HOW LOVING WHO YOU ARE ALLOWS YOU TO BECOME WHO YOU WANT TO BE

Last week I did something that really scared me, I shared my personal story.  I was never worried that anyone would judge me for what I shared (and I also know that if others judge me that has to do with them, not me).  What I was worried about was how sharing that story might make people feel.

Now, I’m not an expert at brevity, and last week’s blog entry was a real doozy.  I had a lot to share.  And I also was chewing my fingernails off while I wrote it because I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t one more voice in a chorus of body shaming.  The core of my story is about learning how to have self-respect, self-compassion and self-love.  But if you just read the surface of it, the timeline of events, it’s a story of weight loss.

We are over-run by stories that follow this path:  “I was once like you, I was fat and I hated my body, then I (fill-in-the-blank) and now I am thin and beautiful and so very happy, hooray!”

Barf.

I am 100% over the story that the only way for us to be happy is to change who we are.

The truth is, weight loss doesn’t make your life suddenly perfect, and it might not even make you very happy.  I know this because I have lost and gained weight several times in my life.  It was always about the weight, about how I looked.  It wasn’t until I was able to find something else to focus on that I was able to have an appreciation for my body.  For me that thing was performance:  how far can I ride my bike, how much weight can I lift, what fun thing can I do?  And after focusing on performance and cultivating an appreciation of what I could do as opposed to how I looked something else even more important shifted for me:  even performance stopped being important.

Initially I took good care of my body because I wanted to be able to perform well, whether that was in the yoga room or the weight room.  And I still love to push myself and explore my capacity.  But by continually prioritizing my well-being I made a shift toward prioritizing my self-worth.

Taking good care of myself is an act of love.  And by repeatedly engaging in this act of loving myself I have grown to love myself.

This is really, really important.  We are told over and over again to “love ourselves” and while I agree that, in its intention, this is super advice, I think it’s about as helpful as “just say no.”  But if this was easy to do would it generate so much corny advice, so many self-help books, would it occupy so much cultural bandwidth?

(I would just like to take a moment to point out the irony that so much of our advertising is based around making us hate ourselves to sell us products and that we are also sold products to teach us to love ourselves — which we were probably doing just fine until we got exposed to all that advertising…)

If we focus solely on change it is almost impossible to get to self-love.  We are just a dog eternally chasing it’s tail.  If we can love ourselves first then choosing actions and behaviors that promote our own well-being or the pursuit of our goals become almost effortless.

That is where most of us get stuck.  When we are only focused on change we don’t often think in terms of actions that will have a big impact on creating change.  Instead we are only looking at who we are now with a lot of self-hatred and wishing for an imaginary, perfect, future self.   And that mindset derails all of our efforts at change.  I know this because I lived there for years.

This is the weird thing:  change is easier if we accept and love ourselves as we are BUT loving and accepting ourselves as we are is pretty much only possible if we act toward ourselves in a loving way.  And those actions of love are usually the very actions that we need to take to get to the change that we want.

The only actions that work are those rooted in self-love.  And the way toward those actions is not a rejection of who we are now, but embracing the potential that we see within ourselves.  Those two things, being happy with who we are and wanting to change or grow, don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

I am 100% over the story that the only way for us to be happy is to change who we are.  And I am 100% in support of the story that by being happy we can grow however we want.

This is the message that I desperately hope I was able to convey in my entry last week.  This is my real story, my real truth and what I truly believe.

Elias Gross