I turned 31 last week. Generally, I’m not a fan of holidays, but birthdays feel different to me. They’re so unique, allowing each person to celebrate in their own special way. For me, a birthday is about reflection. I love using each new year to look back, take stock of lessons I have learned, and set intentions for the year to come.
This year, I found myself a bit surprised that one of my biggest stressors this year has actually been my clothes. More specifically, my pants. They’re too tight. They have been for quite a bit, to be honest, but I haven’t really known what to do about it. You see, I’ve worn the same size pants for my whole adult life. When I lose weight, they’re a bit roomier, and when they get too tight, I adjust my eating and exercise habits until they fit the way I want them to. But this year has been different. I have exercised more, eaten less, eaten healthier, exercised differently, and taken vitamins. And surely I have stressed about it enough to burn off all those extra calories, right? Wrong. They’re still too tight. Uncomfortably so. And it has become a source of a lot of stress in my life. Or it was, anyway, until I changed it.
You see, it occurred to me that perhaps I had been thinking of my problem in the wrong way. Perhaps it was not me who needed to change sizes, but my pants. Eager to test this potentially freeing paradigm shift, I took a brave step. I took off my clothes, stood in front of the mirror, and asked myself what I thought of the body standing there. This process is not for the faint of heart. In fact, a few years ago there is no way I could have endured it emotionally. But, I’ve done a lot of hard work since then, and I felt I could now. Without my clothes, I found myself describing my body in surprisingly non-judgmental terms: Round…Soft…Short…Cute…Me. I could see that I was both bigger and rounder than I have been in previous years. But, for once, I didn’t see how this was a problem. I’m older now. I’m healthier now. And I’m less willing to sacrifice my self hood for other’s standards of beauty now. Instead, I have begun to see my body as just another part of who I am. It reflects my age, my habits, my hobbies, my genetics, and so much more. And, as it turns out, I am happy it is mine. It’s not perfect, but I can accept it as it is.
So, went online to thredUP.com (shameless plug) and bought myself a birthday gift: my favorite pair of pants, in the next size up. For $11.99. I ordered them to arrive on the day before my birthday, and wore them to celebrate the occasion. I felt attractive and comfortable and so thankful to be me.
But, unsurprisingly, not all of life’s struggles can be solved with a piece of used clothing. Which is why this isn’t a post about a new pair of pants; it’s a post about radical self-acceptance. Because this year I got a new pair pants, but last year? Last year, I left my job, friends, and family to move across the country to start a new life. The year before that, I left my abusive marriage. And the year before that, I left the church. In a way, I feel pretty lucky that the only adjustment I needed to make this year was my clothing size.
For me, that’s what so much of life is about: taking a long, accepting look at our naked selves, asking if we can be happy with what we see, and then adjusting our lives to honor who we really are.
So, what about you? How you can better accept yourself, so you can be the best version of you, instead of trying to be someone else? And what changes do you need to make in your life, so that you are free to do that?