Self-acceptance and the body

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’m teaching my kids about bodies. I have made a point to not talk badly about bodies including my own. In fact, I’ve gotten pretty good at silencing my inner critic, telling myself this or that is not true. But, I’ve also noticed that I don’t outwardly love on my body either. And, I am realizing this is because I am stuck in a place of neutrality. Instead of speaking or acting with love towards myself, I have chosen tolerance, acceptance, pretty much a truce between my inner shame and this body.

But is acceptance what I want to achieve? Is this what I want to teach my kids? I am reading “The Body is Not an Apology, The Power of Radical Self-Love” by Sonya Renee Taylor and she is showing me that self-acceptance is a distraction. It’s a place of existence where I am not dealing with any of it. In self-acceptance, I am choosing to simply hear the shame and words that come from my ego, but I am not really fighting back. I let these words come to be, let them live, and then I say “thank you for your opinion but I disagree.” Imagine if I instead said to myself, “thank you for your opinion, but this body is perfect, powerful and capable.” And, I also believed it.

I am finding that acceptance is not the same as deep love. It’s tolerance and tolerance is one small step towards radical change. In fact, it’s pretty low down in the steps to take towards nurturing. And, the world I want to live in is not one where I simply tolerate all around me. It is instead one where I love and feel love all around me.

In her book and her advocacy, and all of her awesomeness, Taylor teaches radical self-love. This is the type of love where no matter the body, you give it all you have got. You treat it like the amazing vessel it is. One that sustains your life, has offered you perhaps nourishment, breath, movement, intelligence, decision making, fertility, love, immunity, health, joy… To date, I seem to have achieved avoiding self hatred, resulting in acceptance of what this body is right now. This simply means that I acknowledge it isn’t bad, that it’s the body I am in and it is serving me to live in this moment. But I don’t want my kids to simply accept themselves.  Heck, I don’t want to stay in acceptance because it feels empty, void. I want to feel free. Free from all of the societal scripts, free of my own shame, free of the gazes of others and wondering what criticisms they have for me. Free of feeling like my weight is a disappointment, that my no longer small waist is a failure to take care of myself. Freedom is not acceptance. Freedom is living where we are at our fullest. Freedom is feeling that deep in my core, that this body is everything it should be. That this body is beautiful, strong, brave, loving, and capable of taking care of me in this moments and many moments into the future.

So how do you teach this? I am realizing that 1) I am not teaching it because 2) I am not living it.

I want my kids to achieve radical love for this world while also achieving radical self-love. And this includes wanting them to radically love their bodies. But, I’m noticing that my own lack of radical self-love is evident in my daughter. I’ve never heard my kid say something nice to her body. I also notice that she doesn’t say much about any bodies. So I am seeing that acceptance, neutrality, results in her own lack of feeling. Or likely more so that she is learning to have many thoughts as society is constantly teaching her, but not to talk about them, which is what I am teaching her.

Today I explore this neutrality, how did I get here? Many reasons, too many to delve into here. But I’m writing about it. Maybe I’ll even share in the hopes that others might know they are not alone.

I love me but I do not love on me. This month I’m working to change this. My freedom, survival, liberation is impossible without it. And in reality, if I can not offer myself radical self-love, can I then really say my love for others is so radical?

And certainly, if I’m not living radical self-love out loud, my kids won’t even know it exists.

*The image on the top of this page is the cover of “The Body is Not an Apology” by Sonya Renee Taylor. I couldn’t not post it because it’s so beautiful. This book is worth having on your bookshelf. Even if it’s just to hold it’s place until you’re ready. It sat in my amazon cart for 3 months before I clicked purchase. 

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