“Serenity comes when you trade expectations for acceptance.” ~Unknown
I quit Weight Watchers this week and I have never felt happier.
To be clear, quitting this weight loss program was not an act of defeat, nor was it an example of me running away from something difficult or painful. Cutting ties with Weight Watchers was truly an acceptance of self.
A couple of weeks ago I had a heart-to-heart conversation with a friend. I was feeling really down, and I confided to him that not only do I lack self-confidence in nearly everything I do, I also seem to not like myself very much at all.
A voice in my head pretty regularly reminds me that I am not smart enough, funny enough, pretty enough, skinny enough, or anything enough in this life, so why bother trying.
As I explained all of this to my dear friend, I noted that I would never treat another human being as badly as I treat myself. I am loving and kind to everyone around me, but inwardly I am a mean bully. As I was saying it out loud, the whole thing seemed kind of ridiculous to me, but I didn’t know how to stop hating myself.
It was at this point that my friend said something that changed my life; he said, “Take a hard look at the things you think you don’t like about yourself. You have a choice: Either learn to accept them for what they are or change them. It’s that simple.”
At first his advice infuriated me. How on earth was I supposed to accept my flaws? I have spent thirty-six years perfecting my self-loathing; it seemed impossible to undo all of that hard work.
Turns out, it was easier than I thought it would be. After I got over the initial angry response to my friend’s advice, I started soul searching. I made a mental list of the things I have disliked about myself for nearly my whole life and examined each one, starting with the issue that has caused the most distress for me: my weight and body image.
For as long as I can remember, weight and body image have been an issue for me. I remember weighing-in in gym class in middle school and noting that I was not as small as some of the other girls in my class, but I also was not as big as some of the others either.
Truthfully, I have always fallen somewhere in the middle and would be considered average, but in my head I was never the right size or shape; I always wanted to be thinner, sleeker, and more toned.
Since my early twenties I have been struggling with weight loss; I would join weight loss programs or get into exercise routines with really high expectations: “This time I am going to lose thirty pounds and look like a super model!”
Inevitably, I would fail each time. I realize now this is not because I am a complete failure; it's good to have goals, but I was setting my expectations impossibly high. I was aiming to drop three dress sizes when I should have been aiming to just be healthier.
Alone in my bathroom, I stripped off all of my clothes. I stood naked before the mirror and looked at myself. I mean, really looked at myself. I wanted to see my body and acknowledge what I didn’t like. I felt that by doing this I could see the real me and finally accept who I am, flaws and all.
Here’s what I saw: My body is not perfect, but it is certainly not bad, either.
Regardless of its flaws, my body has withstood many challenges: I gave birth to two children, I ran a half marathon, and I can rock the thirty-minute circuit at the gym like nobody’s business. I also have some pretty cool tattoos, and even though I am no super model, I actually think I look good naked.
When I thought about it, I realized my body was actually pretty awesome.
It was then and there that I decided I needed to take my friend’s advice: accept my body for what it is. Sure, it would be cool to have rock hard abs or to look like a girl on the cover of a fashion magazine, but by comparing my body to some ideal, I am overlooking what is truly great about me.
And so I quit my weight loss program, and as soon as I did, I felt amazing. No more feeling guilty about what I did or did not eat that day, no more hating myself on weigh-in day (no more weighing myself, period!), and no more telling myself I am not thin enough.
I will still make strides to be healthy (regular exercise, healthy portions, fruits and veggies), but now it is just to be healthy, not to lose thirty pounds or look like a super model.
My experience in truly facing my insecurities and consciously deciding to accept myself, my whole self, and nothing but myself, was truly enlightening; and it was freeing.
I challenge you to do the same. You don’t have to literally get naked, but definitely do so metaphorically. Strip away your impossible expectations and look at the amazing person you really are.
The next time the mean bully in your head tells you that you aren’t smart enough, funny enough, pretty enough, or thin enough, challenge what you are hearing. Change your story. Instead of comparing your “behind the scenes” with everyone else’s “highlight reel,” yell back at the bully and tell him or her you are awesome because you are you.
It doesn’t matter what size you are; you are still worth loving, so be kind to yourself and start accepting your little imperfections. You might find that once you begin accepting those things you think you dislike about yourself, those flaws are actually pretty great. And you are pretty great, too.