Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Four Agreements of Body Acceptance (Part 4)

This is part Four 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

Part 4

Fourth Agreement:  "Always Do Your Best" (Don Miguel Ruiz, "The Four Agreements")

The key part of this agreement is the idea that your best is not a constant, because you are not a machine.  It is okay if your 100% today is very different from your 100% last week.  It is important that you give yourself credit for what you can do today.  In body acceptance, your best today might be going to a protest rally, shaming the haters, standing up to every body-negative message you encounter.  On the other hand, your best might be getting through your day without actually killing someone. 

Christine Miserandino is a writer who came up with what's now called the "spoon" theory.  She was using the analogy to describe the very limited energy available to her as someone living with Lupus, but it has since been adopted by many auto-immune and pain disorder sufferers including those with Fibromyalgia and Celiac. She described her day to a friend in a cafe' in terms of a handful of spoons.  Each activity in her day costs her one or mores spoons, from waking up and showering, to doing the dishes, to dealing with a friend's trouble.  At the end of the day, with one spoon left and many different people and chores bidding for it, she has to make serious choices about what she is capable of accomplishing and what she needs to let go. 

The spoons, of course, represent a unit of energy.  The energy can be any combination of physical, mental, and emotional energy depending on the person and the day.  You may have days when your brain is going a mile-a-minute but you are too physically exhausted or emotionally overwhelmed to really act on your trains of thought.  Or, you may be physically restless but feel like you're thinking through a fog.  If you do suffer from a disorder that saps your physical and emotional energy, the number of "spoons" you can allot to loving and accepting your body may be very limited. 

But everyone, whether or not they have an identified disorder, does have a finite amount of physical, mental and emotional energy each day. Through media, ads, and societal pressure we are sometimes fooled into thinking that it's possible to go through life giving the same or greater smiling 100% every day without fail or discouragement. I have never personally met or heard of a person with no off-days. Have you? I have some days when I feel like I can conquer the world, write a novel and declutter the house in the same afternoon.  On those days, body acceptance is easy.  I can laugh off negative body messages with scorn and engage the haters with cool confidence.  I have other days when a casual fat joke in a television show or a billboard for bariatric surgery will send me into a dark, unshakable, pessimistic funk for the rest of the day.  On the latter days, my best is to simply be forgiving of myself, avoid shaming messages as much as possible, and seek out support from loved ones.  Most days are somewhere in-between.  I suspect that's fairly typical. 

So in deciding to yourself what your "best" effort is towards body acceptance, be careful of setting static or absolute goals for each day.  People with pain disorders know that they often don't know when a flare-up will arrive until it does, and the rest of us could wake up any morning with a cold, a bad night's sleep, or generally an inexplicably crappy mood. The discouragement of not reaching a goal is the worst possible addition you can make on an already discouraging day.  Instead of saying "tomorrow I will accomplish XYZ," it might be helpful to set a sliding scale of goals, where you include some body-love activities that come very easily to you and some that are more difficult.  That way, you can decide how much you do based on what you actually can do. On a low-energy day, reward yourself for the little things.  On a high-energy day, tackle something bigger.  Either way, you find something to feel good about.  Just be honest with yourself about what constitutes your best. 

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