Guest Post: Dr. Ashley Solomon from Nourishing the Soul

Dr. Ashley Solomon

I am often asked if embracing self-acceptance means “letting one’s self go” or a variation on the theme.  And the answer is that I absolutely don’t think self-acceptance and caring about how you project yourself are mutally exclusive.  So when Dr. Ashley Solomon, a therapist who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, trauma, and serious mental health, offered to share her thoughts about caring about how you look, I was excited to welcome her here.  You can read more of her insights at Nourishing the Soul and also follow her on Twitter or Facebook.  Now for her thoughts: 

I’m feeling anxious today, and it’s not because my phone is beeping every three minutes to remind me of a uncompleted item or because my car is starting to make a weird grinding noise or because I’m concerned about some of my fragile patients.

It’s because I’m too busy to make my eyebrow wax appointment.

Well, perhaps it’s all those things. But my eyebrows are the most identifiable stressor I can pinpoint right now, so I’m going to stick with that for just a moment.

It’s actually hard for me to acknowledge that – the fact that my lurking unibrow is producing feelings of discomfort today. Aren’t I supposed to be a therapist who specializes in treating disorders of body shame? Don’t I spend hours each week running a body image blog? Haven’t I written before about how anti-feminist it is to induce physical pain for the sake of hair removal? (Actually, I haven’t. Yet.)

I promote positive body image – in some I live and breathe it. So sometimes I wonder if shouldn’t care or spend time on things like make-up, hair straightening, and skinny jeans. And yet I do, at least to some degree. Is it wrong? I don’t think so.

You don’t have to give up caring about how you look to love your body. Body acceptance doesn’t not equal body apathy. In fact, loving ourselves means treating ourselves with the utmost respect, and respect demands a bit of care and attention.

Think about it. When you are in love with another person – when you truly respect and admire them - you want to “dress up” your relationship. You want to shout it from the rooftops and proudly revel in your love for that person.

The same can be said for our bodies. When I am proud of my body – and that includes the way it moves, the ways it feels, and yes, the way it looks – I want to share my excitement. I want to play up my eyes with glittery green sparkles and find a skirt that shows off my legs. I also want to take care of my skin, get regular exercise, and sleep enough that the dark circles disappear, and I want to smile!

This doesn’t make me vain – it makes me human.

Like nearly everything in life, it’s about finding a balance between obsession and healthy interest. If I start wearing five-inch platforms every day that give me feet- and backaches, then I’m not truly respecting my body. If my restrictive way of eating takes me away from relating to the people I care about, that’s a problem.

But if I am simply sharing my excitement about my body – an important (but not the only) part of myself – I’m reveling in self-love. And that’s a very good thing.

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21 responses to “Guest Post: Dr. Ashley Solomon from Nourishing the Soul”

  1. Does self-acceptance mean “letting yourself go?”{On the move..} | Nourishing the Soul - A forum on body image and the effects of eating disorders

    [...] Does self-acceptance mean “letting yourself go?” [...]

  2. Lori Lieberman, RD, CDE, MPH, LDN

    Great words of wisdom, Ashley! I’m alrady feeling better about covering my grey!
    I often emphasize to my patients that if they view their bodies (and themselves) with disgust, with distain, why would they want to treat it well? Specifically, why would you eat to meet your body’s needs or select foods that help you feel good if you despise your body? So I agree completely. The starting point needs to be self acceptance where you’re at, even as you takes steps to move forward!

  3. JourneyBeyondSurvival

    I think it is helpful to let each person define their own “letting go” themselves. Loving ourselves and accepting ourselves includes coming to terms with having a different beautification regimen than what is touted in the magazines. It’s also helpful to realize what makes a lot of women feel sexy, satisfied and glamorous only makes others feel uncomfortable, anxious, and stressed.

    Treating ourselves well is a self defined task.

    I’m glad you got those eyebrows done [or have an appointment!]
    JourneyBeyondSurvival recently posted..I Moan

  4. Dana Udall-Weiner

    Ashley, I’m so glad you wrote this. I think about this all the time–Am I being a sell-out if I wear heels or worry about how I look in jeans? It is so complex to be in this field and to work with clients who struggle with food and body image. But as therapists, we are of this world, of the culture that perpetuates extreme ideas about beauty and weight. So I think the most we can do is seek balance and rely upon an ethos of self-care. (Which sometimes means getting our eyebrows waxed!)

