I’m sure most of us can agree that more often than not, life throws challenging circumstances at us that can be difficult to accept. For some, this may be when a beloved family member makes hurtful remarks about the size or shape of our bodies; for others, it may be failing to lose weight despite following a number of strict and unforgiving diets. These events may oftentimes shake the very foundation of our confidence, beliefs and identities – sometimes even making us want to reject the reality of ourselves and our bodies altogether.
Eventually, many of us must face an inevitable crossroad: the choice between remaining in misery and denial, or beginning a journey of understanding our current conditions and circumstances so we can build the strength and courage to move forward. This is Radical Acceptance – total acceptance with the mind, heart and body of painful, difficult and uncontrollable events and circumstances in our lives – and using them to move forward and grow.
What is Radical Acceptance?
Radical acceptance encourages us to accept ourselves and our bodies the way they are. As a result, we begin to build a solid and unwavering foundation of confidence and strength in ourselves. In other words, the comments and actions of others will not:
- Determine how we feel about ourselves, nor what we should wear or eat.
- Provoke feelings of shame, guilt or judgement towards our bodies.
- Make us feel unworthy of love and propel us from one diet trend to another.
Ultimately, practicing radical acceptance allows us to reclaim the power we previously gave to others by shifting the cornerstone on which our self-worth and value was built. Instead of constructing our identities, validation and significance on the remarks of others, we ground our self-worth and value on ourselves.
The Three Components of Radical Acceptance
To further understand radical acceptance, let’s break it down into its three core components:
1) Acceptance of reality as it truly is, rather than what you want it to be.
Rather than accepting our bodies the way they are, we sometimes tend to accept an idea of what we want our bodies to look like instead – an idea which has been most likely shaped by society’s standards of beauty. Accepting your body as it is right now means accepting:
– Your current blemishes, wrinkles and spots.
– That you don’t have complete control of your body (such as genetics and metabolism).
– The struggles and failures you have faced, and may face in the future.
2) Accepting that every circumstance has a cause, and as a result, is the way it should be.
This begins when we accept that every circumstance and event is caused by something, rather than thinking an event or situation shouldn’t have taken place. Let’s think about it as a cause and its effect – a cause should lead to an effect, and as a result, that effect is the way it should be. The same can be applied to the way our bodies are – your body is the effect or result of endless causes, like genetics or lifestyle and environmental factors.
In other words: the way your current body is, is the way your current body should be.
We may not always understand why our bodies are the way they are – but what we can do is understand and accept that there are causes that led our bodies to where they currently are. This allows for us to begin to accept that our bodies are the way they should be, rather than believing “our bodies shouldn’t be this way”.
3) Shifting your mind towards acceptance.
When faced with a difficult situation or circumstance, there are two roads that we can take – the road to rejection, or the road to acceptance. Radical acceptance isn’t something you do once – it needs to be practiced over and over again, with each difficult or challenging situation that life throws at you. There are three steps that are involved in shifting your mind towards acceptance:
a. Realizing that you’re not accepting reality.
b. Making the inner commitment to accept this and all subsequent realities.
c. Repeating steps (a) and (b) over and over again. Finally, I’d like to note what radical acceptance is not:
- Giving up on or rejecting yourself.
- An impractical blanket solution to make everything pain-free.
- Always admitting that you approve of and agree with the situation.
How Can I Start Practicing Radical Acceptance?
The first step to practicing radical acceptance always begins with realizing and admitting that we may have been destructive and unaccepting of our bodies.
It all starts with a thought…
Once we acknowledge this, we can become more constructive and love ourselves and our bodies by:
- Repeating a mantra of accepting your body the way it is – blemishes and all – whether it be by writing it down, saying it aloud while looking in the mirror, or saying it in your head at least once a day.
- Thinking of others as independent beings and appreciating them for who they are, rather than comparing yourself to them.
- Reminding yourself that what’s considered attractive is subjective to each person, and that it is impossible for everyone to meet society’s unattainable standards of beauty. Instead, true beauty takes place when we love and take care of ourselves, and radiate what’s inside us.
- Understanding that no number or size will ever define your worth.
- Enjoying food for all of its beautiful aspects including nutrient content, pleasure and joy. Don’t forget that food is emotional – if food brings you comfort when you need it, then it did its job!
No matter what happens, I’m here for you. If you’d like to chat with me, feel free to book a free 15-minute call so we can start walking this journey of self-acceptance together!
This blog was written with the help of UBC nutrition and dietetic students, Jasmine and Yasmin.
Corrina Horne: What is Radical Acceptance and How Can it Help Me? (accessed April 4, 2020). Available from: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/therapy/what-is-radical-acceptance-and-how-can-it-help-me/
Marsha Linehan: Radical Acceptance Text (accessed April 4, 2020). Available from: https://www.dbtselfhelp.com/html/radical_acceptance_part_7.html
nutriFoodie: 5 Steps to Start Loving YourSELF Today with HAES (accessed April 4, 2020). Available from: https://nutrifoodie.ca/2018/11/06/how-to-start-loving-your-size-and-yourself-today
nutriFoodie: Fighting Fatphobia (accessed April 4, 2020). Available from: https://nutrifoodie.ca/2019/02/08/fighting-fatphobia/
nutriFoodie: Week 4 Radical Acceptance March 2020 (accessed April 4, 2020). Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjYdA_te5_c&feature=youtu.be&app=desktop