Self-love vs Self-Acceptance
The self-love movement is both lovely and empowering, and also totally misguided. It focuses on only one aspect of accepting yourself and completely ignores all the others. What do I mean?
What the “self-love” movement gets right
We all know how damaging negative self-talk can be. We’ve all had thoughts like, “You’re ugly, you’re fat, you’re worthless, you’re unlovable,” etc. That kind of internal dialogue is extremely damaging because it incorrectly shapes your sense of value in the world. The self-love movement has done a lot of good in helping women redefine the language they use when they talk themselves. Once your self-talk changes, your language and actions in the real world change too. And because words are powerful, they can change your life.
What the “self-love” movement gets wrong
When it’s pushed to extremes, the “self-love” movement can misrepresent the message that “you’re ok just as you are.” I believe that every human being is inherently valuable. That innate value means that the world needs you, you are here for a reason, and that nothing/no one can take away your value.
“You’re ok as you are” does not mean, however, that everything about you is perfect as it is. I’m not saying anything you don’t already know about yourself. There are things that you would like to improve about yourself. There are things about yourself that are damaging and that you don’t “love”. In truth, you are not “ok” just as you are. You ARE valuable, but you ARE NOT complete or perfect.
Why “self-acceptance” is a better message
I believe that “self-acceptance” is a much better message than “self-love”. Why? Self-acceptance is about telling yourself the truth, accepting what you cannot change, and working toward correcting the things that you have control over.
Let me share a trivial example that we can all relate with: When I know that I’m putting on weight, at first I resist what I’m seeing in the mirror. After awhile, I begin to hate looking in the mirror. I feel depressed, frustrated, small and defeated.
At some point, though, I make myself really look. I examine the truth of my predicament and accept what I actually look like. Once I have done that, I get to work. As soon as I have a plan and am working toward a goal, I see myself differently, even before the results start showing.
When I am satisfied that I have done the work to an acceptable level, I am usually satisfied with however I look in the end. I don’t stress about the stretch marks I can’t change, the cellulite that is my genetic inheritance, the belly that will never be totally flat because I have born three children. I also accept that I will probably go through this whole cycle all over again because these two seemingly opposite things are true at once: I can love myself as I am, but I also want to be better.
So, if you really want to love and accept yourself as you are, then try to allow some of the tension that exists in self-acceptance: surrender what you can’t change and work hard to improve the things you can. There is a lot of peace in that tension!
We did this beautiful shoot a couple of years ago, and I had forgotten how amazing it is. There is such a nice collection of airy photos and shadowy ones. I especially love the images with the mirror. I hope you enjoy them and thanks to C for letting us share them!
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