The first thing that I did when I saw this photo was cringe.
My smile, my attitude, the look of confidence on my face, it was just plain embarrassing. I confess that although this photo was taken two years ago, until today, I have been too ashamed to share it with a living soul.
“What will people think?” I asked myself, “Will they think that I am full of myself?”
“Who am I to be this confident?”
At the time when this photo was taken I used to colour my hair brown even though it was mostly grey.
I used to put off buying new clothes until I “lost my weight”.
If I bought clothes they would be size 16 instead of the size 18 that I really am, just in case someone would see the label and think that I was fat.
I used to step off of the scale or look in the mirror at my extra chins, my saggy boobs, my stretch marks and my rolls with a sigh of disgust – just wishing that I were different. Just wishing that I were younger, skinnier, firmer, sexier.
I used to tell myself what a lazy, unmotivated, undesirable, undeserving slob I was all the time.
I used to do these things and I was miserable.
serendipity: (n.) finding something good without looking for it
And then one day I saw an ad on Facebook for a plus size clothing brand. I fell in love with the stunning dress that the model was wearing. It was feminine, floaty, colourful, just stunning. The model, roughly a size 18, looked exquisite, confident, radiant – comfortable in her own skin.
I decided, even though the dress was more than I would usually spend on myself, to place an order.
I waited in anticipation for my frock to arrive.
A couple of weeks later I found a parcel in my letterbox addressed to me. I excitedly ripped open the package and gleefully put the dress on.
It was perfect!
For the first time since could remember I looked in the mirror and felt gorgeous. That small moment was a huge turning point for me. I dawned on me that I could look beautiful no matter the size I was.
You don’t become what you want, you become what you believe.Oprah Winfrey
flawsome: (adj.) an individual who embraces their “flaws” and knows they are awesome regardless.
From that day on I vowed to (and religiously stuck to) only buying clothing that made me feel good. Outfits that made me feel like I did in that dress.
Slowly but surely I bought more clothes that made me feel beautiful. I stopped dyeing my hair brown and let myself go lighter until I made grey my friend.
Instead of using the mirror, the scale and my too tight clothing as a way to confirm my “not good enough” status or wishing that I was different, I started looking in the mirror and choosing to see myself as beautiful.
It wasn’t easy. Some days I could find one small thing about myself to like. Giving myself compliments and choosing to see the beauty in me felt so unnatural – I just wasn’t raised to think that way. As girls, we receive the message very early on in our lives that we have to act or think a certain way. We are admonished for being vain, we are taught to be ashamed of compliments. We learn that the most desirable feminine attribute is selflessness…
Perhaps the reason why this photograph bugged me so much my lack of humility – my apparent lack of selflessness? This photo to me said, “I am not little red riding hood – I am the wolf!“
metania: (n.) the journey of changing one’s mind, heart, self, or way of life
However, I persisted through the discomfort and I started practising radical acceptance. And what I found was that the more I accepted myself, the more joyful, confident and comfortable I felt in my own skin.
Once I was no longer at war with myself, I had so much more energy to create the types of things I wanted in my life, and I could make space to discover new things about myself.
I recognised that if I was having a thought that hinged around “I am not good enough” or “who am I?” Then I was experiencing shame. I started to challenge my thinking and getting curious about the things that triggered my feelings of shame. I became a shame detector.
The emotion of shame in itself is not the villain we make it out to be. When processed with curiosity, shame has a very important message; “I have done something to hurt someone, I need to make amends”. However, unchallenged shame can be so disempowering especially we use it to cause harm to ourselves. Or as a way to hold us back from living the life we want to live or from being the best, truest versions of ourselves.
Radical acceptance is not saying that the thing that happened to us or what we are currently going through is “okay” or that we shouldn’t take action to improve. Radical acceptance is simply surrendering to the reality of “what is” at this moment in time and making peace with yourself. As Byron Katie says in her book, Loving What Is;
When you argue with reality I lose – but only 100% of the time.Byron Katie
Radical acceptance is simply deciding to stop the war that makes reality and yourself your own enemy. Radical acceptance is merely a means of locating yourself – putting an emotional stake in the ground and saying to yourself;
“I am here. I am human, messy, full of flaws and imperfect in many ways and I am worthy of love and acceptance.” Radical acceptance is a way of taking responsibility for yourself where you are in life as well as the energy that you put out into the world.
sophrosyne: (n.) a healthy state of mind, characterised by self-control, moderation, and a deep awareness of one’s true self, and resulting in true happiness
If you want to transform your life then you have to transform your thinking.
The first step to transforming your thoughts is to become aware of them.
My challenge to you, for the next 24 hours is to intentionally eves drop in on your thoughts. Set a timer on your phone for hour intervals. Carry a notebook around with you and each hour when your alarm goes off;
- Stop what you are doing
- Observe your thoughts you had in the previous hour
- Record them in your notebook
- Review your thoughts at the end of the day. Were they motivating and empowering? Could your thoughts makeover?
- Take stock of your thoughts, brainstorm what you can intentionally say to yourself instead
- Keep going, challenging yourself with new thoughts can be a bit tricky at first and takes practice, but just keep going.
So how about it? Are you up for the challenge towards radical acceptance?
If the answer is “yes” then join the amazing community of women making themselves a priority by following this link here.
Making yourself a Priority is a private Facebook group for women who are on a journey towards self-care, self-love and self-acceptance. No matter where you are on this journey you are welcome here. Come learn, love and witness the beauty and transformation in yourself and others in this uplifting sisterhood of like-minded women