Body positivity can be extra tough when you are a spoonie. When your body doesn’t cooperate and you have to fight it all the time, it can be hard to believe that “all bodies are good bodies” or “there’s no wrong way to have a body”. In fact, for some of us it isn’t even true that our bodies are doing all they can to keep us alive! It’s pretty hard to be positive toward something actively trying to kill you.
So, how do you stay body positive as a spoonie? For one, it helps to refocus yourself on what you can do rather than what your body can’t do. Whatever limits you may have, there is still a list you can make of what is possible. Make that list, and see what you can do to add to it. Learn something new, take up a fun hobby, expand that list any way you can. As you see the list grow, it will help you find appreciation for what your body is capable of still.
Being self-conscious about weight is a common thing for people with chronic illnesses or mental health issues. People can’t control their weight the way they think they can. (linklink) Spoonies have even less control over it. Between illness symptoms, physical limits, and medicine side effects, weight gain and loss is pretty well out of our hands. Even eating “perfectly” (whatever that may be) and exercising all the time won’t give guaranteed results, so just do what you can to care for yourself, and then let the numbers go. There is no perfect weight, and your body has other concerns anyway. Stressing out by worrying about your weight is more harmful than just letting your body find its natural set point given what you are doing.
We are all told that we should get more exercise. Movement can help our bodies to feel better and help us to feel better about our bodies. There are many reasons a typical exercise routine isn’t reasonable for a spoonie. Some have conditions making them exercise intolerant (link, link), some have injuries or limitations for other reasons. There is usually some way to find movement you can enjoy though. I miss dancing. My P.O.T.S. doesn’t allow it without me getting very winded and light-headed now. So, I’ve adjusted my dancing to less movement or chair moves. There are many resources out there depending on your limits. A physical therapist can help you work something out too.
Some days are harder to me to stay body positive, when I focus on things I can’t do anymore. When finding new things to do isn’t enough, sometimes I rethink new ways to do what I’ve lost. Cooking is much harder for me now that I can’t stand as long. I really miss it sometimes, so now, on my good days, we have a chair in the kitchen I can sit on as I cook. I can’t garden like I used to, so we went smaller and have a few container plants now. Many things can be rethought and adjusted like that.
Just like most things for spoonies, body positivity is possible with adjustments. Do you have other challenges to body positivity you would like to see discussed? Please share in the comments!
People tend to jump to a lot of conclusions when it comes to body acceptance or body positivity. This leads to some common myths. I’ve chosen five of them to discuss here.
1) Body acceptance is only for women.
Not true! Body acceptance is for everyone on the gender spectrum. Women tend to be the focus, because the pressure on them is more obvious. Even so, other people on the gender spectrum find themselves under pressure to conform to certain standards also. There is quite the lack of representation for them in the body acceptance movement though. I will be attempting to be inclusive, but will likely tend to lean toward addressing women and femmes since that is my perspective.
I’ve searched for some sources of info and support from other views for you:
There is a very noticeable lack of gender neutral body positivity sources. After searching for some time, I think your best bet is to search Tumblr and/or Pinterest for “gender neutral body positivity” or something similar (without the quotation marks). I will be keeping an eye out for any good links, and will be sure to update with them as I find them.
2) Accepting your body, as it is right now, means you are lazy.
Not at all! Many people think those who love body acceptance do so as an excuse to not take care of themselves, but that is not the case. Body acceptance encourages you to cultivate love for yourself and your body, and show that love by taking care of yourself. Showing yourself love includes eating food that you enjoy and makes you feel well, staying hydrated, and moving your body in ways that are enjoyable and make you feel good.
You don’t do these things with any intent to change your body, only to care for it. There doesn’t need to be any guilt over how you actually care for yourself either. Your self-care is always up to you. There is much more to this idea, but that isn’t the focus of this post. If you are interested, you will want to look into Intuitive Eating or mindful eating. If done without a dieting mindset, intuitive eating and/or mindfulness can be a wonderfully body positive way to approach food and self-care.
3) Body acceptance is only about appearance.
