Saturday, August 11, 2012

Size acceptance and age acceptance

I had a birthday recently, so aging has been on my mind. For me, learning to accept my size has meant learning to accept my physical aging process, too. In her book, Look at My Ugly Face, Sara Halprin notes that during young adulthood, it's typical for a woman not to realize how attractive she is. As she grows emotionally and begins to challenge her negative self-perceptions, her body grows older, too. This takes her further away from any possibility of living up to the ideals of a culture that equates youth with beauty. This is why, at mid-life, we may find ourselves looking at photos of our younger selves, wondering why we weren't able to appreciate those youthful bodies when we had them. For many of us, longing for a time when we were younger goes right along with longing for a time when we were thinner. Some of us have been fat all our lives, and gotten larger over time. Others have gone from very thin to very fat, or yo-yoed up and down the scale, claiming triumph whenever the pounds went away and feeling defeated when they returned. Still others have experienced subtle, cumulative changes from year to year in the shape and size of their bodies. I hear women of all sizes talking about wanting to "get back to" specific weight levels from the past, or "get their figures back." It's as if our younger, smaller bodies are sitting in a lost-and-found box, waiting for us to reclaim them. I believe that comparing the present to the past can damage self-esteem, much the way comparing ourselves to other women can. My best remedy for compulsive comparing is to bring our awareness deliberately into the present time, focusing on this moment, this body. It's not easy to do, but it's essential, I think, if we're going to achieve size acceptance, age acceptance, or acceptance of our lives in general. Regardless of what I looked like twenty years ago or even twenty days ago, the body that I need to nurture and appreciate is the one I have right now.

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