’t mean that you cannot desire growth or change in an area of your life. It simply means that you wholly accept who you are right now. And that even if that change you desire never materializes, that doesn’t diminish your worth. Nor your tremendous beauty, uniqueness, and the gifts that you are called to bring to the world.
When we think or speak nasty things about ourselves it is an act of violence and hatred.
We deserve better! If you would not utter those things to your precious daughter, your best friend or your sister whom you adore, you should NOT be saying them to yourself. Plain and simple.
Emotional, psychological, spiritual, and physical healing and wholeness, along with joy, can only come to fruition when we learn to treat ourselves with kindness and compassion.
Logically we know that a child will not flourish in an abusive, harsh, bullying, or unloving environment. Yet we buy into the lies of our culture that promote bullying, comparison, or shaming habits and mind-frames.
And let’s suppose for a moment that you are incredibly gorgeous and at your ‘perfect’ weight and body shape. You have a perfect wardrobe and haircut. Life is great. Then you receive a scary diagnosis. Or experience a serious injury that never quite heals right. Or you begin to age. Then what? Would you love yourself then? What if it was your mom** that underwent horrific surgeries to remove the cancer from part of her skull and she had staples running all along the top half of her body, and bone was removed from her leg to repair her skull but nothing would heal right because of the cancer. And her eyes watered and wouldn’t track right anymore and her wounds wept. Would you find her hideous and stop loving her?
Because let’s face it, the world would look at her and be horrified. They might even cross the street to avoid her. But I’m going to hazard a guess and imagine that you would see in her tremendous courage, and strength, and feel a love so deep that you might wish you could carry her pain in your body in her stead. Her physical imperfections would in no way lead you to shame her or be disgusted by her. Then why can we not offer ourselves the same acceptance and compassion?
So I’m going to let you in on a secret: I am not a skinny nutritional consultant and I don’t want to be.
I care for myself well and eat a clean diet because it tastes great and it supports my moods, energy and overall health, allowing me to love my family well and do the work I am called to do.
And when I look into the mirror, I see imperfection intertwined with beauty and strength.
Tears want to come as I write this because of the years of pain and self-loathing I walked through before arriving at this place. I see the scar from my hip replacement, and am aware that I walk funny because of it, and am grateful I can simply walk again and make love to my husband. I see the jiggly upper arms that remind me of my paternal grandma and how I loved visiting her as a child, and I rejoice because these arms can hug my kids, and prepare food, and clean my home. I see the saggier skin that never quite rebounded from my heavier, self-abusive days and I feel pride and intense gratitude at how far I have come. I see the lines of my neck that remind me of my mom and the smile and frown lines of my face, and I embrace them, because they tell a story of overcoming and choosing joy.
I invite you to examine your self-talk today. To consider what you see and hear and feel when you stand naked before your mirror. I encourage you to offer yourself kindness and compassion today. Not when you lose or gain another 10 (or 100) pounds. Not once you finally get rid of that habit that embarrasses you. Not once your acne is cleared up. Now.
Because you are worthy of love and acceptance just as you are.
May you walk through life unshackled,***
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*The point cannot be my weight because it fluctuates and I deserve to be loved and love myself completely regardless of how much space I take up in the world
**This is the story of my mom, an amazingly beautiful woman, whom we reluctantly said goodbye to 13 years ago this day (Nov 9th, 2002), and whom I miss every single day of my life
***Unshackled is one of my five “Mind-Body-Spirit Intentions”