Sunday, January 22, 2012

On Self-Acceptance

CONFESSION #2: Even the most confident of curvy girls has a fat day every now and again.
I took this self-portrait a couple years back. It was during a particularly difficult time in my life and I wanted to do the thing that would be the ultimate act of self-acceptance: a nude self-portrait. What I wanted to do was capture my entire body, to be able to stand there openly and unprotected, raw and real. That is the photo I set out to take.

And so, armed with my self-timer and tripod, I took this photograph, which you can see is very much not what I just described. I am hiding -- behind my guitar, behind my hair. Behind the doors of my bedroom, behind the setting sunlight. In the inner sanctum of my mind, despite all outward appearances, I am still in hiding.

I had a doctor once and I loved her. He name was Dr. Betsy and she reminded me of Mrs. Frizzle from the Magic Schoolbus.

My annual physical went something like this:

Dr. Betsey: Everything looks good, any questions for me?

Me: Why am I overweight?

Dr. Betsey: Well, you aren't that overweight. But do you exercise?

Me: Almost every day. I run 10 miles a week. I take yoga once a week and take long walks with friends several times a week.

Dr. Betsey: Are you eating right?

Me: Yup. Lots of fruits and veggies, lean meats, mostly gluten-free. Drink tons of water. Take vitamins.

Dr. Betsey: Have you ever considered that this is just the way your body is and your best option is to accept yourself?

Me: No. That thought had actually never occured to me.

Wow. What a revelation. That conversation, which was followed by a broken dam of tears that was perhaps slightly alarming to Dr. Betsey, changed my life.

So, the prescription for Self-Acceptance according to Dr. Me goes something like this:

Eat right. Exercise. Take care of yourself and wear things that make you feel pretty no matter what the number on the tag says. Surround yourself with people who love you and support you. And love yourself enough to spend a few minutes every day contemplating all the abilities you have, thanks to your amazing body.

You can run, you can walk, you can breathe. You can bear and birth babies, you can hold them and brush their hair and braid it and run your fingers through it. You can read them bedtime stories and tiptoe down the stairs. You can laugh with your family, you can pick your kids up at school. You can put your arms around a friend in need, you can drive, walk or run to her house. You can love your husband too, and you can feel his love back. You can live.

And none of this has anything to do with a number on a scale, and none of these people care what you weigh.

I have bad days too. I have days where I know I am not living up to my best potential, not taking care of my body the way I should. And so I go back to basics, stand in gratitude and forgive myself for veering off the right path.

And start to come out, a little bit at a time, of hiding.