Not that long ago I turned 34, and in my first week of turning 34 I got hemorrhoids. Yip, hemorrhoids. Bum hurt all week, felt like a bag of shite (never a truer choice of words). In those first couple of days of the first week of my 35th year, after I’d had all my friends and family around me, I experienced that low you feel you know? After an epic weekend, too much alcohol, lots of fun, and then BAM - back to reality. Back to adulting. You’re tired your body hates you and you play that classic “what am I doing with my life?” game. I like to call that self-loathing. And you know what? I’m pretty sure self-loathing is all part of the big game.
What do I think the big game is? Self-acceptance. I’m acutely aware I didn’t coin the term, and I certainly haven’t got a degree in it, and I’m no psychiatrist or behavioural analyst that’s for sure. But I prefer self-acceptance to any of the other “selfs”. For instance, that self-loathing I experienced earlier this week, that’s not necessarily a bad thing right? As long as I know I’m in it, I know why I’m in it, and I take the steps to get myself out of it – I feel like that is part of self-acceptance. There very well might be parts of my thoughts you don’t agree with, and that’s completely ok! I’m just sharing because I said most of this at our recent The Girls Uninterrupted Tour, and I thought it wouldn’t hurt to put it down on paper.
When I say self-acceptance – that doesn’t mean I think I’m perfect, that doesn’t mean I’m at one with myself, that doesn’t mean I’m not striving to be a better version of myself, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to lose weight, that doesn’t mean that I won’t get Botox, that doesn’t mean that I won’t compare myself to others. But for me what I think it does, is stops me doing any of those things because someone else tells me to, or society makes me feel like I should, or I read it in a magazine or all my friends are doing it.
I don’t think you magically wake up one day either, and accept yourself. I think it comes with time and age, and more so now – wonderful women far and wide are finally learning to celebrate who we are without worrying about the consequences of what others – particularly men – think of us. Rest assured, this isn’t a man-bashing article.
I think about the different stages of building self-acceptance. If we look back at being teenagers – there wasn’t really a great deal of time to think about accepting ourselves. You’re busy learning, discovering, figuring out some sort of path. You spend so much time listening to what others have to say about you and what you should be doing with your life there’s not much room for mastering the art of self-acceptance. Your parents, teachers, sports coaches, your mates, boys, mean people, cool kids, you catch my drift. There’s no time!
When I look at my twenties – I was furiously busy trying to make a career for myself. So much of my time and energy was focussed on being what I thought I needed to be to get ahead, make a mark, be successful, make money. But also, there were all the other things crammed in too. I moved to Auckland, made new friends, met new people and engaged in activities with boys. Add to the mix all of the feelings that swirl around -you want to be young, you want to have fun, you want to travel, you want boys to like you, you want success, you think you need to buy a house, you think you need certain things by a certain age and it’s exhausting. Oh yeah, I haven’t even mentioned how you think you should look, what you think your body should be like and how your hair and eyebrows should be. And for the record mine were gloriously overplucked.
Now I’m in my thirties and I’m certainly not saying the busyness stops. Hell no. Adulting increases, societal expectations ramp up and all of a sudden you are somehow expected to have everything sorted. Why are you still single? Do you want kids? Aren’t you too old for that festival? Shouldn’t you be thinking about a house?
But for me, something changed in my thirties. I am in a position in my life, where I actually know who I am.
While always acknowledging I can improve, this is me. And I’m proud of me. I’m proud that despite being made redundant after 13 solid years of building a successful career in the media industry I still know who I am. Coincidentally, as redundancy hit, so did lockdown and I was able to sit down, chill out for a minute and figure out what I actually wanted to do. And while that is very much a work in progress, I am in a position where I feel like I’m doing what is best for me.
Another realm of self-acceptance for me comes in kind of a two pronged approach – the old, and the new. Here’s the old: For YEARS we’ve been brainwashed to think as women, how we must act, what we must look like, don’t get too emotional, know your place, wear this, don’t wear that. We have also believed that somehow magically we should all look the same in a bikini, and if we simply drink water, and have three glasses of cabbage smoothie a day then BOOM we are there! The longing to look like someone, to live like someone, to make it like someone – there is still too much of that out there out there making us believe we need to be like something that isn’t us. How exhausting!
Couple that with the new: Which I find even more exhausting than the old. And that, my friends, is another self. Self Love. Now – to be clear – I think it’s a truly wonderful thing to celebrate all of what we love about ourselves. But in my opinion self-love is just another way to cash in on the insecurities of women. I find it nauseating. I don’t need to sit in front of a mirror staring at my fat rolls, and think wow! I love these, because I am practicing self love and these are just my bits and that’s what makes me me and I love me!! I don’t need to be proud of my pimples because they are part of me. I don’t need to be told NOT to think about my body, my shape, my anything – because for me, self-love makes me think about those things even more. So here’s the tea: I absolutely know that I am not defined by my body. But it’s a bloody hard road. I know how much I have to offer that’s got nothing to do with my body. But I also appreciate how amazing our bodies are, what they can do is absolutely remarkable. If you can be honest with yourself, about what part your body plays in your life, and how you deal with that, then I believe that is self acceptance. I’ll give you an example. I am pretty sure this 5 kilos I’ve been wanting to lose has evaded me for approximately two years. And I say that laughing. Because I know there have been many times I’ve wanted to lose weight for all sorts of reasons. But the difference is now, I know that elusive 5 kilos is for me. So yes, do I still get to Mondays and go “RIGHT, that’s it! No honestly, this time it’s serious, I am sick of it. This is the time”. ABSOLUTELY I DO. But now, I want to be lighter to help me run faster. And that’s for me – no one else. But equally, if that 5 kilos continues to run and hide while I’m a bit busy with with my career, my friends and family and all those other things that are important in life then look, that’s ok. Self acceptance!!! (Ok ok I think you get it)
While we are here I’ll quickly touch on men. Because I know for me – part of self-acceptance is letting go of the fact that I have been single for 758 years.
Being someone who has never been in love or never had a man be in love with me (apart from a handful of – how should I put it – “interesting” fellas who occasionally slide into my DM’s) has absolutely weighed on my mind over the years. When you think you’re not wanted – that plays a huge part in knowing or doubting your worth. It’s a hard slog to get over that and I’m not going to tell anyone there’s a quick fix because there’s not one. But, you marry all the parts of yourself you know, you accept, you like, you love, you want to improve, you want to remove, you want to tweak, then I truly think you get to a point where you go, I am not going to feel bad about guys not wanting me or not calling after a one night stand, or ghosting – life is just too short. And worst comes to worse you make a pact with your besties for an over 50s plan where you buy a mansion in France and live out your days with wine and a pool boy. It’s simple.
So how to tie this altogether. I can’t. It’s not like that. You have to do it. You have to look at yourself, what you’ve done, what you want to do, what you like, what you don’t like, where you want to go, where you don’t want to go. And pull all those things together and accept it. Accept you. Like I said, self acceptance isn’t a badge you have to show off, you don’t have to declare it, you don’t have to post about it, you just have to feel it in your bones. And once you do, it makes you realise that you are the architect of you. It would also be important for me to say that the people around you do play a huge part in all of this. You can’t just go it alone. Self-acceptance isn’t a solo course. Soak up the value of those special people in your life who see you at your best and see you at your worst and love you no matter which way. That really helps. X