Absolutely not. While there is a good amount of focus on all body shapes being acceptable, that is not the only important part. We also need to be able to see what our bodies are capable of doing. Many times people are able to start by appreciating how their bodies function, even when they can’t appreciate and accept their bodies otherwise. Appreciating the strength of your legs, how your arms embrace your loved ones, how your ribs protect your organs, all these things are part of body acceptance.
4) Body acceptance can be found overnight.
I honestly laugh at this one. I feel I can safely say no one ever has. We are conditioned to hate our bodies. That message comes at us from all sides, everyday, and a single article or decision won’t overwrite it.
Being body positive, or even just neutral toward your body, takes making a decision each day, and helping your brain rewire itself in how it thinks. Don’t feel like you’ve failed if you are still struggling after a few weeks. As long as you are working toward accepting of your body, you haven’t failed.
Which brings us to our final myth.
5) Once you find body acceptance, you will never struggle again. (Or you will love your body at all times.)
Even the biggest names in body positivity struggle some days. No matter how clearly you are aware of the lies in the media, these messages have still made a deep impression. This takes a long time to counter, and we are still getting ongoing negative messages, even if we take steps to adjust our “media diet”. (Media diet = what we see each day).
Of course this will lead to days where you struggle no matter how well you’ve been doing. Everybody does. But you will have tools and knowledge to help you through those days.
I feel strongly that everyone deserves to have positive feeling toward their body. Hopefully this post helps alleviate some of the reservations you may be having, or give you answers for anyone in your life questioning your choices. Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any other questions or concerns you may be having.
I’ve previously been covering self-acceptance from a very general direction. I want to focus in a little more now. Personally, I have found self-acceptance extra hard due to my chronic illnesses and mental illnesses. It only makes sense that other people have the same problems, so I want to share my thoughts and solutions.
One struggle I have is accepting my limits. Whether you compare yourself to what society expects, or to what you could do “before”, it is hard to accept that you can’t just do whatever you “set your mind to”. Before I got sick, I knew that if I decided I was going to do something, it was going to happen. Now I find myself limited by pain and fatigue; if not by depression and anxiety.
I have found it important to accept that these things will happen. It isn’t my fault, and there is no reason for, or benefit to, me to blame myself. Just like the weather can mess with your outdoor plans, my illnesses and mental health can interrupt my daily plans. In accepting this, I can “go with the flow” more and not simply give up.
I used to base my worth on what I could do. My grades, my work, my housework, my caring for the kids, etc., all affected my self-esteem. Then I couldn’t do any of it. Brain fog took my “smarts”, and pain and fatigue took my ability to do housework and mother the way I had been. Anxiety never allowed me to work outside of the house for very long. I was left with nothing and felt I was worthless. My husband and kids showed me I was wrong.
They showed me, but this is true even without them. I am worthy, just by being me. The fact that I exist makes me worthy and valuable. This applies to everyone! You too are valuable and worthy just by existing. You don’t need to earn the right to like yourself.
Taking a Second Look at Limits
So, if we are worthy, just by being alive, our limits don’t take anything away from our value. Physical limits are just a line drawn by our body telling us where we need to stop. Respecting those limits are a part of self-care. Rather than fight them and suffering the consequences, most of the time we need to listen to our bodies.
Now, that isn’t to say never push the limits. Some things we may find “worth it”. An occasional special outing with friends or family can be worth feeling worse for a week or two. Repeatedly pushing ourselves will only worsen our health long-term though. You deserve to be treated better than that.
Our ideal may be being able to do everything for everyone each time, and then we feel guilt, anger, failure, etc when we can’t do it. Changing our outlook and seeing it as a way our loved ones can be there for us is helpful. We have a different situation that does not lead to the “typical” expectations. It is fine to expect a change from others, rather than them expect the same or “normal” from us.
This is where boundaries come in handy. Boundaries show others how to treat us. They are a line drawn in the sand. By setting boundaries, we let others know who we are, what we allow, and what is not tolerated.
