Tuesday, May 10

the importance of self acceptance

Nobody warned me about the mental transformation I'd have to go through when my body changed. I naturally assumed that as the pounds fell off, the happiness would come. The more I lost, the happier I'd become. Why not? I'd dreamed of being lean and strong for years and years, and now that it was finally happening, I could be happy. Wrong! It is eerily similar to the theory that the more money I have, the happier I'll be.
Happiness is not in the external. We all know that, but somehow the assumptions are still made that we will be happy some day.
Some day...when we are thin. Some day...when cute clothes look good. Some day...when we can do our own hair and makeup. Some day...when people mistake us for Jessica Biel (or whoever your celebrity icon is).
But I will tell you, as rewarding as taking the reins of my own life has been, there is nothing more fulfilling than the day I learned to accept myself.
This is why I start here. Many ask me how I lost weight...how I know how to dress...how, how how. But I have to say that the most critical part of my transformation had nothing to do with the exterior.
Dropping from a size 16+ to an 8 was no easy feat. I worked hard. I fought hard. I made it happen. But I was shocked to discover that the negative self image hadn't budged. The negative thoughts in my head had not changed. Sarah was still fat, ugly, and hopeless. She still had massive fat clinging to every bit and still dreamed of the some day...just as she had a few years and a lot of sizes earlier.
The mornings consisted of me standing in my closet fighting back tears trying to figure out how to dress this monster in a way that the world would accept and not be repulsed by. At 200+ pounds and 150.
It wasn't fair. I'd worked hard. Why was I still so hideous?
Oh but I wasn't. I never was to begin with. :)
People would tell me I was beautiful when I was obese. I'd think, oh they are just telling me that to make me feel better. They know how miserable life is when you look like Buddha, so they are throwing me a little bone.
Not true! Our friends, our loved ones...those we trust and respect...they LOVE us. It is so crucial to learn to respect those we love when they tell us these things.
It wasn't until I gave myself permission to view me as others did that I learned to accept and love who I was NOW.
I had spent so much energy putting myself into a box (that I alone had created) that I couldn't help but focus on the negative! I can't wear that because I have big ankles, I can't pull this style off because I'm too big, and so on.
Style is not about arriving...it's not a destination. It's not about becoming someone or something else some day. You are worthy of your own dreams just as you are. A unique, stylish individual with something new to share with the world.
It's true, I have pretty things. I read a lot and have learned a lot about body shape, how to dress appropriate for certain occasions, and how to make the same closet fresh and interesting every day. I have learned how to lose weight in a healthy way. Things I am looking forward to delving into here. Don't worry...acceptance includes permission to change and improve. To accept is not to settle.
But before I get into all of that, it is critical that I share with you why it is important to accept yourself as you are TODAY.
So stop right here. Go to a mirror, and take a loooong look at yourself. But view yourself objectively. Look at your face. Take note of your eyes and your cheekbones. Look at the shape of your shoulders and the curves (subtle or not) of your body lines. Embrace the entire picture for what it is NOW. Not the someday or the then and when, but the NOW. YOU. As you are. Take special note of the features you are most proud of...your waistline, your legs, your ankles (if you have slim ones, I'm jealous!), your teeth, your hair, your eyes. What do you love? Make a mental list, and come share that here with the rest of us. I don't want to hear about what you don't love or who you don't look like. It isn't about anybody else right now.
My style epiphany was born from the very moment I embraced Sarah. Not only did I accept my physical being, but I accepted my style. I didn't need to be anyone else anymore, because I had my worst critic's approval now. There isn't a right or wrong, there is a you or not you. Be you. Allow yourself to invest in you rather than change who you are. Give yourself permission to be happy.
I do want to go into details of how I lost weight and how I learned to dress my best features. And we will. But I can promise you that those things will not work for you if you can't start today by accepting who you are - inside and out. It will fall on deaf ears and closed hearts.
So over to you, share one or two features about yourself that you love. I want to hear why, too!
Ready? Go!
Top: Target, Pants: Elizabeth and James, Shoes: Nine West, Necklace: JCrew

21 comments:

  1. Great post! Self acceptance is huge, if you can't see things for what they are, then you can't accept them, live with them and ultimately be happy (or merely content) with them. Dwelling was never very productive anyway and dwelling also means you are not living in the present. And the present is the only time we certainly are living in. Favorite features: for myself, my blue eyes are an easy pick. No matter how big or small, my eyes do not change and they have always been one of my best and consistent features. Second feature: oddly enough is one of my hardest to fit features too: my bum. It's big and round and I wouldn't trade it for anyting despite the constant search for proper fitting bottoms and tailoring fees. Some girls have butt implants to get their bum more round and I was blessed with one. It just shows, everyone wants what they don't have.

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  2. A wonderful post! I love it - and so true!
    D

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  3. I love this post, it's so true!! It was a weird feeling to realize people looked at me in my very slim younger years, assuming I had it all together and was confident just by virtue of being slim. Self acceptance is independent of how you look, no matter what size or shape you are.
    My favorite features....my height, and my facial features. It's so easy to minimize the things I can be proud of, when I'm glued to obsessing about the things I hate.

