Last month, while a friend and I enjoyed a lunch together, she said, “Once I lose some weight, then I’ll feel good about my body.” Not long after, a client told me, “Once I get rid of my anxiety, then I’ll be able to recover.” And last weekend, my friend’s brother stated, “Once I get this project done for work, then I’ll have time to relax and take care of myself.” Although these were common, everyday exchanges, the therapist part of my brain heard people at war with themselves. We often put conditions on what we must achieve before we allow ourselves enjoyment or self-care. It’s as though we have to earn the right to recover, or to feel good in our body, before we can take care of ourselves. But do we? Or is that an unwritten “rule” we’ve picked up somewhere that has no helpful purpose?
Yes, it’s important to have goals and dreams for our future to guide us, but that’s not what I”m talking about here. I’m talking about an irrational, but all too common, belief that we can’t accept ourselves the way we are right here, right now. A belief that we can’t enjoy and feel good about our body until we change it, or that we can’t recover until our anxiety or pain is gone. Finding one or more parts of ourselves as unacceptable blocks our path to healing and contentment or, as Brene Brown describes, “wholehearted living.” I firmly believe that the more we learn to accept and embrace ourselves and our bodies exactly where we are today, the less we become our own obstacle.
This is not about going from never feeling good enough (less than others) to feeling better than or perfect (more than others). This is about accepting that we are perfectly imperfect. What if you decided to accept and love you, your body and all, right here and right now, just as it is? Not 5 or 20 or 50 pounds from now, but right now? What if you accepted your anxiety right now? I’ve heard clients express fear that if they accept their body they’ll “let themselves go.” They worry that if they accept their anxiety, it will only get bigger and consume them. I don’t believe either of those to be true. I have never seen evidence of either being true. We have to accept all parts of ourselves in order to take care of ourselves. They go hand in hand.
The more we love and accept our body, the more we treat it with honor and respect. The more we accept our anxiety, the more we learn to manage it and turn down its volume. However, the more we declare war on our body, trying to mold it into some idealized image, the harder it becomes to treat ourselves with love and respect. In the same way, the more we declare war on our anxiety, insisting it be eliminated, the stronger and more intolerable it becomes. Let’s end the war. The key to peace is acceptance; acceptance of all of our perfectly imperfect parts. We need to stop seeing ourselves as the enemy. Let’s be our best friend to our body and our anxiety. Only then can we truly offer ourselves the respect and support which leads to a richer, fuller life and recovery.
Staying at war with ourselves might be more familiar but it delays our recovery. What are YOU waiting for? I challenge you. Accept all parts of yourself, right here, right now (if even for just 5 seconds at a time!!). The journey can be lonely and hard, don’t make it harder. You deserve support, acceptance and love. You don’t have to earn it and it starts with you.