Last week I posted an article on my Facebook page featuring everyday women and their bellies. Big bellies, flat bellies, lumpy ones, and ones covered in scars from childbirth. It was a beautiful testament to the incredibly impressive piece of work that is the human body, and a celebration of its strength, function, and value beyond appearances. My friends loved it. Everyone felt empowered and liberated. We all did a collective fist-pump for our freedom to be flabby and congratulated each other for being so accepting of ourselves as we are.
And then, I suspect, some of us thought, “but I still want that six pack.” It’s okay to admit it if you would have been among them. I was.
Because you know what? You can love yourself and still want to change. Yes! You can! It is entirely possible to think that you are great just as you are and still want to change yourself at the same time. The key is in your reasons for wanting change, accepting where you are now, and connecting with your readiness for the challenge, should you choose it.
Sustainable change comes from a motivation that is positive, self-driven, and empowering. It’s not unusual for us to make many attempts at changing a habit before it sticks. Often, the stickiest attempt is the one that comes from within, not to please others. If you feel pressure to change your body to gain the acceptance or admiration of others, hear this: it is absolutely okay to like the way you look even if you’re not sure if others do. They will get over it.
Body acceptance is important because one of the first steps in bringing about change in your life is fully accepting and celebrating what it is now, as well as all of the choices and circumstances that led to this point. After all, change takes work, sometimes more than we are willing or able to invest even when we have enthusiasm for it. By accepting the past and the present, we can better choose a future.
I am pretty proud of my body. It is really strong and can do some impressive stuff. But it doesn’t look the way I thought it would considering how hard I work to maintain it. Sometimes, despite feeling proud of my strength and endurance, I hear myself saying, "if only I could get rid of this belly." Does that mean I don’t appreciate being strong? Of course not! We are all allowed to want things without making it a priority to pursue them. Sure, I could drink less wine and eat less cheese, and I might have better abs as a result. But I’m also okay with that not happening.
It’s also okay to want to change. It is not okay to tell yourself that you are worthless unless you do. It is not okay to deprive yourself of love and happiness and compassion because you are imperfect. It is not okay for others to degrade you because of how you are. But if the motivation for change is coming from a place of positive enthusiasm for challenge, and the commitment aligns with your priorities, then go for it. On your terms.
I am here today to tell you that it is possible to want something different while still appreciating what you have. You do not have to choose! If you’re going to liberate yourself from anything this summer, let it be from the belief that wanting to change something about your body or your habits is the same as rejecting yourself. It is not.
Enjoy yourself. You are amazing! Take a moment to soak in just how incredible your body has been throughout your life and appreciate the story behind every lump, line, and bump. And if there is more to your story, turn the page when you feel excited about what may lie ahead.