Have hope, chase joy, embrace life – recovery is possible.

Posts tagged ‘perfection’

Day 4: Self-Acceptance

Welcome to Day 4 of lifeinfullcolour’s 6-Day Exploration of Health At Every Size (HAES) :)

Today’s theme is Self-Acceptance, but if you are just joining us now, you might like to go back & try my Self-Care Challenge from Day 1,  Joyful Movement Challenge from Day 2, or my Intuitive Eating Challenge from Day 3 🙂

(Image via: We ♥ it.)

In Day 1: Self-Care, i recalled the times when i had neglected my own needs in favour of taking care of others. What i was really conveying through that behaviour, was a belief i had that the needs of others were more important than my own – i didn’t feel that i deserved the same love & care that i was giving to others. I never felt deserving, because i never felt “good enough”. I was constantly striving to be better, more “perfect” – i felt i had to “earn” self-love & the love of others.

“You are not good enough” was a message that permeated my life, & i spent so many years trying to become “good enough”. I studied things i had no interest in because “i should”. I tried to get top marks because anything less was “not good enough”. I tried to change my appearance because there was always someone telling me i could look “better”. Can you relate to any of these things?


(Image via: We ♥ it.)

In all those years of trying to become “good enough”, it never occurred to me that i had the power to change what “good enough” meant. It never occurred to me that i could just stop & say to myself “Hey, you know what? You ARE good enough – who you are right now is good enough. You don’t need to change a thing to earn that.” It wasn’t until a year or two ago, that i realised the power of self-acceptance – “I might not fit everyone else’s definition of “good enough”, but that is okay. I am okay.”

To me, self-acceptance isn’t so much about accepting the way you look, as it is about accepting yourself as a person. I found that once i had learnt to accept & love myself as a person, it was a very natural progression to accepting my body. Once i realised what an amazing human being i am – & that i am worthy of acceptance & love exactly as i am right now – i stopped wanting to change myself, & that included changing my appearance. I realised that i don’t need to be flawless in order to be loved, & that it is entirely possible to love & accept who you are without loving your appearance.

The funny thing is, once i learnt to love myself as a person, once i stopped being so afraid of showing my true self, my true beauty was revealed to myself & the world – once i had learnt to love myself, i learnt to respect myself, & that was reflected in how i looked after my own body. Instead of looking at a pretty new dress & thinking “I don’t deserve it” or “I’m not thin enough/pretty enough/good enough to wear that”, i began to think “I’m worth it” instead. As Medicinal Marzipan says in her brilliant post “Thoughts On Being A “Pretty Fat Girl”“:

People will be attracted to you if you love yourself. That is a fact. And it often has very little to do with your actual weight. Because when you love yourself: you stand differently, you smile like you mean it, you extend kindness and warmth because you can see outside of your little shell of pain, and you dress in a way that is both comfortable and flattering instead of trying to hide your body away or make it something that it’s not.

And it’s really not about having a pretty face. It’s about having a compassionate and loving heart, and teaching yourself to accept your perceived flaws and make the absolute best out of every moment.

My challenge for you today is to explore your magnificence. Yep, you heard me – YOU are MAGNIFICENT 🙂

While self-acceptance is not just about accepting the parts of ourselves that we do like, it can be a good place to start. When we are caught up in thoughts like “I’m not good enough” or “I don’t deserve this”, it is easy for us to forget what it is we do like about ourselves, & to forget that we contain any wonder or magnificence at all.

Day 4 – Self-Acceptance:
Get your pens & paper out for today’s challenge, because it is list time! 🙂

  1. I am awesome because…
    Write a list of things you like about who you are as a person.
    Perhaps it is your compassion or kind heart, perhaps it is your quirky sense of humour, or perhaps your generosity & goodwill.
    Perhaps it is something entirely different! 🙂
  2. My body is awesome because…
    What do you like about your body?
    I like my quirky wayward eyebrow, & my pudgy little tummy.
    Perhaps you like the colour of your skin, or a special birth mark.
  3. I am good at…
    Instead of focusing on what you “can’t” do, or what you find challenging, focus on what you can do – each & every one of us has our own special talents 🙂
  4. I am learning to…
    What are you learning about yourself & the world around you?
    How are you growing & changing?
    Perhaps you are learning to play a new instrument, or perhaps you are learning something more intangible – to live a lifeinfullcolour perhaps? 😉

Aim for a minimum of 5 answers in each category, but feel free to write 50 if you’d like to! 🙂
And try not to beat yourself up too much if 5 seems difficult – many of us have been so conditioned to believe that we are not “good enough” that it can be difficult to see past that to our talents & beauty. But if you give this challenge a go anyway, that gives you some other things to add to your talent list – determination & bravery! 🙂

Try to keep your focus on these things throughout the day 🙂

Perhaps for an extra challenge (i know, i’m tough – aren’t i? :P), you might like to try practising some positivity – after all, there is no better way to change an “I’m not good enough” into an “I am awesome – just as i am” 🙂 (Which, you are – just so you know ;))

Be sure to pop on over to lifeinfullcolour’s Facebook page today – & prepare yourself for a bombardment of posts inspiring self-acceptance & self-love! 🙂 And please feel free to share with me there, or here on the blog how you have found today’s Self-Acceptance Challenge – i’d love to hear about your experiences! :)

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New Year’s Resolutions

Giving up on giving up

Why is it that New Year’s Resolutions are so often about giving something up? Giving up smoking, giving up food, losing weight, etc. By “resolving” to give something up, we are setting ourselves up to feel deprived, & feelings of deprivation rarely do anything to enhance our mood. In fact, our desire for satisfaction is so strong, that any feelings of deprivation we may have are likely to see us rush right back into the comforting arms of what we have “given up”. We want to feel satisfied, & why shouldn’t we?