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  4. That's great Lisa!
    And Rachel... "It's so easy to minimize the things I can be proud of, when I'm glued to obsessing about the things I hate." ..that is golden.

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  5. I've never commented before (I'm just an occasional reader of style blogs, not a blogger myself), but this was such a tremendously beautiful and important post, I just had to drop a line! Thank you so much for writing and sharing this... for showing us your inner beauty alongside your outer beauty :)

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  6. Great post and great outfit - I am going to put a link to this in my blog today if that's ok!

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  7. Absolutely, Amy!
    And Fati, it means a lot that you would take the time to comment.

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  8. Oh, and features I love, I think I would say my lips and my waist! : ) It is good to focus on the positive, thanks for reminding us!

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  9. I understand completely how you feel. Or felt. :) I've had a lifelong struggle with weight and have posted about my journey as well.

    You are beautiful, clearly inside AND out! This is a wonderful post and very well-written. Thank you for sharing!

    Come take a look inside A Working Mom's Closet

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  10. Suzie_tree12:22 PM

    Hi Sarah,
    I'm a reader from Indiana. I enjoy your blog but this post struck me more than usual, thank you.
    I have thick (at least in my mind) legs and it took me a long time to appreciate them. Now I like them for being strong and for helping me hike miles and miles (one of my favorite activities).
    Thanks for putting yourself out there and giving others inspiration.

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  11. Anonymous1:33 PM

    Great post, many of us never get to where you are in life. You gave me something to think about today.

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  12. lawdiva1:40 PM

    Thanks for such a beautiful post. I recently discovered your blog and now check it every day. Reading your post was very eye opening because you always look so beautiful and put together that I would never have thought you would have had any confidence issues! Seriously, I absolutely love your style and your look. It goes to show you that we all have our insecurities.

    As for me, I'm very happy with my personal appearance but that definitely wasn't the case when I was younger. So when people say that I'm very pretty or even beautiful, it's hard for me to accept because I never considered myself that way for such a long time. But now I'm so much more confident and as a result, more beautiful, both on the inside and the outside.

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  13. Oh I love, love, LOVE this post! I've always thought if more people could only see themselves as God sees them, how different this world would be! I think we would all treat each other with more kindness, and that includes ourselves!

    But you asked about two things we love about ourselves? I would have to say ankles {just because I think they're cute which is why I love wearing cropped pants!}, and my neck {and I'm not really sure why on that one! LOL!}

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  14. Lovely post. Accepting the here and now and being happy with where you are is crucial to living a full life. I love my skin tone (pale is the new tan haha) and my hair color :)

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  15. Sarah, this post is amazing. I had tears reading it, because it really hit home for me. I thought for sure that weight loss was the key to all that was happy, but I found that I was far more miserable at a size 2 than I was a size 14. (Not to mention, people were waaaaay more judgmental!)

    I'm learning about balance and finding that even though I've gone up a couple of sizes, I can be at peace and even thankful knowing that I'm happy, loved, and healthy.

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  16. Good post, this is something I'm still working on.

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  17. Ginny8:11 PM

    Great post Sarah!!! I do believe we as women can be our own worst enemy and most severe judge. I look in the mirror and i see a body that has changed and has gotten strong over the years after all, it gave me three great kids!!! I love seeing posts about women over 40 wearing dresses and skirts that hit or go slightly above theknee because i think my legs are one of my better features!!! Thanks for something to think about!!!!

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  18. Anonymous10:25 PM

    Wow! worthy of W.O.W :)

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  19. MaryK1:11 PM

    Great post, Sarah! I've lost a bunch of weight in the past year after having struggled with my weight for 40-plus years! The thing that has been so interesting to me is that I am experiencing two completely opposite conditions, both at the same time. Now that I am a size 2 instead of a size 14, my life really has changed dramatically and everything is utterly and completely different. And at the very same time, in an exactly equal amount, I am still me and everything is exactly the same. Crazy. I have really had to develop my tolerance for ambiguity so that I can hold those two conflicting realities in my experience simultaneously!

    As for the question on the floor, my favorite features are my legs and my pretty blue eyes!

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  20. i still haven't quite accepted myself as I am. Ever since i moved to the states at the age of 11, i've had a weight complex. I've always felt fat even when I wasn't. No one had ever told me that I looked good etc aside from my parents. My pictures always came out plain or not so great. It was like I used to be so cute then what happened! I actually had a teacher say that to me after I showed him a picture from my childhood. To this day, I know in the head that I look cute. But I still never really feel hot or amazing. It might take a while for me to accept myself but i'm working on it. I like my big, brown eyes and my chest lol. My hands and my feet. =)

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  21. I'm glad you are working on it, IBserenity. It's a process for sure. I think it's important to understand that acceptance doesn't mean you don't want or need to change, but I realized over the past few years that acceptance happened apart from my outward changes. It was a seperate journey apart from what happened physically. You can do it!

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