Chronically ill people and those with mental health issues may have to be extra tough when it comes to boundaries. Healthy people do not always understand our limits and may forcefully push us to surpass them. We must be stubborn at enforcing those boundaries to care for ourselves. People in our life must understand that we mean business, and crossing our boundaries is not okay. They are just as valid as anyone else’s. So many times, people think that just because they don’t understand our various struggles, the struggles are not legitimate when that is the furthest thing from the truth.
Boundaries can be hard to set. If you need some help figuring out which ones to set, and how to do so, I prepared a free “Setting Boundaries Workbook” for you to download.
It is not your responsibility to convince anyone to respect your boundaries. You set the boundary, it is their place to accept it. Be firm, and your loved ones will catch on.
Rethinking Goals and Dreams
The last way I want to talk about limits has to do with goals and dreams. Having a chronic or mental illness can affect what dreams and goals are possible. That doesn’t mean you should give up on them though. you have a few possibilities. First it is possible that you can find a way to use modifications to make it happen. For instance, someone who wants to be an author, but loses the ability to type, can use voice recognition software to write still. If your dream job seems un-achievable, perhaps there is still something in the same or similar field that you can do.
I didn’t think there was any career available for me. Between high pain days, bad fatigue, and my depression or anxiety acting up, I’m not exactly the epitome of a reliable employee. This limits job/career choices quite a lot. Now, I didn’t have any certain job in mind to begin with. In fact, I chose to not go to college (and use my scholarship), because I didn’t have any goal in mind. Nothing has ever grabbed my attention.
After being diagnosed, it didn’t seem likely I would ever be employable. Well, maybe I’m not, but I’ve found a way to employ myself. Being a blogger allows me to work within my limits, and it is a way for me to help people, which I’ve always felt a pull toward. I share this personal bit to show how limits don’t have to limit you, but can actually open up previously unseen chances. To see how I work with my limits as a blogger, check out my monthly series, Confessions of a Chronically Ill Blogger.
There are a variety of ways that someone with either a chronic illness or mental health issues will find their journey to self-acceptance a different challenge than a healthy person. I’m going to stop here, but I’ll address other points soon.
Are there any particular concerns you would like me to write about? Let me know in the comments! You can email me anytime also at email@example.com .
We are not born critical of our bodies. It takes years of outside exposure to change this, and unfortunately some are influenced much earlier than others. Where does this influence come from? Quite a few places actually, but I’m going to focus on three here.
The media is a huge influence on all of us. Everyday we are exposed to the media in some form. TV, magazines, billboards, the internet: we are bound to see one, if not all of these each day. With that exposure comes lots of “perfect” bodies; bodies that are all very similar, with little diversity.
When a person is only exposed to one type or form of something, anything else seems odd. So we only see tall, thin/muscled bodies, and then compare ourselves to that false norm. In reality, there is no “normal” body. Humans are vastly varied creatures, and that is really the beauty of us. If we take measures to fill our views with a variety of figures, our own is not a shock, but another added to the mix.
I accomplished this by tweaking the accounts I follow online. Most of my social media time is spent on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. I’m also on Twitter, but don’t see as many photos there. My searches focused on accounts that show people with non-mainstream bodies. Plus-sized models, body positive accounts, and key words like: curvy, body love, thick, and “all bodies are good bodies”, are good searches to start with.
Click below and I’ll send you a list of some of my favorite accounts to follow. I have done the work for you, and you get a list full of great body positive accounts! You will also be added to my mailing list to be notified about new posts, if you aren’t already.
With the expectation of certain body types, we start to narrow our focus to particular body parts. Standing in front of the mirror, we laser down on to the perceived faults of each individual bit. Focusing on one part ends up giving us the same effect as repeating a word over and over. We have all done it. If you repeat the same word for long enough, soon it just doesn’t seem like a real word anymore. You are not a butt, a set of thighs, or upper arms though. We exist as whole beings, and when we take our whole body into account we can fully appreciate the beauty that is present. There truly is beauty in every body, and when you view a variety of bodies daily you start to see that.