Now, i’m not saying that you should keep smoking, or continue to engage in behaviours that are otherwise damaging to your health or well-being – if you are keen to make positive changes in your life, then by all means, go for it! But perhaps it would be helpful to think of thee changes in a different way – rather than “giving up” something, what if we were to gain something instead?

What if, instead of “giving up” smoking, your resolution was to increase your cardiovascular health? To breathe more freely & deeply? To save money? What if, instead of losing weight, your resolution was to develop a deeper connection to your body? To nourish yourself? To find a fun new way to move your body? What if your New Year’s resolution was about increasing your positive experiences, rather than trying to eliminate others?

All or nothing – or something else?

“Resolution” sounds so final – so all or nothing. It sounds so rigid – so inflexible. While setting goals is great for giving us a sense of purpose & direction, “resolving” to do something doesn’t leave much room for error or adjustment. When we set ourselves up to feel deprived, we make it difficult for ourselves to maintain any changes we make. So what happens then, if we have resolved to maintain this “deprivation”? How do we feel if for some reason we were not able to maintain those changes?

Most people i know who make New Year’s resolutions, feel guilty if they were unable to maintain the changes they had resolved so adamantly to adhere to. Even if it was through no fault of their own, they blame themselves – they blame their lack of “willpower”, their “lack” of organisation, or any other of their perceived “lackings” or “inabilities”. They approached their resolutions with an all or nothing attitude, & did not allow themselves the patience & flexibility they needed to really grow & develop, or to learn new skills. There was no contingency plan, & no space for wrong turns.

A resolution to recover

I have never been one to make New Year’s resolutions, but on December 31st, 2007, i made a resolution for the upcoming year. I was sharing my evening with friends, & when one of them insisted we write down a resolution, i felt obliged to join in. I had recently been diagnosed with an eating disorder, & was awaiting treatment at a specialist eating disorders service.  My resolution that year (although i can’t remember it’s exact wording), was to “give up” my eating disorder – to stay out hospital (which was, at that time, a regular occurrence), leave my ED behaviours behind, & find happiness & health. I know, right? Talk about setting myself up!

The resolution i made (while well-intentioned), went against every piece of advice i have given here. First of all, i set myself up for some major deprivation – i was completely entrenched in my disorder, reliant on it in so many ways, & stuck in a pattern of behaviour that had just as much to do with physiology as it did with psychology. I was in no real position to “give that up” yet.

Recovery from an eating disorder is a very long process, but my resolution seemed to ignore that fact, & insist instead, that i could recover by the end of the following year. It left me no room for the backward & forward steps of the recovery dance. It left me no room to test out new skills & techniques. No room to seek medical help if i needed it. It didn’t really leave much room for anything other than “success”. Needless to say, i did not keep my resolution that year. Within weeks i was back in hospital again to be stabilised, & i continued to have multiple emergency room admissions throughout the year. I was not able to “give up” my eating disorder behaviours, & health & happiness continued to elude me.

Despite how it sounds, i did make some incredible progress in that first year of treatment. It was a year of progress, not perfection – the beginning of my journey to recovery, with steps taken bite by bite. These changes could have been the result of a more powerful resolution – a resolution that focused on that idea of progress, rather than absolute perfection. And it is this idea – progress, not perfection – that now helps to guide me through my goal-setting.

A change of wording can make all the difference

Since that December back in 2007, i have not made any new resolutions – New Year’s or otherwise. I have, however, set myself some goals. To me, goals are much more flexible than a resolution. While a resolution is by definition fixed & unwavering, goals can be adjusted, or changed completely. A goal, is something you would live to have, or do, or be – it is something to strive for. But if you decide one day, that you no longer want to have that thing, or that you want to do something different, a goal provides you with the flexibility to change paths.

My goals for next year?

  • Above all, to be gentle with myself
    Which for me, means to continue developing my self-compassion, to acknowledge that i am still learning & growing, & to be forgiving of myself. It also means learning more about setting & maintaining boundaries, & practising saying no (or yes!).
  • To continue the practice of intuitive eating
    To continue the practice of connecting with my body & it’s needs, & providing it with nourishment in a way that is life-giving & enjoyable
  • To continue experimenting with different ways of moving my body
    Perhaps i will try yoga this year,or take a dance class. Perhaps i will spend more time hiking, or kayaking. Or perhaps i will discover something completely different!
  • To continue to find new ways of learning, & exercise my mind
    I have planned to go back to university, to explore  a different way of learning, & to engage my mind in learning more about a variety of different subjects. The idea of exercising my mind in new ways is very exciting! 🙂
  • To continue exploring ways in which i can give back to my community
    I really love volunteering with Vinnies Youth, but it would be nice to explore some other ways to spread the love 🙂
  • To continue exploring ways in which i can be involved in the discussion around eating disorders & their treatment
    Including continuing my support & increasing my involvement with the National Eating Disorders Collaboration & The Butterfly Foundation here in Australia, as well as increasing & maintaining connections to others who are passionate about these issues.

For all of my use of words such as “exploring”, or “practising”, it may seem to some that my goals are rather wishy-washy, or that they would be easy to “back out of”. While i am a huge believer in the power of positive affirmations & a “can do” attitude (which i hope to post about soon), i find, with the flexibility i have offered myself, i am much more likely to achieve these things, as i have given myself no rights or wrongs – no absolutes. These goals help create a sense of curiosity & exploration around the coming year, & allow for growth & development in whichever direction it may take.

Hope for the future

What do you think of New Year’s resolutions?
Have you ever made one? Will you make one for the coming year?

What are your goals for 2011?
Will they be flexible & forgiving? Will they allow you the space you need to change your mind, take a detour, or find a new path?
Will they focus on progress, not perfection?