The Difference Between Giving Up and Acceptance
When I was thirty I had a moment where I realized it was time to accept that a longtime dream of mine to perform on Broadway was never going to happen. It was not a pretty moment and in fact, I cried for a good part of a day when I realized it was time to accept this truth.
I was cleaning out my closet and found an old high school project that was supposed to be a magazine cover with me on it at the age of thirty. The headline on the cover of this mock magazine was supposed to be about the amazing accomplishment(s) we had thus far achieved in our life. Of course, the cover of my magazine read, “Broadway star accepts next big role as Christine in Phantom of the Opera.” As I sat there staring at what were childhood hopes and dreams of something I had once been told was almost a sure thing due to the amount of talent I displayed, I couldn’t help but to break down into tears. Tears of regret and sadness from the little girl still inside that so desperately wished this magazine cover would have somehow become a reality. I sat there thinking of everything that had happened in my life to steal this dream away from me.
And although my heart ached at the thought of never seeing this dream come true, I knew it was time to accept it if I wanted to be happy with my life right now and move forward.
It felt like I was betraying the little girl inside me that still fantasized about playing all my coveted female roles, the little girl who lived off the high of applause flooding the theater at a final curtain call and the times I had stood confidently in the spotlight, center stage hitting my final high note. All of that I realized was gone and it was time to let it go.
We all give up on something at some point in our life, and it can hurt in a very deep and visceral way. It’s like a death of a person we once knew and never really had the chance to say our final good-byes before they gone forever.
A few days ago, a client of mine came in and declared she was not going to give up on her body like so many other middle aged women she knew that had “let themselves go”. She was going to do everything she could possibly do to ward off the postmenopausal weight gain and inevitable physical changes that eventually come along with all of that. She would not go down without a fight.
Working in the fitness industry for 13 year, it’s not the first time I’ve heard this and I know it won’t be my last.
As a woman in her mid-thirties, I really can’t say I know how she feels because I have yet to cross that bridge. I can say however, I know the feeling of not wanting to give up on something you think will bring happiness and fulfillment. I had given up pursuing my dream of performing on Broadway long before I finally accepted it that one day I decided to clean out my closet; I hadn’t auditioned for anything for years at that point. Both giving up and accepting something I wanted so badly felt pretty awful, but there was something the action of acceptance offered me that giving up didn’t.
I talk a lot about body acceptance and how important it is not only for mental health and well being, but also as a first step toward really taking care of oneself from a positive and loving place rather than a place of self-loathing needing to feel worthy or enough.
But what does the word acceptance really mean?
The word acceptance is defined as the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered; the action or process of being received as adequate or suitable.
When I accepted the reality that Broadway stardom was not in the cards for me, I was able to receive the life that was being offered to me right now in that moment and move forward with the life that lay before me. It might not have been the life my 15-year-old self would have ever imagined but it was and still is a pretty awesome life. Accepting the loss of my dream also meant freedom from the resentment and sadness I had built up from holding onto the past. When I was finally able to let that go, I began to realize my life was adequate and suitable just as it is and therefore I was adequate and suitable just as I was.
So how does this apply to our body?
Think about what it feels like to “give up” on something (especially a diet or exercise plan that promises you your “dream body”). Usually there is resentment, shame and self hatred tied up in our actions or feelings of “giving up”; we hold onto the belief that there’s something we could have done differently to change our current situation or may be we should have tried harder or been more diligent or we may be we need to try a new plan or new potion when in fact that probably isn’t the case at all.
I’m no expert at menopause, but as far as the human body goes there are two things I know for certain, it’s always changing and our body is never “out to get us”. New blood is being pumped through our arteries every second, new skin cells will eventually replace the old and my short hair needs to be trimmed all the time. I also know that our body will do everything in its power in order for us survive; it’s programed to do this. So when weight gain suddenly happens to us lucky females at that certain age, it isn’t that our body trying to punish us or ruin our life, it’s simply doing the best it can to survive and thrive.
Giving up on your body is not my wish for anyone because when one gives up, one stops caring and it’s still important to care for your body by practicing healthy behaviors like getting adequate rest, movement and nourishment (all of which are best determined by you alone, not a diet guru who knows nothing about you and only wants your money).
If you’re in a period in your life where you body is changing, be it menopause, pregnancy, or even puberty, my hope for you is that you somehow find acceptance (and I know it’s much easier said than done). Acceptance is a process that might take a few minutes, a few hours or even a few days. It’s a process of both grieving the past and all the things you had hoped would have been or even think should presently be. Through this grieving and letting go, you’re then able to see the beauty of what actually is and it opens your heart to the practice of gratitude.
When you allow acceptance to truly enter your heart, you are free to finally realize that all you have in this very moment is enough and as a result you are enough.