These posts about the RtL Challenge have become more and more emotional for me, as I go through each month. I feel very strongly about what my inner guidance is telling me (as far as being militant about self-acceptance), but translating that to the page with the rest of the details of this issue is hard for me. I feel like I am not always able to express my ideas clearly enough, which is super frustrating, especially when I feel I might be alienating people who are reading this blog.
So let me be clear that I am NOT against exercising or eating a healthy diet or even wanting to look and feel sexy. I hope that is obvious, especially to those who have been reading this blog for a long time. Being healthy is one of my top priorities.
What I’m trying to work through within this challenge is, at its most basic level, radical self-acceptance.
Admittedly, I started this challenge for myself – because I needed it. I also became more and more aware of how often people in my circle were still struggling to heal from old eating disorders, and how often I heard negative self-talk. For quite a long time, I could not post a picture on Facebook without someone in the photo saying, “Please delete this! I look so fat/hideous/tired/ugly!” I heard friends talk about their weight loss plans fueled by insecurities born of “comparison criticism” (feeling ugly or fat compared to a thinner friend or family member). And there were a whole lot of conversations dominated by the subjects of food, weight and workout ideas. In fact, even as I write this, there is a mirror leaning against the wall behind me (I’m still in the middle of my studio re-design) and I keep looking over my shoulder thinking, “Am I really this wide, or is it the angle of the mirror?”
So the reason I write these RtL Challenge posts is to say SHUSH to all of that. No more. Enough is enough. All of that is a total waste of our time. I often think of a story I have shared here a million times about one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott. One day, while shopping with a friend for a dress she wanted to wear on a first date, she asked if the dress made her look too fat. Her friend, Pammy, who was terminally ill at the time, said, “I don’t think you have that kind of time.” This story has remained with me since I first read it, years ago. Yes, we want to feel pretty and sexy, but are we going to waste our precious time here on earth feeling bad about ourselves on the days when we don’t feel pretty and sexy? Are we going to waste time trying to achieve that goal from the outside in (instead of from the inside out)? And how do we achieve it? Who defines pretty and sexy? When are we pretty and sexy enough?
I believe that the only road to being pretty and sexy and healthy is to radically accept ourselves the way we are in every moment – no easy task. I don’t care if you are 500 pounds, 90 pounds or anything in between. Nothing is going to permanently change on the outside until you lay the foundation for it on the inside. I believe self-esteem naturally and almost effortlessly manifests in healthy behaviors. When you love and respect yourself, you make different choices. If you see a plate of cookies, you might have one and realize that eating any more might make you feel sick or unhappy and therefore, you’ll walk away. Or you may choose not to eat any. But you probably won’t eat the whole plate and then work out for six hours the next day. (And even if you do, you’ll respond to your behavior with love and acceptance, which will help you work through your destructive behaviors and heal, instead of responding with frustration and self-hatred, which perpetuates the cycle.) Diets, goals, plans – there is nothing wrong with these things, but without self-acceptance and self-love, they don’t mean a darn thing and will do little to help heal what’s causing the problems in the first place.
And back to this month’s challenge of not talking about your weight issues anymore. I feel like I have mostly explained the reason I made this rule here in this post. However, EcoGrrl made a great comment about this: “We keep so many of our self abusive words in our minds that we don’t realize that verbalizing it and deconstructing it can ultimately be a way of changing ones mindset.” I totally agree with this. When I made this rule about not talking about your weight, I definitely didn’t intend for people to suppress their feelings about it, and now I wish I had been more clear about it. The whole point is to silence that inner critic by not giving it a voice anymore – and that means silencing its voice in your head, too. I think when we get together and chat, it often turns into more commiseration than support. It seems like we’re supporting each other, but really, are we?
Make sure you really ask yourself that question if you choose to talk about your weight issues with friends. Are you building each other up and making room for conversations and actions and feelings that don’t revolve your weight? Or are you and your friends stoking the fires of self-criticism even more? It’s a fine line and I think we have to be super vigilant about it because that inner critic is a sneaky little devil. It’s just so easy to trick ourselves into thinking we’re being productive and goal-oriented and health-focused. But I think if we really want to be productive citizens and healthy people, we have to remind each other that we are more than our bodies, more than our weight, more than the food we eat. We are brilliant souls who have a lot of other challenges to face, pleasures to enjoy and experiences to sample – so why should our weight take up so much of our attention?
Even after all that, I still feel like I haven’t fully explained my intentions behind this challenge. But I truly hope this all makes sense. In the end, if it doesn’t make sense, doesn’t resonate with you or just doesn’t work for you, leave it. Take what you need from these posts and don’t worry about the rest.