En lieu of Valentine’s Day and with love on the mind, we thought to follow suite with February’s blog theme in a post about self love.
Except, we won’t be talking about self love.
Instead, we’re going to re-frame “self love” as “self acceptance.” Why? Hopefully the answer will be evident by the end of this blog post. In short: we don’t need to love every single thing about ourselves. That’d be unrealistic. A losing battle. Instead, making peace with our bodies through acceptance not only lifts a weight off our shoulders, but brings power through embracing uniqueness and diversity.
Merima Dervović is a public speaker and wheelchair user born with spina bifida. In her 2018 Ted Talk, Merima explains her body image difficulties and struggles with acceptance. She also shares her realization that while she doesn’t choose to love her condition, she chooses to embody her sexuality, her identity, her personality, etc. Merima identifies three steps in her path toward self acceptance. In this blog, we highlight, describe and expand on these steps.
Step 1: Acceptance means truth. “And that’s a truth that society now needs more than ever. The majority of you are not in my position, but you don’t have to be in a wheelchair to inspire change in the world. You just have to get comfortable with your imperfections, wherever those imperfections may be.” In other words, acknowledgement. Acknowledge YOU, all parts that make you, YOU. This includes parts you may believe to be flawed, less-than, imperfect to a societal-imposed standard. This blog frames self acceptance from a body image perspective, but the message is also applicable with respect to mental and emotional parts of our character as well. The first step to awareness is to acknowledge your truths.
Step 2: Become shameless. This step involves taking your power back. Now that we’ve identified our ‘flaws’ in step 1, let’s own them. Being shameless means speaking your mind and allowing yourself to be [and feel] who you truly are – completely and fully. You have all the right in the world to not fit in and still feel good about yourself.
Be more shameless by using the art of ignoring things. Merima challenges us to: “Take all the shame imposed by others, look at it, and just let it go. What has helped me navigate the world is the art of ignoring things – glances and comments from others, etc. The truth is, people will hardly ever change. You will always encounter people that will judge you, stare at you, and make you feel like you won’t fit in. The good thing is that we can change the perceptions that we have about ourselves.”
Step 3: Detach yourself with compassion. The key to this step is to switch the perspective that you have about yourself, focusing less about the things that you DON’T like about yourself, and instead emphasizing the things that you DO like.
“Acceptance is a process. You have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Every change is uneasy. But once you follow through with the process, you will find that most of your fears are inside of your head. They are not real. Commit to compassion day by day. Energy is put into compassion just as energy is put into self-loathing – choosing one over the other is the challenge.”
Imperfection is the key to self-acceptance. You have to own your body from the roots of your hair to the toenails in your feet. You may not particularly like those hair roots or toenails (or other bodily feature in-between), but they are yours. Every flaw carries its own story, own uniqueness. They truly are what makes you, YOU! We don’t have to love our flaws, but simply acknowledging and accepting them allows our mind to feel content – and dare I say, empowered?
*This month’s blog post was developed and written by: Emma McVey, Dietetic Intern with University of Northern Colorado