On the next to last day of last semester, I was wrapping things up with my body image class students, reminding them of the sound bites I wanted them to play in their mind when they most needed them, when a student raised her hand with an observation trigged by what I had just said about how self-awareness and then self-acceptance are really fundamental antedotes to negative self-esteem and body image.
“This was the first class where I didn’t make As on papers from Day 1, and, at first, I thought it was just so weird that you wanted US in the papers. We aren’t supposed to write about our points of view, we’ve been taught, and so, at first, I just couldn’t. It took me a long time to get an A on a paper in here.”
I nodded for a moment and then asked, “Do you all know now why I had you do so much exploratory writing, so much first-person writing?” And while many of them nodded, they all remained silent, scared perhaps that they wouldn’t have this right answer.
“Because here is the unbelievable irony of this work. To get over yourself, to move past yourself, you first have to get into yourself. You have to go in- you have to really get to know yourself, understand what your triggers are, what your wounds are, what makes you self-conscious and what makes your heart sing- before you can go out. You all know that I think we are each a necessary part of the world’s healing. But we can’t go out and heal unless we are healed ourselves and the truest way to our healing is to get real.”
They nodded. I kept going.
“This isn’t to say that just because you have spent this whole semester examining your story that you’ll never need healing again or even that your healing this time around is done. And so that’s why I preach self-care and setting boundaries and teaching people how to treat you. Because everyday is part of the process. Every single day you practice self-acceptance. Every single day you start with the same intent of giving yourself grace and everyone else grace, too. You never just arrive at self-acceptance. You never just park there and never think about it again. But just like practicing anything makes it easier and more accessible, practicing self-acceptance makes it easier and more accessible, too. So, even when you falter, you can come back to it, gently reminding yourself that you did nothing wrong and that the journey, after all, is the goal.”
I’ve had a few people reach out to me to say that they started Beautiful You only to put it away because they weren’t prepared with the part where the book has you get so honest with yourself (some even said that they were hoping for a book that just made them feel better on the surface- lipsticks, affirmations, and bubble baths on every page. And while bubble baths and affirmations are mentioned and maybe even lipstick, they aren’t the backbones to the BY Journey). Many of them have come back to say they’ve returned to the book, later, now ready to go in so that they can then get on with the going out. Because that is just it, right? Life keeps going on outside of us, even if we aren’t ready for her. So getting ready for her is a gift to ourselves, a gift that then allows us to give our gift back.