Okay, let me start off here by saying if you are offended by my title, or the things I say initially, please stick with the post until the end. If you still are offended, fine, but let me wrap things up before you get the pitchforks. Then feel free to come at me if you’d like, I enjoy a good scrap (and being shown the error of my ways, if possible). So. Body acceptance. Fat acceptance. Two different (but intertwined) movements that are rolling through the masses lately (particularly on Tumblr and social media sites). First and foremost, I’d like to say that I really, really love the idea behind the body acceptance and, to a lesser extent, the fat acceptance movement. That said, I feel like there is a really insidious poison lurking within the movements, as well. What is this poison, you ask?
Now, if you’ve done any reading of this blog, you know that I am big on accepting who you are. I am very much about being proud of yourself for the accomplishments you’ve made, and the successes you’ve had, and just your gosh-darn pluckiness evidenced by the fact that you make it through the day, you awesome person, you. I LOVE helping people love themselves. But this is always with the caveat that for every time you accept and forgive your flaws and shortcomings, you strive to do better the next day. Body acceptance is great. In my eyes, it’s about accepting yourself as you are today, and not caring to conform to what society wants or expects from you. That’s awesome! NO ONE should make you feel bad for your appearance, least of all yourself.
However, there is a difference between feeling guilty about who you are, and wanting to be better than you are today. I worry (and see, sometimes), the idea of body and fat acceptance being changed to, “I am perfect how I am, and I don’t need to change.” I see this as patently false. More importantly, I see this as not even being a part of the true idea of body acceptance, it’s just somehow become the message that people echo most often. Instead, I think a better phrasing would be, “I love who I am, and I am always worth improving.” No one is perfect. No one should make you feel bad for being imperfect, because as I said, no one is perfect.
You can love yourself even though you aren’t perfect. Because you love yourself, you should, in my opinion, always be striving to improve yourself. For yourself. If you love someone, you want the best for them. If you love yourself, you should want the best for yourself. Part of what worries me about fat acceptance in particular is the idea that being fat is not unhealthy, or dangerous to your own person.
No one should make you feel bad about being fat, including yourself. But trying to accomplish that goal by saying that being fat is as good for you as being physically fit, is basically lying to yourself for the sake of your own vanity. In my opinion, that is the exact opposite of body acceptance. You are not accepting who you are. You are crafting lies to make yourself feel better about who you are. Now, not to pick on fat issues here, body acceptance also goes for people with eating disorders, people who were born with different living or body conditions, or people who have been permanently injured in some manner. All of these things are incredibly difficult to deal with, and I mean it when I say the people who live through these situations are stronger than I will ever be. But the same still holds true here. Accepting that you are paralyzed from the waist down, and loving yourself because of it, doesn’t mean you can’t still work on some crazy upper body strength, train for wheelchair sports, or something of the sort.
I learned recently about the concept of kaizen, the idea of continuous change for the best. Though typically used in the sense of a business principle, I see kaizen as being a good principle for yourself as well. We all have different physical situations we’re in (one of our awesome readers is actually missing one of his pectoral muscles, and he still works out). But I think that no matter what situation you’re in, part of truly accepting yourself is realizing that there is always room for some form of improvement, either physical or mental (helloooo Steven Hawking). Believing that you are attractive, strong, and lovely just the way you are does not have to exclude you from the idea that you could still be better tomorrow.
Don’t be complacent.
Live boldly. Change the world. Be awesome.
Dan “DaRatmastah” Wallace
Photo credit: That Cortnie Girl