Radical Self-Acceptance - Part I

**Warning: partial nudity**

What is wrong with you?

Photographer Jen Trombly

Photographer Jen Trombly

If you were raised in western culture, chances are you know perfectly well what your flaws are because media and advertisers make sure you do.

In fact, many of us have got lists of flaws!



Why is this?

It's so easy to blame individuals for, well, for being human, but there is a systemic problem that pervades our culture: fear based media and marketing.

Every "Salesmanship 101" class in business school teaches the primary edict: to sell anything, anything at all, solve the customer’s problem.

But what if they don’t have a problem?

Create a fear, then sell ‘em the cure!

What's wrong with you? Everything!

  • You’re too pale
  • You’re too dark
  • You’re too tall (buy flats so boys will like you better)
  • You’re too short (buy these shoe lifts so women will think you’re taller)
  • This product will give you better skin (unless it breaks you out)
  • Then you can purchase the antidote
  • You’re too thin (better bulk up)
  • You’re too fat…YIKES!

From the time you're in diapers you are inundated with the message that who and what you are is NEVER enough, so you need to purchase something to fix yourself!

This cycle of "Create Fear → Solve Problem → Create New Fear →" is endless. In fact, it is the machine that drives our economy, and we are all subject to it as long as we are engaged with it the media.

Take Pharmaceutical commercials for example: If you've ever watched a commercial for ANY pharmaceutical product, the advertisers create exciting images, and saturate the color. They do this so your brain is so excited by the images, it doesn't pay attention to the side-effect disclaimers because nobody in their right mind would take something that could potentially kill them.

How about the Botox commercials where other women are looking at the camera (at YOU) pityingly, patronizingly concerned, and say things like, "You look tired." "You look worried." "Are you okay?" (Create a fear.) Botox is the solution to looking old. (Sell 'em the cure.)

Yes, grown-ass women inject the botulism bacterium in their face to deaden their facial muscles so they don't look old. Does it matter that, according to the National Institute of Health that ..."Botulinum toxin, one of the most poisonous biological substances known, is a neurotoxin..."? No! Behold the cure to looking old, which, in media-driven American culture, is the second worst thing a woman can be.

Not only does media and advertisers influence what you put in your body, but they drive cultural perceptions of beauty, and self-worth. The implications of the power they wield for the sake of a buck are profound.

How This Has Effected Me Personally

Personal trainer Isaac Miller & I

Personal trainer Isaac Miller & I

I am a fat American woman. Everything in my culture screams at me that I am gross, disgusting, lazy, sick, ignorant, deficient, unattractive, undesirable, unacceptable, unworthy, and ultimately unlovable.

At one point in my life I actually bought in to that too.

The things I’ve done to my beautiful body, mind and soul in order to fit someone else's version of perfection run the gamut from benign neglect to horrifyingly malignant abuse.



As punishment for a body that stubbornly refused to conform to current beauty standards, I:

  • Exercised my way into exhaustion and injury
  • Dieted my way into obesity (No, I did not misspeak.)
  • And even butchered my beautiful body by getting my stomach stapled back in the 90’s to lose the weight I oh, so desperately wanted to lose, only to discover - when I slowly gained it all back - that living in a perpetual state of famine merely trains the body to store fat more efficiently.

There is no feeling of failure quite like that one, let me tell you!

What was wrong with me?

I lost hope, and gave up. I quit dieting, but couldn’t stop wishing I were thinner.

I realized I was going to have to make peace with my body, and find a way to love myself, but had no clue where to begin.

One morning, as I stepped out of the shower, I caught my naked reflection in the full length mirror, which was usually hidden by my bathrobe, so I wouldn’t have to look at myself.

I was horrified by what I saw.

I hated myself.

Hated everything I saw.

Despair and loathing washed over me as I realized I was probably going to be like this forever. I felt broken.

And then, the strangest thing happened.

From the depths of my despair can the thought…

  • What if I wasted my life wishing I was someone, or something, else?

Time is precious to me. Once it's gone, it's gone. The only thing more unbearable than being fat is wasting my time. Wasting my life.

As I stared transfixed at my reflection, I wondered,

  • What if the only thing wrong with me was the fact that I wondered what was wrong me? (My thought process.)
  • What if I could be fat and fabulous at the exact same time?

My instinct was to push such a blasphemous notions away, but the nagging feeling that I could be both bountiful and beautiful persisted.

I decided to look for one thing I genuinely liked about myself.

One thing of value...

My hair!

I was blessed with a great head of hair. I took my time, and found a stylist I fell in love with at a high-end salon. Together, she and I found a style that flattered me. Then we added some color, and she taught me how to take care of my hair.

I vowed to take care of my hair, which I have done for over 10 years now. No matter how broke I've been, I buy salon quality products that work well on my hair.

Emboldened by my success, I soon looked for other things I liked...

  • My skin
  • My smile
  • My eyes
  • My kindness
  • My compassion
  • My silliness
  • My intellect

Before long, I found that I genuinely liked myself.

I found peace.

I wish I could say it was all me, but it wasn’t.

More than a year before this peacemaking experience happened, something miraculous happened that helped open the door for my personal awakening: after my divorce I couldn’t afford cable, much less frivolous things like magazines.

Me, taken 8/3/06

Me, taken 8/3/06

At 42, I was a full-time college student, 3/4-time employee with one teenage daughter still at home, and had just ended a 23 year marriage! There was no time to pine for all the TV shows I was missing. Not only could I not sit at home missing what I didn't have, I had to go to the library or Starbucks for internet, so endless scrolling and aimless browsing was out of the question too.

As such, I was no longer bombarded by media and advertisers.

Instead of wasting my precious time plopped down on the couch watching TV, I filled my mind by reading good, empowering material.

Without a TV, I lost my taste for fast food, lost my desire to attend ITT Tech, and lost my overwhelming urge to sue some one. LOL

Seriously, as the cultural conditioning slipped away, so did my self-loathing.

Which makes me wonder…

  • What if we all turned off our TVs, ditched the magazines, and social media, and stopped giving the media and advertisers prime real estate in our minds?
  • What if we got off the couch, went outside to play?
  • What if you all discovered there is nothing wrong with you?

I'd like to say that this was the end of my struggle with self-acceptance, but in reality, self-acceptance is a process, not an epiphany. It is an unfolding. Levels to work through, peel, and shed like the layers of an onion...

Here is a link to my podcast, Go Deeper, which spurned this series of Radical Self-Acceptance blog posts...