How Clothes Are Sized
The final of the three obstacles to body positivity I want to talk about today is clothing sizing, or more specifically, the inconsistency of sizes among brands. I’m pretty sure everyone is aware of this problem. If not, it is a rare thing to find clothes in different brands that actually fit the same in the same size. A size 10 in one brand is like an eight in another and 12 in yet another. Now, while this is a wide-spread problem, few people put together that it is an issue with the clothes and not our bodies. When you go into the dressing room, and try on some clothes, if they don’t fit, simply try on something else. Don’t worry about the number on the tag. Just find something that fits. You can use sizes as a general idea of where to start, but that’s all they are good for. If the clothes fit, and make you feel good, that is all that matters; not the number on a tag.
We have many other influences in our life that make body positivity a challenge, but I just wanted to start with these three. The good news is that we can counteract the influence, and make a change for ourselves. I hope my suggestions here can help you start making that change, and help you remove your own obstacles to body positivity. Please feel free to share you experiences in the comments, or come over to the Facebook page and join us there!
A popular “buzzword” lately has been “body positivity”. Not everyone feels ready to have positive thoughts toward their body. In that case, it may be easier to try for body acceptance.
What is body acceptance?
Simply put, body acceptance is just accepting your body as it is with no judgement. It is a step toward body positivity and loving yourself without requiring any change. Another way to look at it is body neutrality. This article covers it well. Just not hating their body can be a huge step for some people.
I’ve talked before about acceptance. Self-acceptance is recognizing and accepting all parts of yourself with no judgement. You can read more here and here. Body acceptance is similar. It is being aware of your body with no judgement. It’s seeing your body as neither good nor bad, but simply a body. If you aren’t ready yet to jump into body positivity, acceptance is a wonderful place to start.
Why body acceptance?
Why be accepting of your body? Well, basically, you are living in the body you have right now, and it does you no good to hate on it. Even if you are sure that, no matter what, you want to change something about your body, you are still living in this body currently, and being negative toward yourself will help nothing. Real change can only come from a place of love, and that is what body acceptance (and body positivity) can give you.
No matter what you may find to be flaws with your body, it is important to find peace with it now as it is. Your body doesn’t have to earn your respect and care. It deserves to be treated well just as it is. It is taking care of you daily, the best it can. You can return the favor by keeping up with your self-care and being gentle with yourself.
How to start working on it.
There are a few exercises you can use to work on your body acceptance. One of the simplest, though not the easiest, is to spend time each day in front of a mirror (naked if possible). Find at least one thing nice to say about your body each time. If you find yourself having negative thoughts about your body use my method of Beating Negative Thoughts to interrupt yourself, and start turning them around. The goal may be body positivity, but it is fine to shoot for neutrality or acceptance at first.
Now make a list of things you like about yourself that have nothing to do with your body. Shoot for 5-10 to start. It helps to remind yourself how much more there is to you other than your body. You have a lot to offer the world, and you should be proud of that.
Another helpful activity is to start a body gratitude journal. Spend time each day writing down things about your body you can be grateful about. Perhaps it is the way your legs allow you to go on walks, or the way your hands help you to do your hobbies. Maybe you are grateful for the hugs your arms can give, or the great food you get to taste with your mouth. Before long you will have an amazing list to read back though, and see all your body does for you.
Body acceptance is not an instant thing. There isn’t a quick fix. It is very worth working on though, and I hope you will be willing to take steps in that direction. Everyone deserves to be comfortable in their body.
You see people all over social media decrying the value of selfies. Claims of them being a symptom of narcissism, a sign of self involvement, or being a self indulgence are prevalent. But are they?
What is a selfie?
From the Oxford Dictionary, a selfie is, “A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media.”
So, all it is, is a picture you took of yourself. Seems pretty harmless, right? Maybe it’s the purpose of a selfie that people find so objectionable.
What is the purpose of a selfie?
A selfie is all about you. In most selfies, you are the center of attention. You might highlight something else in the background also, or do a joint selfie with friends, but the whole point is that you are in the picture. Hmmm… I still don’t see a problem, but this seems to be what the critics have an issue with.
