There is a growing movement of self-love and self-acceptance. And that is a great thing! More acceptance and less shaming is an admirable goal to strive toward. And often along with this push to love oneself is the message that we are all beautiful and we should think of ourselves as such. What’s wrong with that you might wonder?
The problem is that the thought we are beautiful can be a slippery slope masked in a message of acceptance.
But what if I don’t feel beautiful?
Self-acceptance which comes from thinking of oneself as beautiful opens up the possibility of seeing oneself as anything other than beautiful too. Does true acceptance perhaps come from no longer striving for beauty and no longer seeing ourselves as beautiful? If I am basing my self-love on feeling beautiful, where does that leave me on the days that I am not feeling beautiful? Feeling beautiful or not feeling beautiful does not always reflect self-esteem. Sometimes we feel exhausted, sick, or even just blah. And that’s okay. All those feelings are a normal part of life.
But what if you have followed the line of thinking that everyone should see themselves as beautiful as a requirement for self-love? To judge something as beautiful means that the opposite can also be true. So if I’m not feeling beautiful one day, do I replace the judgement about myself with “ugly”?
Time to change from feelings of beauty to feelings of gratitude.
Perhaps it is time for a change in our thinking. Perhaps lasting self-love actually comes from a place of gratitude instead. As long as my self-love is coming from a place that requires me to view my body as beautiful, then I am at risk of not loving myself when I don’t feel beautiful. Maybe self-love that comes from gratitude is what we actually need to be working toward. Being grateful for what my body does, how it functions, what it enables me to do in life, how it plays a role in me doing things that make me love life; these are all so much more than a fleeting feeling of beauty.
Perhaps lasting self-love actually comes from a place of gratitude instead. @sabe30
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Now what happens if I have a day when I am not feeling grateful? How does that impact my self-acceptance? The opposite of gratitude is being ungrateful. Notice how if I am ungrateful that doesn’t place a negative judgement on my body, therefore it doesn’t detract from my self-love. Being ungrateful is about an attitude, not about how my body looks, or how I think my body looks. An ungrateful attitude needs to be noticed and addressed when it arises, but it does not have the same power to alter my acceptance of myself. As long as I am thinking in terms of beauty and loving my body when I feel beautiful, I am opening myself up to the negative feelings of feeling ugly or judgmental about my body too. And those feelings will definitely impact my self-love and acceptance.
Focus on gratitude.
So, don’t waste your energy on trying to “feel beautiful.” Instead, notice what your body is doing for you and has done for you, and be grateful for it. Having an attitude of gratitude comes from a respectful place. Respecting one’s body leads to caring for it and caring for it leads to more satisfaction with one’s body. An attitude of gratitude adds to; it doesn’t subtract from.
Loving yourself, flaws and all.
Feeling beautiful is dependent on too many outside factors. Heck, you can feel less beautiful just by having a cold! And as long as our self-love is tied into “feeling beautiful,” our self-love and in turn, self-acceptance will always be in flux. Once you make the switch to no longer seeing yourself as beautiful, you are able to look at your body and see the “flaws” without judgment and without those “flaws” detracting from your self-love.
Being grateful for your body means seeing through the “flaws” to the body behind them that works so hard for you, or seeing the stories behind those “flaws.” Seeing yourself with gratitude means being able to see yourself everyday, though thick and thin, and being grateful to be alive and being grateful for all your body enables you to do.
It means that every day you can love yourself, not only on the days you feel beautiful.
Share this. Maybe someone you know is struggling right now with self-acceptance and not feeling beautiful.
Sarah Bowman is a wife, mother of two, registered nurse, writer and recipe creator with a passion for yoga, books, wellness and good food. Her goal in life is to educate and encourage others to live a life that promotes health, happiness and balance by sharing her knowledge and personal experiences in an open and honest way. You can read more on her blog and follow her on Twitter, FB or YouTube.
Image courtesy of Viktor Hanacek.