Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Four Agreements of Body Acceptance (Part 3)

This is part two of my series applying the concepts from the book "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz to self acceptance and body acceptance.  You can read the previous parts here: 

Part 1
Part 2

Part 3

Third Agreement:  "Don't Make Assumptions" (Don Miguel Ruiz, "The Four Agreements")

Joy Nash has a great sequence in her YouTube Video A Fat Rant where she stands on a sidewalk and verbalizes the assumption shared by a lot of larger women:  "There's no way that guy would be interested in me.  I'm fat!"

Then she really addresses the assumption.  After all, she explains, there are many different reasons why anyone would choose to talk to someone or not, including the band on the other person's tee shirt. It may have absolutely nothing to do with our bodies, and yet we tend to blame them for every negative encounter we experience. 

We have probably all experienced a moment where we made assumptions about how other people feel about us.  Maybe a stranger glared or a teenager giggled in our direction, or someone seemed to snub or ignore us.  This can trigger a litany of self-criticism and recriminations: 

"That staring woman looks really disapproving.  I'll bet she thinks I'm too (old/fat/tall/short/pierced/weird)."
"He walked right past me without making eye contact...he must be angry with me about something."
"There's no way that person would talk to me; they must find me repulsive."
"Those teenagers are laughing and looking in my direction; they must be making fun of me!"

Interestingly enough, it has been found that we frequently assign motivations and emotions to people based on very little nonverbal input. We assume a person is annoyed when they speak loudly, when in fact they might just speak loudly all the time.  They may even have hearing loss.  In addition, we tend to assign more positive and nuanced emotions or motivations to those we like, and more negative and absolute ones to strangers and those we dislike. 

This means that if the guy who bumps into you without apologizing is a friend, we are more likely to think, "he must be having a rough day" or "he must be thinking hard about something."  If they're a stranger or someone you dislike, you're more likely to simply dismiss them as a rude, insensitive jerk. So when making assumptions about what someone is thinking about you, you are more likely to fill in the spaces with your own fears if you're dealing with strangers. 

You are also more likely to assume the emotions and motivations of others are negative if you are feeling negative yourself.  This creates a loop, where you are feeling down about yourself, leading to assuming negative judgement about you by others, which reinforces the negative feelings you have about yourself.  You create your own negative encounter in your mind without ever actually interacting with the other person.

The good news is that you can break that loop and turn it around.

Golda Poretsky on Body Love Wellness addressed this directly.  Her advice is that every time you find yourself wondering what someone else is thinking about you, replace it with a positive assumption.  "That woman's really staring at me.  I must be looking particularly fabulous today!" or maybe "she's jealous because my burger looks so damn tasty". Or maybe "she's wondering if she can get that top in her size".  Or maybe "she's wondering if she should paint her walls the color of my jacket".  It doesn't matter what you substitute, as long as it is a positive reflection upon you and your body. 

By changing the assumptions to affirmations, you can elevate your mood.  This in turn makes it easier to make positive assumptions. 

Your homework, if you choose to accept it, is to put this into practice.  Go out to a place where you have experienced the negative assumption problem.  Notice people who look at you and assign positive emotions (like approval) to their looks.  Practice it, because you are forming new habits and they take a lot of practice.  Work on catching the negative assumptions and either distract yourself from them or turn them into positives.  take careful note of how it affects your mood. 

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