Selfies don’t really have to have a point. They are a great way to share with the world what is going on in your life that day. They say, hey, I’m here, and I take up space on this planet. That’s a good thing! Posting selfies challenges the idea that you have to justify yourself, and your wish to be seen, to others. You don’t have to justify yourself to anyone though. It is perfectly fine to take notice of yourself and share that with others, if you want.
Selfies are a great confidence booster and a simple, fast way of promoting positive self talk. Having a great hair day? Maybe you are really loving your outfit of the day (OOTD). Perhaps you finally did something you have been meaning to for a long time, and you are really proud? Selfies are a fantastic way to project your awesomeness to the world in a still subtle way. You are allowed to take up space in this world, both online and in real life.
Arguments against selfies
Some people fight back with an indignant “how dare you, who do you think you are??” attitude, and appear in the comments with some awful words. Ignore them, and block them if necessary. There is a deeply ingrained stigma toward having any positivity about yourself. Moving against this stigma makes people uncomfortable, and they try to police your “rebellion” with accusations of narcissism and being superficial.
Claims of selfies being a “cry for attention” get tossed around too. First off, so what if they are? It’s perfectly ok to want attention! What these accusations really boil down to though, is that many are threatened by girls/women/femmes using selfies as an expression of independence. If we are proud of ourselves, if we are already confident and drawing our confidence from inside, we can’t be controlled as easily. Creating our own positive image of ourselves, rather than depending on the media and other outside opinions for our validation, puts us in a wonderful position of power. That confidence the naysayers deride is healthy!
This applies only if you are not basing your self-worth and confidence solely on the internet’s opinion of your selfies. That is not healthy. If you are struggling with this, here is a self care/self love exercise to try. Put on a favorite outfit, try a new hairstyle, or do something else that makes you feel confident. Now take a picture, and write down 5 compliments about your appearance. If you struggle with this, pretend it’s a picture of a stranger, and try again. Hopefully you wouldn’t insult a stranger, so treat yourself just as well and find some kind things to say about your picture.
I’ve been told by my friends that I have awesome “Google Fu” skills. Maybe that’s why I love looking up things, or maybe I have great skills because I love the search. Either way, I spend a lot of time searching either Google, or more likely, Pinterest, for any and everything I’m interested in learning about. I have quite the personal Pinterest account, and my blog’s account is getting there too. With over a thousand pins (after only 3 months), there is a ton of info to go through. I thought it would be helpful to round up some of my favorite, most useful pins that I’ve found to share in one place, and so this resource round-up was conceived!
First, if you are new here, you might want to check out this post and this one, to see what this “self-acceptance” thing is all about. Now for some great links.
“Radical acceptance doesn’t mean you approve of what happened, you can hate it. It doesn’t mean that once you accept the situation you will become soft or allow other bad things to happen to you. This is fear-based thought. The truth is, you can’t change the situation, but you can change how you want to live your life”
Do yourself a favor and go check out the rest of the post. You will never regret it.
Self Esteem Interactive Online Tool – A note to my readers on their mobile devices, this link is going to work much better on a computer. Bummer. But, it is worth getting your butt to a computer to check it out. This interactive tool from Simply Stepping is such a wonderful idea! I’ve, personally, never seen something like it when it comes to self-esteem/love tools. It really does a great job visually demonstrating how to replace those negative thoughts we all have.
Self love can feel wrong at first if you are new to it. It isn’t narcissism or selfish. It is vital. I haven’t written anything solely focused on it yet, but I have some great links to share.
What Self-Love Means – There is so much I love about the Tiny Buddha site, and this article is no exception. Please check it out. Banu Sekendur has many examples listed out, and simply makes understanding this concept as basic as possible. This is an excellent post all around.
Daily Self-Love Checklist – I just love this idea. Please click on the link to go to her site, and actually download the list. You will get a much better quality list if you do that rather than try to just save it from here. (Disclaimer: I do not support or encourage any type of dieting. I am a firm believer that the diet culture needs to be left far behind us. More on that later.)
