I initially planned to call this blog ‘X steps to self-acceptance’, but then I realised just how big a topic that is, and I don’t feel like a blog post could ever do it justice. We’re all unique and the relationships we have with ourselves are complicated.
There are so many reasons why some of us struggle with self-acceptance. There are layers and different elements to consider. Simplifying it into a ‘how to’ style blog post doesn’t seem right. I don’t think you can learn how to accept yourself by reading an article online.
It takes work, support and a whole lotta patience.
So instead, I thought I would talk through what I’ve personally learnt about self-acceptance, what my game changers were during my recovery from anorexia and self-harm.
These aren’t ‘tips’, but they may resonate with you. My hope is that they spark a conversation within yourself, asking what it is you need to start (or continue!) your own self-acceptance journey. Let’s take a look, shall we?
Choosing what to wear each day
During the summer after GCSE’s, I went to London with some friends to shop for clothes I would wear to college that September. I was still in the grips of anorexia at the time, but while I was shopping, I felt free. It was the first time I saw a glimmer of light. The first time I felt hopeful.
After years of wearing a uniform at school, I was picking out clothes that represented me. I could express myself. At the time, this meant a lot of skater-style clothes, flared cords, electric blue tops from Punky Fish and a surprising array of flat-caps.
Finding my style and picking outfits still fills me with joy. I don’t see fashion as frivolous, I see it as a way of telling the world who I am. If you’re interested in this kind of thing, Sas Petherick’s podcast episode with Renee Magnusson goes into the idea of adornment (thanks Zoe for reminding me about this episode!).
Getting to know my body
During my eating disorder, looking at myself and connecting with my body in any way was a big no-no. After therapy, when I got into my recovery, I slowly started paying more attention. I would take time to look at myself naked. I started practising yoga and learning what I could (and couldn’t) do with my body.
Since then my body has, of course, changed a lot. It’s got bigger and softer. And yes, I still have wobbles, moments when I want to cry at the sight of my body, but I’ve learnt to pause and track where that feeling has come from.
It’s NEVER to do with my body.
The more I get to know it, the more comfortable I am in it. This morning I was getting undressed before going in the shower and I caught sight of myself naked, and my reaction was ‘wow, I look good’. I then lingered to appreciate the feeling of genuine appreciation, before realising I was running late and jumping in the shower.
Loving your body doesn’t have to be the aim, getting to know it and being OK with it is more than enough.
Upping my general self-awareness
I talk about self-awareness a lot, but it’s because it’s had such a big role to play in my learning to like myself and manage my mental health. Writing in a diary was my first step into this when I was younger, then yoga followed. Since then meditation, therapy and writing in a journal have joined the team.
Getting in tune with myself felt like the first step to self-acceptance. I had to figure out who I was, what type of person I was, how my thoughts worked etc. before I could accept myself. And it’s important to note that this is an ongoing journey, we’re constantly changing and evolving, so keeping up with my self-awareness is high on my priorities list!
Changing my self-talk
When I had anorexia, I had an internal voice harassing me on a daily basis – bullying me and making me feel worthless. One of the most important things that lead to my recovery was taking that voice and making it a separate entity. I even gave the thing a name. I wrote a letter to it, telling it how much I wanted it gone.
From here I was able to develop a new voice. One that could disagree with the anorexic voice. One that was compassionate, kind and loving. Over time, this is the voice that won out. Now, I no longer have the anorexic voice, but I do of course have the voice of self-doubt.
I’ve learnt to treat that voice with compassion and respect (largely due to work by Sas Petherick and more recently Tara Mohr), but to ultimately not listen to it. The compassionate voice I developed in my teens has thrived along with the other self-acceptance work.
When self-doubt or fear pipes up, I’m able to pause, analyse, reflect and rebuke.
It’s not a perfect science, and I’m learning new things about my self-doubt all the time, but so far my method is working pretty well.
Allowing myself to be visible online with pictures of myself was a big step forward for me. This got even more poignant when I took Sara Tasker’s Bloom & Grow photography course. She encouraged us to get creative with self-portraits and I learned how much fun it was conveying meaning through self-portraits.
Since then I’ve continued posting self-portraits on Instagram and feel very comfortable speaking on stories and generally being seen. It’s scary sometimes (the vulnerability is real) but it’s been liberating in so many ways.
Learning from the body positive community
Discovering the body positivity community has helped me unlearn so many things that were holding my self-acceptance work back. Society pressures us to feel shit about ourselves if we look different to its version of beauty.
Watching those in the body positive community rebel against this has been instrumental in me not only liking who I am, but in my finding my own personal mission to help others value themselves as they are.
Opening my eyes to experiences outside of my own has been so important too. I’m slowly learning more about race, sexuality, feminism and the importance of activism. And I guess for me, this is my step forward from self-acceptance. This is my next journey.
I hope that although this post didn’t neatly tell you what to do to accept yourself, it gave you some food for thought. I hope it’s helped you start some conversations with yourself about your own self-acceptance journey – where are you at? Is something holding you back?
This is the type of thing I really want to support people with through coaching. As I said at the start of this post, everyone’s journey will be different and there’s rarely a blanket answer out there on the Internet that will fix your relationship with yourself.
My aim is to work one-on-one with people, getting to know them and helping them figure out what they specifically need to get to a place of self-acceptance and self-worth.
If this is something you’re interested in, I’ll be launching my services here on the 2nd September, but you can get a sneak peak (and early-bird discounts) by subscribing to my Monthly Musings newsletter.
I would love to hear about your self-acceptance game changing moments too, let me know in the comments!
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