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Dara Chadwick
Dara Chadwick

Self-acceptance versus self-improvement

Does self-acceptance mean there isn't room for self-improvement?

What does "self-acceptance" mean to you?

It's a term that gets thrown around quite a bit. When I hear it, I think of people who are generally OK with who and what they are.

But does self-acceptance mean that there isn't room for self-improvement?

Yesterday's TODAY show included a segment on the "fat acceptance" movement. It featured an interview with plus-size model Emme, who - while absolutely gorgeous and seemingly the picture of health - is, in fact, considered obese. According to the segment, Emme watches what she eats, works out several times a week and seems to feel good about who she is. She acknowledges that her health is important to her and she makes an effort to care for her body and herself.

To me, that's a self-acceptance role model.

When I was writing my body image book, You'd Be So Pretty If...: Teaching Our Daughters to Love Their Bodies - Even When We Don't Love Our Own, I encouraged mothers to toss the scale and model healthy self-acceptance for their daughters. After all, obsessively checking a metal box to see if you're at a certain number so you can deem yourself "acceptable" feels like anything but self-acceptance, wouldn't you agree?

The burning question for me - as a mom - is how to balance improvements that I might want to make in my life, my habits or my appearance with a message of healthy self-acceptance for my daughter. For example, say I haven't been eating well and have stopped working out regularly, resulting in a jump in clothing size, a slump in my energy level and a general not feeling good about what's happening. What's the greater self-acceptance message for my daughter? Is it better to say, "This is where I am now so I accept it?" Or is it healthier to say, "I haven't been taking care of myself and I'm not happy about the changes in my body. So I'm going to make some eating and exercise changes so that I can feel better and be healthier again."

For me, the message of self-acceptance has to be tied to self-care.

I know a young woman who's quite obese and I'll admit it's difficult for me to watch her eat double cheeseburgers with extra cheese and laugh as she refers to herself as "fat ass." That doesn't feel like self-acceptance to me, any more than scale-obsessed behavior does. She may talk the talk and tell me that she's happy the way she is, but without some measure of self-care, is her self-acceptance real?

It's not about size for me. It's about attitude.

What do you think?

About the Author
Dara Chadwick

Dara Chadwick is the author of You'd Be So Pretty If… :Teaching Our Daughters to Love Their Bodies—Even When We Don't Love Our Own.

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