22 Ways to Love Yourself More – This post by Sharon Martin has terrific ideas for showing yourself some love. I enjoy the included graphic that summarizes it. Do visit the link though since she expands a bit on each idea listed.
How to Fall In Love With Yourself – I love this post as a “how to” fall in love with yourself and not another “ways to” show yourself love. Being told how to show yourself love is all well and good, but it’s like being told to hug your pain-in-the-ass sister/brother as a child. This article helps you to find that love for yourself that may be hiding for now. Marelisa Fabrega of Daring To Live Fully does such a wonderful job getting the “how” across to her reader.
Self care is extremely important. I have touched on it a few times here and here. There will be more in the future. I have found some great links on the subject as well.
First I have this great graphic. The link on Pinterest didn’t go back to the original creator, so I’m not linking back. Instead, here is Pamela Redmond Satran’s site.
10 Scientific Ways to Become Happier – I am a firm “believer” in science. Mention something that doesn’t have peer reviewed science behind it, and I’m going to give you a raised eyebrow. That is why I was so tickled to see this chart. Each approach included has actual science behind it as to why it works. If you click the link, the article has some links to articles that explain the science.
Quick Solutions for Panic Attacks – This chart has simple, quick ways to try to get a leg up on a panic attack. I love the simplicity, and how user friendly it is. You can easily print it out, cut out the examples, and keep them handy for any panic attack. In addition, Simply Stepping has a post about panic attacks and what to do right on that page. There is also a link to a one on one session for more anxiety support.
How to Create a Self-Care Plan, And Why You Need One – Sometimes we just need someone to hold our hands to get something done. That’s why I think this is a great post to check out. Morgan, owner of the blog Enlightened State, does just that when it comes to a self care plan. She explains why you need one, gives an example (of her’s!) and even offers a free printable worksheet if you need it. So great!
Create an Emergency Self-Care Kit – Self care kits are awesome to keep on hand for when you are having a bit (or a lot) of a breakdown, and need to take care of yourself, but can’t think of what you need. Jenny, of Inky Paws Art, shows you hers and has a great visual full of suggestions for you to use to make your own. Make sure you check it out!
Big List of Self-Care Activities – Shaunacey, of Simply Shaunacey, has created a wonderfully long list of self-care activities to check out. When you are making up your own list of ideas for planning out your self-care, visit this page and give this list at least a once over.
Sometimes you find you need more to your life, a purpose that is more than just living day to day. I looked for mine for a long time, and I know it is a terrible feeling to live with. So, I have compiled a variety of pins with ideas on how to find your purpose or lead a more fulfilling life in general.
9 Ways to Figure Out What You’re “Meant” To Do – Brianna Wiest, an author at Bustle has nine great questions for you to ask yourself. Once you get to the end of the list, there is an excellent chance you will have an idea of what you are “meant” to do in this world. At the very least, you should learn more about yourself, and it is always nice to have more insight to your inner workings.
4 Signs You Aren’t Living Your Purpose – Be sure to click on the link and enjoy the post related to this graphic. Rachael, author of the blog HerAfter, has plenty more to offer on these points, and it is well worth your time to go read it.
Any of these three work for you? Need different ideas, or just want to do more reading on this subject? I have plenty more on my Pinterest board.
That’s all I have this time. Let me know if you liked this idea, and I’ll be sure to make up another resource roundup in the future. Remember, I have a lot more pinned over at Pinterest, and I’ll be adding more all of the time.
Previously, I wrote a post listing out five steps one could take toward finding self-acceptance. They are just five that I chose out of a whole list, nothing special about them. I’ve picked four more to focus on for today’s post.
Set Your Intention
First off is to set your intention to live a life of self-acceptance. An intention is a guiding principle for your life. It isn’t the same as a goal, because there is no expectation or assessment to it. It is more recognizing a way you want to align your life. An intention is a purpose or attitude you want to commit to. So, for example, choose to set aside your self judgment and criticism, and instead commit to a life of loving and supporting yourself. Going forward, you don’t feel bad for judging yourself or having those negative thoughts. You simply stop, and remind yourself that you are not going to fall back into that habit, but be compassionate and loving instead.
