Many women spend their entire lifetimes bombarded with messaging – from the media, peers, and even well-meaning friends – encouraging them to alter their appearances to fit mainstream beauty standards. Whether it’s as advert as the “heroin-chic” advertisements that were in every glamorous magazine throughout the 1990s or a colleague sharing a low-cal lasagna recipe, the underlying message beats to the tune of your body isn’t good enough; your body needs to change. 

It’s an exasperating, exhausting dialogue. However, its years of airplay make it challenging to override, even when women know its negative influence. One of the best ways to override these messages – and the negative self-image they work so hard to instill – is through the process of Radical Acceptance. 

Maybe you’ve heard of Radical Acceptance before, or perhaps you haven’t. It’s an approach to whole-hearted living pioneered by clinical psychotherapist and meditation teacher Tara Brach. She describes it this way:

“It is the necessary antidote to years of neglecting ourselves, years of judging and treating ourselves harshly, years of rejecting this moment’s experience. Radical Acceptance is the willingness to experience ourselves and our life as it is.” 

When we practice Radical Acceptance, it is as if we hold ourselves in the same unconditional love with which we would have a child. If the idea of Radical Acceptance seems jarring or, as the name suggests, too radical, think of the grace you give to your family or children. Use that as proof that you can provide that grace for yourself – specifically, your relationship with your body. 

Three practices you can put into action

Mirror Talk

Next time you’re in front of the mirror, you can practice this ritual. Pause and take a few deep breaths. You don’t have to quiet your mind. Instead, take notice of how you feel and what you are thinking when you see yourself. If you have a negative reaction, let it be. Refrain from judging yourself and take notice of your thoughts. Then, when it feels right, repeat this affirmation to yourself: “I see you and you are worthy just as you are.”

Five Minutes With Your Five Senses

Since the dominant culture is constantly spewing disapproving messages about women’s bodies, it’s no surprise that many women end up feeling disconnected from their bodies. This can manifest in feeling numb or in a general lack of bodily awareness. This ritual helps us return to our bodies and can be practiced anywhere. Next time you’re on a walk, cooking a meal, or participating in an otherwise contemplative activity, take an inventory of your five senses. Ask yourself, what do I see? Smell? Hear? Taste? Feel? Spend a minute observing your response to each question. Notice how your body feels in each scenario. Spending this time with your body helps establish a friendly relationship with it. Observing your sensory experience helps further foster a non-judgmental stance. 

Acceptance In Action

Certain situations can be more challenging than others: It’s a lot easier to cultivate Acceptance for our bodies when we are in a safe environment surrounded by people who love us. It’s a lot harder to do this, say, at the beach. However, practicing in those challenging spaces is when it matters most. Next time you enter a space that causes you to judge your body or feel insecure (maybe it’s the gym or a clothing store), silently work with this mantra: My body belongs here. Other thoughts may come and go but try to return to the mantra. Once you feel more acclimated to the space, release the mantra on an exhale and invite greater Acceptance on your next inhale. 

These practices may seem small, but they are radical. Inviting even one or two of these rituals into your daily life can help set a new paradigm shift into motion: your body is no longer an enemy to be criticized but a friend to journey with. You begin to unravel years of outside programming when you experience your body just as it is and show it kindness. Now, there’s room for new thoughts. 

My body is good enough. My body is worthy just as it is.