Note to readers: if you haven’t already, give a quick read to last week’s post, Keeping It Off. I talk about a dream where I was in a cave with a gun, then in front of a brick wall that magically turned into mirrors. This post will make more sense if you read that first…
So, when I left off last week, I confessed that – even though I’ve already lost 50 of the 100 pounds I want to lose – I was more afraid than happy. I shared my fears about not being able to maintain my weight loss: What if I don’t have enough discipline? What if I gain it all back? What if I’m not enough? I realized the only way to trump my fears was to plant my heart and mind in reality, so I could celebrate the fact that I have lost 50 pounds and enjoy how awesome that feels. I had an epiphany: I need to live true to myself, and I need to do it now — right in the middle of my journey — or I may never be happy. But, it’s not as simple as accepting myself – as you will learn by reading on…
I’m having an epiphany: I need to live true to myself, and I need to do it now — right in the middle of my journey — or I may never be happy. But, it’s not as simple as accepting myself. I’ve practiced plenty of self-acceptance, remembering that I am beautiful no matter what my size. This is true, but that desire to be my best self, my fittest self, has never gone away. Sure, acceptance quiets shame, but it doesn’t hold a charge powerful enough to propel me forward.
The best power source I know is The Now. What Is. The Eternal Instant. Whatever you want to call it, this place of being transforms me from “I should be,” “I should have been,” or “What if I’m not?” into the most powerful, pure state of being: “I Am.” When I Am, I stop resisting my fears and rest in reality. Ironically, it takes a lot of work to resist what’s real! So, when I rest in I Am, I suddenly recover massive amounts of wasted energy. That’s where The Now differs from self-acceptance. The Now doesn’t just acknowledge my inherent beauty. It also validates my desire to be even more. It can hold both in the same moment. That dualistic energy translates into real-world results. I experience a power boost for practical things like exercise, eating healthier, and living a full life without having to shame myself into doing any of it.
How does that actually happen, though? How does living in The Now look in my life when I’m trying to lose 100 pounds in 1 year? Well, I know a few things it doesn’t look like:
- I can’t be a monk. I still have responsibilities, so I can’t pretend I’m living in some higher realm at the expense of daily duties.
- Traditional meditation is not always an option. For today’s busy world, I need a different kind of meditation. My daily check-in has to work for me more like a robust Americano that perks me up on-the-fly.
- It can’t be hard. If I’m going to rest from the fight, then I need a simple escape route. If it’s too complex, then I’m not going to do it.
I can think of only one thing that fits all three requirements, plus fulfills my need to live true to myself with the help of The Now:
How does Unconditional Love help me live in The Now and lose weight? Consider those thoughts I mentioned before: “I should be,” “I should have been,” or “What if I’m not?” They all revolve around comparing me to the past or expectations of me in the future. In contrast, Unconditional Love exists only in the present. It stands to reason, then, that if I replace those thoughts with Unconditional Love, I could dismantle these traps of comparison AND inhabit The Now. When I stop comparing myself against a better version of me, I no longer live in lack. I am free to explore abundance. Living in abundance makes a very real difference in rubber-meets-the-road-terms. I eat less because I’m not trying to fill an imaginary hole anymore. Also, I experience life on a deeper level. I no longer need to hide behind 100 extra pounds of armor, so I’m willing to engage more.
Even more important than losing weight, however, is learning to love myself right now. If I get 100 pounds lighter and I still don’t love myself, then I’m guaranteed to not be happy. Then, I could gain all the weight back. After all, unhappiness spurred my weight gain in the first place. Here’s the truest truth: losing weight won’t change me; I change me. I’m ready to bear that responsibility now.
There’s a hitch, however. How can I accept myself with Unconditional Love AND still want more from life? It’s true that Unconditional Love is total acceptance, but that doesn’t mean settling for the status quo. It’s silly to think I won’t want anything more once I love myself unconditionally. Plus, acceptance seems like the last thing for someone who wants to lose weight NOW! When I was obese, I wanted to be anything BUT who I was. The idea of accepting myself right then felt like giving up. I didn’t want to settle. I wanted life! Here’s the thing, though: you can’t get there from here.
As much as I want to be skinnier today, I must take the inside-out route if I want to stay skinny tomorrow. I don’t change by covering up my outside with a new look. At the end of the day, I might still want to slip into my sweats, grab a bag of chips, snag a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup, and pop in a movie. No, if I want lasting change, I need to find a way to transform from the inside-out. Acceptance does that. It’s the long way ‘round, but it’s the surest way to get and stay happy.
Here’s another truth I learned to accept: more than becoming thinner, feeling energized, or living without pain, I really just want to love myself. That’s my deepest desire.
I need more than inspirational words taped to the fridge to do it, though. Positive mantras rehearsed in the mirror or lists of everything I love about myself, those are helpful, but they won’t change my foundational beliefs about me. They’re more like trying to manufacture thankfulness when all I really want is to simply see gratitude arise from my heart. I need something that goes deep – as deep as I go – then lifts me up from there.
Unfortunately, self-acceptance doesn’t start out deep. It’s a process and not always a straight line from here to there. That hasn’t stopped me from trying to make it one, though. In the past, after learning something about myself, I’ve brushed off my hands and enthusiastically proclaimed, “OK, that’s done! What’s next?” Well, what’s next is to learn the same lesson over again.
