“According to Shepard (1979), self-acceptance is an individual’s satisfaction or happiness with oneself, and is thought to be necessary for good mental health. Self-acceptance involves self-understanding, a realistic, albeit subjective, awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses. It results in an individual’s feeling about oneself, that they are of “unique worth”.
In clinical psychology and positive psychology, self-acceptance is considered the prerequisite for change to occur. It can be achieved by stopping criticizing and solving the defects of one’s self, and then accepting them to be existing within one’s self. That is, tolerating oneself to be imperfect in some parts.”
Last week, I posted the photo above on instagram. My post was designed to share my personal journey towards fitness and my internal struggle for self-acceptance. I was 25 pounds heavier in this photo and I did not like myself at all. Part of this was because I didn’t know how I had gained so much weight nor how to get it off. Another part was because my boyfriend at the time made it clear to me that he hated how I looked and wanted me to get back to a smaller size. If this was today, I probably would have simply told him where to shove it but at 22 I was insecure and concerned with how I was perceived by others. I remember feeling uncomfortable in a bikini and not wanting my boyfriend to take this photo but he did. And now, I am glad he did, because I can see how misconstrued my past self-perception was. I didn’t look gross. I looked happy and confident. But that’s the crazy thing about internal dialogues: we can all fake confidence and happiness. No one knows the things we tell ourselves when we are alone.
Being a trainer has given me insight into other people’s self-perceptions. When my clients confide in me — telling me they are unhappy with their appearance or the state of their lives — I am often surprised. Often, it’s difficult for me to see what they see. I must remind myself that no matter how confident or successful someone is or appears to be, we all have our own internal struggles.
For some, it is beating themselves up over their diets. For others, it is obsessing about the parts of their body that they hate and comparing themselves to someone they define as “perfect.” Then, there is the jealousy that kicks in when contrasting one’s achievement with the accomplishments of others. Envy is a suffocating and toxic emotion, but is not an uncommon one to have, especially in this day and age. Social media dominates our everyday experience, and we have more access to the lives of others then we ever have had before. However, no matter how perfect anyone appears on the outside, we must remind ourselves that we all have our own unique journeys.
I know now that I was being ridiculous thinking I was “fat” in the photo above. It so happened that, as a byproduct of being a trainer, I have become very fit. By no means should you take that to mean that I think everyone should dedicate their life to fitness, as I have. Instead, understand that despite the fact that this is my job, I didn’t get here overnight. It took my four to five years of solid hard work (and a very critical look at my negative inner dialogue) to come to a place where I can say that I love myself and my journey. I still have days where I feel “fat” and that I feel guilty for eating and drinking too much. But 90% of the time, I speak to myself with positivity rather than negativity.
This has taken a lot of self reflection and requires the continuous reframing of my perception. If I can give you any advice on your journey, it is to tell yourself you deserve it. Whatever it may be.
Nothing that is worth having comes easy. Your journey is going to be challenging, it’s going to test you in ways you won’t expect, and at times it’s going to make you feel uncomfortable and afraid. Keep on it anyways, because you deserve it.
I started this blog to share my story in the hopes it would inspire people to add more activity into their lives. As you have heard me say before, I used to hate working out more then anything in the world! My internal dialogue said I was unathletic and uncoordinated. I used to tell myself that I couldn’t do it and hate how I looked in the mirror.
So accept your life’s journey. Set goals and challenge yourself. Consciously do this with more positivity than negativity. Try this as an experiment this week: as soon as you start to think with negativity, reframe it with positivity. It sounds cliche, but that’s because it really is worth a try!
Here are a few ways you can become aware of your self-talk and use positivity to re-frame your self-perception:
1. Simply become aware that you are talking to yourself with negativity (I am so fat; I can’t do that; She is prettier than me; I hate my thighs; Why am I so stupid)
2. Re-frame these thoughts into more positive comments (I am motivated to lose weight and am proud of myself for trying to be healthier; I’m going to learn how to do that; My body isn’t perfect but I accept myself; I am good at all these things and am getting better at those)
3. Try not to obsess about outside influences or compare yourself to others
4. Focus on the present moment and don’t dwell on the future
5. Visualise what you want to achieve and tell yourself you deserve it
6. Talk to and about yourself as you would talk to a friend
It’s my hope that these steps help you as much as they did me. Connect with me to share your journey!