I've said before that I accept myself as I am, even though there are things I'd love to change about my body. And that's true. But it's not like I woke up one day and thought, “Yep, I'm great. My body is great. Life is great. Everything is great.”
The reality was so much different. For me, the body-hating thing was a 25-year journey that began when I was way too young to think about such things and only ended when I got sick and tired of hating myself. There was no miracle fix, and it's definitely not something you can buy in a bottle.
It's not enough for people like me to say we accept ourselves as we are. What does that mean? How did we get to this place? For everyone, it's a little bit different, but for me, I did very specific things to shift my view.
1. I decided I wanted to change.
Let's be real about this. The decision to change anything about yourself – whether it's lose 10 pounds or learn to love the last 10 pounds you just gained – is a deliberate choice. I was fed up with hating what I saw in the mirror, fighting with the scale, and refusing to meet my own eyes in the mirror.
2. I surrounded myself with the idea of body positivity.
No, this isn't something you schedule for 8:00 a.m. on a Monday morning and in an hour you're done. It's an ongoing process. If I saw a headline or blog post about body positivity, I clicked on it. The key was realizing that other people who accept themselves – pudgy or not – aren't somehow more or less special than I am. Recognizing myself in ther people's stories helped me learn self-acceptance.
3. I repeated a daily mantra.
Go ahead, roll your eyes and scoff. I know I did when it was suggested to me. But after a year of looking in the mirror and saying (okay, sometimes mumbling under my breath), “You're beautiful. You deserve happiness,” I internalized the message. Yes, you're going to feel silly, but if you try it, stick with it. It can help.
4. I trusted the people who told me I was beautiful.
We are our own worst enemies. We're perfectly happy to tell our partner, our bestie, and our mom how beautiful they are, but we refuse to see it in ourselves. I decided to believe the one person who told me I was beautiful every day, even when he saw me at my absolute worst. No, this isn't about “needing a man” to feel beautiful, but when you've found someone who believes you are, listen to them.
5. I looked at images of people who looked like me.
Full disclosure, most of them were naked, and the NSFW side of Tumblr is NO place for children. It sounds crazy, but my thinking was simple. I see images of women I can never look like – thank you, Photoshop – all the time. The idea was to flip the script and look at women who look more like me. Looking at those images made me feel less alone and more normal. For the record, you don't have to look at porn to find images of larger women looking beautiful.
Here's the deal – the path to accepting my own body was a conscious decision. I chose to see myself in a more positive light, and I took specific steps to make it happen. I think many of us wish we loved ourselves more but we're waiting for some magic cure.
It took hard work and determination to get here, and I still work at it. Don't be fooled. Sometimes I hate what I see in the mirror just as much as the next person. The difference is I use the tools I've got to change my thoughts before I get into an unnecessary cycle of self-loathing.