In my life, any real progress I’ve made has resembled something like a funnel. I start out at the top, going in a wide, all-seeing circle. Then, it’s not too long before I find myself wondering, Haven’t I been here before? This time, the circle is a little smaller. I learn a little quicker, and I go a little deeper. I can bet that the next pass around will be quicker and deeper still.
Acceptance works the same way. So far, I’ve encountered three levels of acceptance. All are legit. It’s just a matter of where I’m at in the funnel at the time.
Acceptance Through Denial. When my fears get too real, or someone hits a raw nerve in me, I’ve tried to slap an emotional Band-Aid on it. I’ve covered up my hurt and reminded myself to just love me no matter what. I absolutely had good intentions and was pointing in the right direction, but I still resisted what is.
There’s two ways to resist what is: fight it or ignore it. Acceptance through denial essentially ignores what is. It ignores all the genuine worries I hold about myself. It pretends they don’t exist. I’m still spending a lot of energy on all that resistance.
Circling further into the funnel…
The Self-Defense of Self-Acceptance. Have you met someone who, upon listening to your doubts and struggles, tries to soothe your pain by insisting how perfect you already are, and that you should just see your perfection? My husband coined this “the self-defense of self-acceptance.” It describes the wonky place where I’ve spent quite a bit of time. Essentially, I see my darker side — I’m no longer denying all the things I want to change about me – but I think I should love myself. So, I try really hardto do it. The operative word here is try. I proclaim, to anyone and anything that will listen, how much I love myself. If there’s any hint of self-doubt, I swat it away with absolutes like,
“I am already perfect!”
“I don’t need to change!”
I want to love myself so badly that I insist on nothing less, for me or anyone else. Beware, though; the self-defense of self-acceptance always comes with a snag: I’m still resisting what is. Plus, I’m not easy to be around. If someone else confesses their own worries to me, I have no room for them; because I’ve made no room for myself. I go into denial by telling them, “No, you’re perfect as you are. Just live in that.” Now both me and the other person are resisting what is.
Looping deeper into the funnel, here’s what I’m experimenting with today…
Unconditional Love. Love what is. Period. Love the dark. Love the light. Love both at the same time. This is a tall order, considering how completely the idea of good/bad is embedded in the human psyche. In western religion, we’ve got God/Devil. In eastern faith, we’ve got Ying/Yang. In Hollywood, we’ve got Luke Skywalker/Darth Vader. It seems to be in our nature to split ourselves in two: the good and the bad (Some of us have added “the ugly.”) Loving all, just as it is, without asking it to be anything else than it is, seems pretty sane to me. When I love it all, I have no enemies. When I have no enemies, I have no need for armor. When I have no need for armor, I’m ready to shed my 100 pounds. Plus, I’m a lot easier to be around.
Is that as far as the funnel goes? I don’t know. I guess I’ll keep finding out, which is the whole purpose anyway, right? Who knows what’s waiting at the end as I circle the drain of Enlightenment/Salvation/Sanity, whatever you want to call it.
At this point, however; my mind is screaming: Give me something tangible, something I can that I know will work!
Here it is (drumroll please)…
Yep. That’s it. That’s the core of this whole apple. And it works. Here’s how: When I judge myself, I effectively split myself in two (ie: good/bad). By noticing the judgment, I heal that schism. You see, I cannot judge myself AND notice that I’m judging myself at the same time. It’s not possible. I can, however, be an observer from a full place where there is no good/bad, only me. Becoming the observer is like taking that escape route I need. I disconnect from all those fears of not being enough and instantly return to the completeness of I Am. Plus, noticing is simple and easy.
If I can notice when I judge myself, then all sorts of funnel action can go down. I can begin to live as the happy, whole person I’ve always been. My darkness can become innocent again, as I view it for what it truly is: something I don’t yet understand. Then, my light can shine brighter. A bright, inner light serves as a sort of holistic renewable energy source. I can actually live out one of my favorite sayings, “They shall rise up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
I’m encouraged to practice not judging myself. It’s amazing how many little things happen during the day to reveal how often I decide something is “good” or “bad” about me. For example, when I weigh 200 pounds and the scale is on the way up, I judge myself as “bad.” When I weigh 200 pounds on the way down, however; I’m all sorts of “good.” The weight is the same, but I sort myself into a good or bad pile. I’m doing everything except just being.
Ah-hah — there I go – judging myself for judging myself. Aaarggh!
The adventure never ends. That’s why I like the simplicity of just “noticing.” I don’t have to do anything more than that. Just observe. Just notice. Still, something in me argues, That’s not enough. It has to be harder than that, Shelby. Does it? Or, are those doubts more of the same sticky mess that’s kept me distracted and resisting? By just noticing, when I arrive 100 pounds lighter, I could already be the woman I hoped for when I first began. Noticing is that powerful. It’s the stopping that is the hardest part. Stopping, noticing, and moving on in Unconditional Love. It’s the narrowest way I’ve found to walk in this life so far, but it’s worth every step.
But here’s the rub: how do I practice total acceptance and still hope for more from life? In a way, acceptance and hope seem like they contradict each other. Acceptance means agreeing to what is. Hope means wanting more than what is. How can the two live side-by-side? How can I Love myself at 50 pounds lost and still want to lose 50 more? Tune in next week for the answer.
Shelby is on her most revealing and thrilling adventure yet: to find out what it’s like to lose 100 pounds in 1 year.