It’s that joyful time of year again when everywhere you look, there is someone or some company telling us that it’s time to change ourselves for the “better”. The problem? The implication here, year after year, is that “better” = “thinner”.
Campaigns for “New Year, New You” have begun and nearly all of them are based in our culture’s obsession with diet culture, fat phobia, and a need to lose weight in order to have the “perfect” body. To us, this is hurtful to many in the eating disorder community because rather than teaching us to love and accept and nourish our bodies, it is telling us to fight and change them. Not to mention, thinner does not always mean healthier.
Don’t get us wrong, here at Evolve we’re all about self-improvement, self-growth, and thriving in life. But, we respectfully disagree with the idea that this has to mean torturing yourself with diets and obsessing over scales, calories, and weight loss.
We’d instead like to introduce you to a new and different idea. A radical idea, even – called Radical Acceptance. Radical Acceptance means accepting things as they are, being non-judgemental, letting go and not fighting what is. It gives us the ability to live fuller lives by being more able to tolerate the present moment, and use mindful awareness to lean into the discomfort of all of our emotions rather than resisting and running from them. Basically, the overarching idea is that when we resist reality, we cause more suffering for ourselves and when we accept reality, we are more equipped to move forward and take on whatever comes our way.
We should probably clarify, Radical Acceptance does NOT mean giving up. Acceptance does not equal agreeance. It does not mean being complacent and staying stuck forever. It is actually a way to move forward. When we move out of resistance and into acceptance, we are actually saying “yes” to change, growth, and thriving over just surviving. Seem counter-intuitive? It does to many at first, and it can be difficult to imagine how accepting where you are at, wholly and compassionately, can actually help move us forward until you’re there.
If you want to learn more, check out this video with Marsha Linehan talking about how this piece of the therapy she developed changed her own life profoundly.
When we try to force change from a negative, resistant place, it’s like coming up against a brick wall. It is hard to change something if we don’t first fully accept it, and this could even lead to us trying to change the wrong thing. Worst of all, there is usually an undertone of us believing we are not okay as we are, so therefore we must change to hide this flaw.
To this we respond with a truth that might feel radical to you; you are completely worthy of love and belonging, right here, right now, just as you are.
Feel free to pause and let that sink in. Notice what judgements, if any, you have about this statement.
So, here is our challenge to you: What if this year, instead of making a New Year’s resolution focusing on manipulating your body and resisting your current state in order to become “more perfect”, you instead resolved to love and accept yourself, exactly as you are, right here, right now?
Let’s start a New Year’s Revolution of Radical Acceptance instead of settling for resolutions that work against who we are, and in the end make us feel ashamed or like failures.
Nichole Baumgartner, MA, LPC-IT
Psychotherapist, IOP Manager