Acceptance isn’t resignation.
Resignation is giving up. We aren’t talking about that. We are talking about recognizing the situation, acknowledging it, and deciding how to proceed. It is possible to see something without passing judgment on it. So, let’s say you are usually late. Accepting that you have a tendency to be late doesn’t mean you give up and are just late for now on. Instead, it means you recognize the fact without thinking it makes you a bad person. Simple fact, you are usually late. Next, you decide what to do about it. You might decide to factor extra time in for yourself, fake yourself out by setting clocks ahead some, or set reminders for everything. Whatever you decide to do, it is all done with love and no harsh, negative thoughts toward yourself.
That brings us to the third point today.
Be Kind To Yourself
It isn’t wrong to be nice to yourself. In fact, you should be your biggest fan and strongest supporter. First off, it is a miserable life to lead if you are always criticizing and tearing yourself down. It isn’t good for your mental or physical health. Nothing is gained by being down on yourself. True, productive change happens from a position of self love and positivity. Accepting the way you are, and being happy with that, loving yourself no matter what, takes the pressure off. From there, you can work on making a change, if you still want to, without wasting your energy on the self hate, negativity, and guilt. Imagine trying to make that change in your life while being cheered along rather than threatened.
Finally, celebrate your strengths.
If you are struggling with self love, self worth, and such, it is easy to be critical and keep a mental list of your shortcomings, ready to rattle off at any moment. It can be harder to list your strengths. You should do it though. Even if you need to list just one a day, start making a list you can look back on when you are having a bad day.
Recently, I was part of an email course that asked us to make a list of our strengths for one of the assignments. She asked us to make a list of 50. Fifty! I was baffled and really struggled to list the first 10. I actually had to look up lists of strengths to get ideas of what I could add to mine, because I really had zero ideas as far as what I might be good at in life. It took a chunk of time, and a few breaks, but I was so proud when I made it to 50! If it helps you to Google “list of possible strengths“, do it. You may be as surprised as I was at what is on those lists.
Another list that is helpful is one that shows what type of accomplishments you have had, hardships you have overcome, etc. This list shows your strengths too! It can be an easier list to make because you don’t have to name individual strengths, but you can still see where you were strong, and what you have been good at doing.
All of these suggestions are helpful options for steps to finding self-acceptance, and I hope at least one resonated with you. Remember to check out my previous post on this topic also, if you haven’t already. Working on all of these at once would be overwhelming and is not recommended. Choosing one or two, and building upon them as a base, is much more doable. You might even find that you have naturally started to do some as you grow in self-acceptance using those first few.
Guilt on its own is not bad. Guilt encourages people to have more empathy for others. It also pushes you to corrective action and to improve yourself. An essential follow up to guilt is self-forgiveness. A healthy self-esteem requires it. Unending guilt is unhealthy.
To forgive yourself of something, you have to acknowledge it. That can be scary. Perhaps, in the past, your parents, teachers, or a boss let you know that mistakes were unacceptable. Perhaps you were punished harshly. Or, maybe, you are usually hard on yourself. I’m hear to tell you it’s okay.
Don’t be afraid to own your mistakes. Screwing up is part of being human. It’s how we learn and grow. We don’t hold it against children, and we shouldn’t hold it against ourselves. Our life is a journey. Think of your mistakes as stepping stones along the path of that journey.
Maya Angelou said, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” I’ve loved the quote since I first saw it. You usually see the shortened version that goes, “When you know better, you do better.” I like the original better. Your actions are what you can do given your situation, knowledge, personal growth, and many other factors in that moment. Do you wish you had done things differently now? Then retain what you have learned from it, and let the rest go.
Your mistake doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t define anything about you other than making you human. We are a total package made up of our experiences, and one mistake, one experience, does not define us. It is just a tiny piece of the puzzle. A tiny piece of the complex person you are and the multifaceted life you lead. None of it is simple.
Different situations, lessons learned in the meantime, etc. all change how you may have acted in the same situation. Writing a redo may help. If you could do it over, what would you do differently? How would you change your actions? Doing this can show you how you have grown, or how your current situation would allow you to act differently.
