How do self acceptance and self improvement cohabitate?

How does a person love their bodies while also trying to change it?
Are these not inherently contradictory?
If you love your body then shouldn't you just accept it, no matter what?

These are some of the questions I’ve been pondering lately in the forever journey towards self acceptance and loving the body God gave me.

I see groups or trends emerging over the last 10 years that really excite me.
From lingerie companies, swimwear and beauty brands using a more diverse sampling of models. Different shapes, colours, hair types, scars, stretch marks and blemishes. I think this change in society has had such a positive effect on women and it largely has been the corporate effort of women speaking up and demanding a change from the glossy-magazine sterotype-perfect-female-air-bushed-thin-model narrative.

Now in the same breath I also begin to ask, is it ok if I love my body no matter its current shape or size but also have aspirations to be healthier? This may in turn change the appearance of my body. You see the problem when accepting this new narrative is that body acceptance or love leaves no room for change. Which I tend to disagree with. 

The conclusion I’ve come to is this one. Every single person on this earth has been given a body. You are born into it and hey, it’s yours forever. My understanding is that these bodies last for this lifetime and they carry who we are, they carry our personality, they carry our infinite potential. They were intricately and wonderfully designed by our creator - God. He did a good thing in creating those bodies. They are so wonderful, so intelligent and science is still trying to understand the inner workings of the human body. There is still so much yet to be understood. That's saying a lot given the amount of time and bright minds whose life's work has been dedicated to understanding how the human body works.

So our bodies are a gift from God, a pretty amazing one. But they are only temporary. They will age and pass away and one day be renewed but for now they are our home and they house our spirit or essence which will be eternal. They also house our soul (personality) and enable us to experience the world in such an exciting way.

When we consider our bodies like this, I hope we start to find an appreciation for all that they are and all they enable us to do. 

My personal belief is that if we are given a body, only one, we should take care of it. We should do this because we respect our bodies and the gift that they are and begin to learn how to love them. 

If you love your child or your partner or your pet you want the best for it right? If you see any of these individuals in pain or not experiencing life to their fullest due to limitations their body imposes, you would want to help them make changes right? You would want these changes not because you hate them or think they have to change in order for you to love them but simply because you love them so much you want the very best for them. From that place of love you support them to make changes and hope that with some support they will feel better and freer in their bodies. 

I use this analogy to explain this very difficult concept. It's entirely possible to love your body right now, exactly as it is. You don’t need to change to love yourself. However we should all love our bodies enough to want the best for them. So our bodies can carry us through this life. You can love your body while also trying to make positive changes to your lifestyle out of a place of self love too.

For me personally, motivation and the energy behind that motivation is really important to notice. I know there were times in my life where I was trying to change my body from a place of self hatred and that motivation can be just as strong, but it usually brings an energy that becomes hard to maintain or enjoy. There were also times where I guess I swung the other way on the pendulum and thought ‘Screw it, I’m just going to love my body no matter what and not care at all about what I eat or how much I exercise.”

This is now what I recognise to be the self love and acceptance / self hate and rejection yoyo or pendulum. It’s easy to see why I swung so much in my earlier days because they are both two extremes. Another word for these two sides are obsession and neglect.

What I now know and hope to share with others is that there is this thing called balance or ‘the in between.’ 

Whenever you decide to make tweaks to your lifestyle do it with love and patience. Whenever you begin to tackle physical goals be sure to take a break if you think your mental wellbeing is in jeopardy. Always listen to your body and your mind and be kind to them both. Every season of our life calls for different approaches or mindsets towards how we can best or even just less than our best, take care of ourselves. It’s important to allow God into the health journey, he can help set a good pace and we can rest and trust in His plans. We should feel at peace, it’s a sign we have not tipped into obsession or neglect.

In summary and to finish this blog my main point here is that acceptance and love of our body has to come at every stage of our health journey. While society may sometimes make us feel as though we shouldn’t until we have achieved X ,Y or Z it’s crucial to understand that we were first accepted by God as one of his family members. We are loved, whole and completely loveable just by being alive. However, love and acceptance of ourselves is not an excuse to neglect the body we are given. My hope is that everyone can find freedom in their body and in their personal health journey and learn to love and look after their body because of the gift they are.


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