These words are emblazoned across a pyjama shirt I bought recently.
I love it, and I hate it, and I would never wear it in public.
I’ve been told, insistently, all too many times by friends and by sunbeam-lit Instagram posts, to love myself
(like a piece of clothing or someone else’s urgent command would magically imbue me with glowing self-adoration).
It makes me crazy.
I love the idea of self-love.
But to me, it all feels deeply intangible. It feels like unicorns surfing rainbows. It feels like something that’s more easily accessible to individuals whose privilege (be it whiteness, thinness, wealth, ability, or any multitude of other societally-valued circumstances) means that the world more readily loves them.
As you might know, I’ve been writing a book lately (if by lately I mean, over the last two years). It’s about a path I’ve been taking to find some peace with the meat-self my soul has been loaned to navigate Planet Earth with, this time around.
One of the first experiences I had as I experimented with shifting these complex feelings involved a well-meaning friend urging me to love my body. Like it was a no-brainer.
It made me feel like a failure. Why couldn’t I see that my body had grown and nursed babies, climbed mountains, held the hands of the birthing and the dying, and was worthy of my unconditional love?
As my exploration brought me to delve into the body positivity and health at every size literature, I started to understand on a deeper level the concept of self-acceptance.
Not only that, I discovered a whole sub-culture of fat activists who posited that the concept of self-love was, in fact, a bit much to ask. Absurd, even. That self-respect and self-acceptance was, in fact, an exquisitely powerful place to land in ones’ relationship with oneself.
Self-acceptance, to me, is a verb.
I know how to do self-acceptance.
Self-acceptance is that loving, maternal voice in my head – the Goddess of Self-Compassion – who says
“Honey, you yelled at your kids in the grocery store, and that’s okay. You were feeling mad. Feeling mad is okay. Take a deep breath.”
“You are fat. You don’t feel beautiful today. It’s hard to live in a body that’s different than what society finds acceptable. It’s okay to feel sad about it.”
If self-love is unicorns surfing rainbows, self-acceptance is fucking fierce.
Self-acceptance shows up. She shows up for me when I’m screaming into pillows or haven’t showered in a week just as readily as she shows up when I am wearing clean clothes and making crafts out of toilet paper rolls with my kids.
And in my experience, this whole finding alignment thing – this work that we’re all doing to reclaim our authenticity and live in a way that is true for us – actually starts with self-acceptance.
Because alignment isn’t always pretty, either. Living in alignment means honouring the way we are, and not trying to shapeshift into someone who fits in, and can more easily navigate a world that doesn’t respect our uniqueness. In action, choosing what feels aligned – choosing to meet your own needs before pandering to the demands of the overculture – is almost always the more difficult, more courageous…and more rewarding practice.
But it starts
where you are.
With exactly who you are.
In the gritty fierceness of acceptance.