The past is past. You need to turn the page on those mistakes. If you have done what you could to fix it, it is time to let yourself move on. Even as a mistake, it is part of what made you who you are. Accept it as part of your story.
In place of guilt
As you forgive yourself, replace that guilt with love and compassion for yourself. It isn’t selfish, conceited, or indulgent. It is the least you can do for yourself. As Christopher Germer said, “Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others.” Be your own best friend and fiercest defender. Don’t let anyone, including yourself, tear you down.
Forgiving yourself can be hard at first, but the more you practice it, the easier it is to do. It feels less foreign, more familiar and a relief. It is a wonderful relief to not carry that guilt around and to not repeatedly beat yourself up over it. Give it a try.
I actually had another post planned for today. I’ve been trying to finish it for days, and last night I had to concede that it wasn’t going to happen. My depression has acted up, and that makes writing hard. My brain just won’t cooperate. So I was lying in bed trying to figure out how I was going to have a post for today, and I remembered what I wrote at the end of February.
The last time my depression surfaced, I got up in the middle of the night and wrote about it. It was a way for me to work through my thoughts. I’m sharing it with you today.
My Mental Health
If I remember right, this is my third time being on medication for mental health. I really think this is the best I’ve ever felt while medicated. (My mental health seems to be at the very best when I’m pregnant.) Yet, I still find myself randomly spiraling down into depression. It will come out of nowhere and surprise me. I don’t usually see it coming. Suddenly I get irritable for no reason, or I abruptly lose interest in what I’m doing. Sometimes there is no other clue, but no matter what I find myself curled up in bed unable to care about anything.
“Oh, hi there old friend. I recognize you. Why are you back? Why can’t you just leave me alone?”
All I can do is ride it out. Fighting the negative thoughts used to be too exhausting. I just let myself wallow in them. If they got too overwhelming, I would tell the worst to my husband. He is my best friend and my rock. I trust him to tell me the truth, and so I can believe him when he argues with my dark thoughts.
I’ve practiced countering negative thoughts long enough, that I try to not wallow now. I can’t make the feelings go away, but I do my best to interrupt each dark train of thought. I don’t let my mind meander down those paths unsupervised. Instead, I take my own hand and gently lead myself back toward the bright reminders I have stored for just these times. I also try to distract myself. I’ll play games on my phone, scroll through Pinterest, watch Netflix, or rewatch some favorite YouTube videos. I now have some playlists of helpful songs on YouTube too.
Thankfully, since my most recent increase in my medicine, these spirals only last a few hours now. They used to last a few days. This one has been about 8 hours so far. It probably doesn’t help that it started around suppertime. It helps to have some length of day ahead to try to do something. I tried to sleep for awhile at bedtime, but I took an hour nap and that was apparently all my body wanted. So, for now, I find myself awake, moved into the living room, eating a poptart and writing this at 2:30 am. I’m hoping that getting it all out will clear my head, and it will let me sleep.
Hopefully I’ll be able to sleep soon.
When I first started on meds, I hoped to not need them someday. I was 22. Now, at 37, I accept I will likely be on meds the rest of my life. It honestly doesn’t bother me. My brain needs something to help it function, the same as my mom needs insulin, and I need to stay on medication to keep my inflammatory arthritis from progressing.
How do I know the medicine is working if I still find myself in this condition occasionally? I finally am able to feel happy; happier than I remember feeling for years. I actually have fun doing things. I laugh louder, longer, and more than ever. I want to make plans. I’m writing this blog. 😀
I wrote this as my own therapy to get out of my funk, but why post it? To be real, for one. Also, I want people to know that recovery from mental illness is not a straight line. There are ups and downs. The important bit is that we keep going. Progress is progress, even if it is slow. So I had a setback. It will pass. It always does.
I hope this post can make a difference for even one person. If I can make anyone feel less alone, more understood, or help in anyway, then it was worth it. Please feel free to contact me or leave a comment. I’d love to connect on Twitter or Instagram too!