Many women spend their entire lifetimes bombarded with messaging – from the media, peers, even well-meaning friends – that encourages them to alter their appearances in order to fit mainstream beauty standards. Whether it’s as advert as the “heroin-chic” advertisements that were in every glamorous magazine throughout the 1990s to 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 air-play makes it challenging to override, even when women are aware of 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 maybe you haven’t. It’s an approach to whole-hearted living pioneered by clinical psychotherapist and mediation 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 or 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 hold 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 to your children. Use that as proof that you can give that grace to yourself – specifically to your relationship with your body.
Here are three practices you can put in 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 simply 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 around 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 come home 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 in 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 whole new paradigm shift into motion: your body is no longer an enemy to be criticized, but a friend to journey with. When you experience your body just as it is and begin to show it kindness, you begin to unravel years of outside programming. Now, there’s room for new thoughts.
My body is good enough. My body is worthy just as it is.
Natalli Amato is a poet and journalist. She is currently earning her master’s to become a Marriage and Family Therapist. You can read more of her work here: www.natalliamato.com