I know body acceptance is a thing. That I should love my body for all that it is, and not over-ride how I look now with how I hope to look one day. But that shit is hard.

A few years ago, I became very aware that this vessel has to get me through another forty plus years. I hadn’t treated it that well up to that point. So I started considering nutrition and paid close attention to my diet from a place of nourishment rather than my typical style of restriction.

It wasn’t about losing weight, or even to look different really. Or this is what I told myself at the time. It was about treating my body better. Although I did hope that the two would come hand in hand.

Fast food was ditched and I adopted a less meaty diet. I started to cook more, playing around with homemade recipes and working out methods to make sure I had enough fruit, veg, protein and nutrients in my diet. Fitness became a priority, as I wanted to make my body fitter and stronger. I took up running and swimming. Lost weight and gained tone. At 38, I’m the strongest mentally and physically than I’ve ever been. And yet still I tear myself down when I look in the mirror. 

Body acceptance is totally mental, and not physical at all

Because if it were all about my body looking better, I’d feel better about how it looks right now versus four years ago. Instead, I somewhat ignore what I’ve achieved, and pick out areas that I see as still needing work or improvement. The irony is, despite now being a smaller size, working towards a figure that should feel more personally acceptable, body acceptance doesn’t feel much nearer than it was. 

I do accept parts of myself as they are, but I still seem to pick out and concentrate on the ones that I don’t like

Or find new ones I seemed not to notice previously. For twenty years, my full concentration has been on disliking my body for being a larger size. Long ago were my days of owning a tiny waist at aged fifteen, and yet at 38, I’m now a UK Size 10. I worked hard for that. Changed my entire diet, my exercise regime, my food style choices. I got to the goal I’ve been dreaming about for more than two decades. So why oh why am I still not happy with my body?.

“Don’t be silly, you look great”

I’ve occasionally shared these feelings with people over the past few years, and the typical response is, “Don’t be silly, you look great”. Super dismissive, and I totally get it. It used to baffle me how someone who was skinnier, could have any concerns about body image when they looked to me, bloody great. What right did they have at a smaller dress size, to be worried about their weight?. What reasons did they have to worry about their looks?. How could they struggle to accept their body?.

The thing is, they had every right to feel this way. I just couldn’t understand it. Because at the time, I believed that achieving certain body goals or standards, meant that all these concerns must naturally drift away never to bother a person again. How wrong I was.

It’s never enough

I told myself that if I ever got to a UK Size 12, it would be enough.

And then I told myself if I got down to a UK Size 10, it would be enough.

Now I tell myself if I just had more toned arms, it will be enough.

If I could just flatten my stomach more, it will be enough.

If I lose two more lbs, I’d feel a little better, more comfortable and it will be enough.

If those wrinkles appearing on my forehead could be lessened, it will be enough.

It is not ever enough

I might feel marginally happier about my body nowadays, but I am so far away from feeling that my body is good enough. That, is the myth. I believed that when I eventually met these self-created, and social ideals of beauty or body standards, it would be enough.

It isn’t. It won’t be. There will always be something else

And I tell you what, it’s exhausting, disappointing and frustrating to realize that it never ends. I thought when I reached my body weight goal, that would be the end of it. I’d be able to relax. Finally enjoy my body. Accept it. Yet I’ve realized that unless I kill myself with exercise, or never eat again, I’m never going to feel good enough.

I know beauty and body standards are unrealistic, that in reality unless you have buckets of cash and an extreme amount of spare time, there is no way that getting to, or maintaining a Kardashian style figure is remotely possible. And I’m beginning to see that even if I did get there, it won’t change how I feel about myself. Because physically changing, isn’t going to change the way I think about myself. That shits deeply engrained and no amount of weight loss is going to solve the mental relationship I have with my body. 

Body acceptance means accepting your body, regardless of whether you are completely satisfied with it

That’s been the learning here for me. That achieving a perceived body goal, in fact isn’t going to manifest instantaneous self-love body vibes. When you have spent a lifetime to date rejecting your body, it’s pretty difficult to get to a place of accepting it, even if it looks different to how it once did. That shift can only happen with attitude alone.

We have harsh expectations around what should be our ideal shape and size. And yet the truth is, body acceptance will unlikely be achieved by hitting a body weight goal. I’m telling you this from experience. Because beauty and body standards create this illusion that the opposite will be true. And so we criticize ourselves for not being where we believe we should be. When in fact, it couldn’t be further from truth if we ever make it there.

And in the process of trying to achieve these standards, it creates persistent self-critical thoughts which screw up our perceptions of our own bodies. So much so, that nothing will ever feel good enough anyway.

In reality, we are likely never going to feel totally happy with every aspect of our bodies

Whatever our size, whatever way it looks. Whether we love one part, there will always be another we don’t enjoy that much. But our bodies don’t need to be perfect. Our bodies don’t need to change. Our bodies are good enough. My body is real, and it’s all mine. That’s something to be proud of. 

There is no body standard, image, or goal that will ever replace our own thoughts about how we look. So I’m trying a new tactic. Reframing my mindset to be one of kindness for my body. Less critical. More accepting of how it is right now, and whatever it will be in another decades time.

I dislike my body and how it looks sometimes. But I also love it for keeping me alive and getting me through life

I appreciate that it’s got me so far to nearly forty. That cellulite and stretch marks exist. Wrinkles are appearing. My stomach seems to have developed a muffin top esq style I can’t get rid of. My upper arms have become increasingly jiggly. I dislike these changes. Yet I’m also beginning to appreciate and love them.

I try now to look out for the positives. Halt the negative self-hate speech when I hear it manifesting, and point out the things I love about my body. Remind myself that I would never speak to anyone I know or care about like this. So why do I think it’s okay to speak to myself like this?. It isn’t. I’m working on it. 

Am I beginning to embrace who and how I am in a more positive way? Yes. Will that ever be completely? Probably not. If I can get to a place of body neutrality, a middle ground, that feels like a goal that’s worth striving for. One based around compassion for myself. Countering negative speech with something more positive. Focusing on what my body can do. Accepting that it is flawed, and yet that doesn’t make it any less likeable. Beginning the process of accepting my body for all that it is. Maybe never wholeheartedly. But hopefully some steps towards a place of my body being good enough for me.

By Amy Roullier
By Amy Roullier

Amy is the Founder and Editor of The Authentic Optimist. She talks all things life. From the highs to the lows, to all those messy bits in-between. She is a writer, rambler, lover of carbs (her true soulmate) and she is especially passionate about dispelling myths about women in their 30s. Amy lives in Lincolnshire with her two greyhounds.