  5. kell

    thanks Ashley!
    im so glad you wrote this. As someone who is in recovery from an eating disorder i struggle with the guilt that surrounds this very topic. on one hand, feeling guilty that my loyalties no longer lie with my eating disorder and those strict standards for defining my beauty . . . but also guilty that, on some level, my authentic self still cares about the way i look. i always feel hesitant to make any comments about my appearance in front of those who know my history in fear that they will think it is the eating disorder talking – but yet, i hear almost every woman i know at some point, comment on her own looks. it made me feel like because i had an eating disorder, now, in “regular” life, the expectations being put on me to let go of all attachment to any quest for beauty, was greater than for the average woman. honestly it made me feel like i had to be super human or at least immune to anything that may make me body or beauty conscious – and really just another thing that i have kept hidden for fear of what others think.
    so again, thanks for this, i feel a sense of freedom knowing that its okay to treat my body right and take care of it with balance(something i didnt do for too long) – and i think what you’re saying is that when you do treat your whole self right it will be reflected in your outward beauty – self confindence and all!!

  6. KCLAnderson (Karen)

    Thank you Ashley! I have often felt that my “self-acceptance” theme has been misinterpreted “letting myself go” when, in fact, I believe self-acceptance is the first step to being the healthiest and fittest I can be.
    KCLAnderson (Karen) recently posted..Does Meaning Matter

  7. Lindsey @ Morningstar Project

    I completely agree with you. There is a fine line between self-love and self-absorption. Loving your body for it’s strength, curves, and how a good fitting pair of jeans look helps build that confidence we are all looking for. But being obsessed with calories or wanting to look skinner than everyone else, that is when the unhealthy thinking begins. Reaching a perfect balance is something I’m continually striving for. Thanks again for the insight!
    Lindsey @ Morningstar Project recently posted..Creature of Habit

  8. Elizabeth jarrard

    I definitely don’t think that self love means letting yourself go. When i hate my body i wear ill-fitting clothes that hide it and myself. When i love my body I wear things that look good on it, i take care of myself!

  9. Lisa Claudia Briggs, LICSW

    Hi Ashley and Rosie-

    Love reading your perspective on all of this and of course have thought about this myself as a therapist to women struggling with eating and body related issues. I talk a lot about “beauty” with my clients but it’s more of an energy and my wish that they surround themselves with beauty vs deprivation than about anything cosmetic…although that can be part of it. I believe we that things that are healthy and vibrant and alive and well-nourished are beautiful. Living in our senses, knowing what lights us up and enlivens our creative expression all of it makes us beautiful. Again it’s more energetic and about bringing in more life to the mix. But adornment and ways of enhancing our way of feeling our best are natural, and can feel wonderful. Unfortunately as we all know, we live in a crazy culture of extremes- it’s all around us masked as “beauty”.
    I love to look my best and depending on the day am more or less willing to put effort into that! I work at home in the country so it’s pretty casual around here! I do feel that my clients who see me in person or via Skype look at me to see how I treat myself- if I look healthy, if I take the time to tend to my appearance in certain ways, and I definitely want to model self-love in whatever ways I can.

    Long winded response but love hearing other therapists ‘weigh in’ around this.

    Love and Blessings,

    Lisa Claudia Briggs
    IntuitiveBody

  10. Andrea Owen

    Great post, Ashley! Coming from someone with (somewhat former) dichotomous thinking, this balance that you speak of is hard. About a year ago I bought cream to erase a pea sized sun spot from my cheek. I thought, “Should I not care? Should I make a video blog about it without make up and show everyone my spot?”
    OMG, it’s enough to make us crazy! You’re right- we’re human. It’s okay to want clear skin, but not to obsess on it. Thanks for talking about this ;)

  11. Heather Whistler

    This is a beautiful insight: “Loving ourselves means treating ourselves with the utmost respect.”

    When I came into a recovery program for my food addiction and bulimia (through which I lost nearly 60 pounds), I regained my self-respect. And part of my transformation included washing my face at night, flossing my teeth, wearing make-up, and buying cute clothes. I never did those things when I was ill because I didn’t care about myself — I thought I was a loser and taking care of myself was a waste of time.

    Thanks for sharing this!
    Heather Whistler recently posted..A Lesson in Boundaries from Charlie Sheen

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