All right, another post about the b word. It always comes back to this and is the reason this word is my mantra- I didn’t choose it, it just is. This lesson keeps coming back to me in many forms and I’ve learned to recognize it as an old friend. Yep, I’m talking about balance again.
I’m not talking about physical balance, by the way. I’m also not talking about symmetry. I’m talking about finding that place of strength between two seemingly opposing needs where we are at our best. A recurring theme has come up lately in discussions with others about the balance between liking and accepting who we are while still challenging ourselves and having goals. I admit, it can be tricky business.
I recently wrote about my feelings surrounding “before” pictures. If you don’t want to click through I’ll just tell you- I don’t like them very much. The diet industry is full of ads with pictures of unhappy fat people next to pictures of themselves smiling and thin. They all sell the same message- lose weight and all of your problems will disappear. Lose weight and you’ll be able to live the life you’ve always wanted. Lose weight and you’ll finally be happy. It’s a lie and it pisses me off. But being angry at an industry that targets women and their insecurities isn’t the same thing as being angry at people who, for whatever reason, want to change the way they look and/or feel.
My friend K has a fantastic blog chronicling her journey to run the Princess Half Marathon at Disney World next year. (It’s seriously great, when I read it I feel just like I’m sitting in one of our living rooms chatting, go check it out.) She recently had a post where she put up pics of herself in the same shirt last year and this. The first pic was taken before she started training and she’s lost quite a bit of weight. She looks beautiful and happy in BOTH pictures. Her post was about how far she’s come and how much better she feels physically. She wasn’t lamenting how horrible she used to be or trying to convince us that losing weight changed her entire life- she was just sharing, in this one post among many that aren’t related to weight, that she’s changed this year. It was a great post! But she felt some trepidation because she knows how I feel about before and after pics. But, in my opinion, there’s a big difference between people pushing their product/program/plan with before and after pics that try to make women feel inferior for not living up to the “after” ideal and what she was doing in that post.
Celebrating your own journey and strength is not something people should EVER hesitate to share! No one is perfect and stubbornly refusing to change in the name of “self-acceptance” seems misguided. Self-acceptance isn’t about a refusal to have goals or move forward, it’s about loving yourself no matter what and enjoying life to the fullest right now instead of waiting to be happy. That’s the big lie pushed in the form of all of those before pictures. The idea that you CAN’T be happy if you’re fat. The idea that you MUST lose weight so you can start living. I am happy NOW. I am living life to the fullest NOW. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have goals for myself. My goals simply have nothing to do with weight loss. If yours do, I don’t begrudge you. I just want to challenge the conventional wisdom that it’s a necessary goal.
Another friend and I were chatting yesterday about things completely unrelated to weight or health and yet this same topic came up. Her family is in the process of building their sustainable home themselves. (Which you can read about here where she blogs about it. Yep, another blogging friend, lol!) We were discussing that it’s easy to think, “I’ll be happy when X happens,” and that this just doesn’t work. Whether the thing you’re waiting for is a magic number on the scale, your dream home, a move to a new place, a job or a multitude of other things it is never a good idea to tie you’re happiness to these external forces. Not because you may not get them but because you might, and then what happens when you’re still unhappy?
Furthermore, choosing to be happy with yourself doesn’t mean you stop living or become stagnant. On the contrary, my self-acceptance has only fueled my dreams. I see a world of possibilities and now I am armed with the knowledge that I am good enough right now to go for it. My goals aren’t about fixing myself, they are about celebrating myself. Let the party begin.