Well, it happened.
Someone finally asked me the question I hoped I'd never have to actually address in writing: Can a woman ever fully and completely love who she is, or is she destined for a future of dissatisfaction?
The question of whether or not it's possible to unconditionally embrace oneself raises some of my biggest fears and insecurities as a positive body image advocate and women's health writer. My knee-jerk response is, "Of course! Ladies -- you are enough! Don't let the media hype and societal insanity infiltrate your brain!" My honest admission based on personal, day-to-day struggles? "I'm not sure."
I want to believe it's not only possible, but inevitable that we all reach a point where we're officially tired of the masochistic self-loathing that we falsely thought was motivating us to be thinner/prettier/hotter/smarter/sexier/better. I want to fully trust that we'll once and for all stop believing the unrealistic images and standards and just learn to look within ourselves for true happiness, satisfaction, and serenity. But do I embody those beliefs and live them out every day? Not a chance.
Or maybe just not yet.
Talking to a friend the other day, I couldn't help but think of how her personal epiphany could change my answer to this question and potentially the course of my life (not to mention my authenticity as any kind of spokesperson for self-acceptance). Gazing intently at her reflection days before our talk, my friend told me that she'd begun noticing all the imperfections in the few features she'd thought were her best assets. Her eyes were slightly off-kilter. Her smile was a little crooked. Her breasts suddenly seemed unmatched.
But rather than throw a fit, smash the mirror, or create a dozen new ways to berate herself for these newly-discovered "flaws," she did the most radical thing she could think to do: She laughed. It was all so ridiculous. The pieces of her that she'd always considered "perfect" and "beautiful" by societal standards warped and distorted before her very eyes the longer she stared at them. It was all so subjective and ridiculous. And she realized then and there that no matter how close she came to exemplifying cookie-cutter beauty, it would never be good enough.
It was what she said next that I haven't been able to get out my head.
"I thought, 'What if I choose to like myself? It's just a simple decision," she told me. "It's that easy. It's all in my own head. I could just make the decision, commit to it, and then it would never matter what anyone else thought or said."
It was such a simple assertion, but it struck me as revolutionary. What if we all consciously chose to not only accept ourselves, but to love who we were, are, and will be, no matter what we continued to hear or see in the outside world? Would we all fool ourselves into delusional states of grandeur and end up totally unaware, conceited jerks? Well sure, that's the fear, isn't it -- that we'll somehow shine brighter than we really deserve to? But maybe the reality is that we'd shine as bright as we're supposed to, and we'd stop unnecessarily cowering and self-flagellating for fear that we're not good enough as we are.
And if you think I stole those sentiments from a far more articulate source, you're absolutely correct. Several friends, including the one mentioned above, have sent this Marianne Williamson quote my way, saying it reminds them of me. I know the association is triggered by my love affair with self-deprecation, but I'm hoping they might one day associate the excerpt with me for a different reason. Maybe I'll have the courage to once and for all just choose unconditional self-acceptance, letting my own light shine, and inspiring others to do the same.
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." ― Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles"