*Disclaimer: I wholeheartedly support the missions of the body acceptance and body positive movements.
Until recently, I've been desensitized to the popular phrase "body acceptance." Maybe that's because I've been absorbed by my own body acceptance movement for more than half of my life and (what feels like) long before the internet and social media made full-on social, cultural, and political awareness of the body positive mission possible.
Interestingly, in the past month a few of my clients proposed some form of the following questions to me:
- How is it possible to accept my body when I hate it?
- How am I suppose to accept my body when it disgusts me?
- Because I am fat, I am not worthy of respect, so how can I ever accept my body?
Essentially, my clients were asking if body acceptance is actually realistic.
These are heartbreakingly tough questions, and I so deeply relate. I recognize the crushing sense of impossibility in their eyes because I've held and felt hopelessness in my own eyes many times. For them and so many men and women, body acceptance seems like a desperately unreachable reality, a land they are locked out of.
So, I ask you (and myself): Is complete and total body acceptance realistic? And how do we go from hate, loathing, and disgust to acceptance?
That very question highlights the black and white nature of hate and acceptance. We either hate our bodies or love them. But, if hate and acceptance are opposite poles of the spectrum, than what about the spectrum itself, the space between hate and acceptance? The space where we learn to accept, where we test out what it feels like to embrace our bodies?
To understand this space, I've developed an approach to "body tolerance" called Hate. Tolerate. Liberate. I believe that only after we learn to tolerate our bodies can we begin to experience liberation from the thoughts and beliefs that grip our minds about our bodies. At that point, acceptance is in process. It's important to remember that, as a process, body acceptance is fluid. Meaning, we don't always 100% embrace our bodies. Instead, we flow in and out of hate, tolerate, liberate. If we take the pressure off to always love our bodies and instead give ourselves the space to feel what we feel and respond in a productive way versus stay in the hate feeling, then we can begin to explore degrees of tolerance with our bodies.
As we allow ourselves to explore body tolerance and literally learn how to tolerate what has felt intolerable, our minds quiet down more and more and the nagging, persistent, and nasty messages about our body subside. Quiet our minds, and we are liberated from hate and open to the reality that moments, hours, days, months, and maybe years of body acceptance is realistic.
So how do we learn to tolerate our bodies? My answer is yoga. I've been exploring degrees of tolerance for my body through yoga for many years. And now I am doing it with my yoga therapy clients. I share a little bit about this process in my video Degrees of Tolerance: Body Acceptance and Yoga. If you are curious about how you can begin to shift from hate to tolerate, I invite you to check out my video. Feel free to email me with any questions. I also would love to hear your answer to the question of whether or not body acceptance is realistic. What's been your experience?