Thinking, Being, Doing
You can’t self-help your way back to radical self-love. Reading this book will not be enough to get you there because radical self-love is a return to the love of our whole being. It requires a whole-being approach to our lives and bodies. Living a radical self-love life is a process of: thinking, doing, being.
Have you ever spent time with your thoughts? Whew, talk about a scene from the film The Exorcist. Our thoughts are an amalgamation of all manner of input mixed with a dash of original content. Often it’s a mess in there, a vessel filled with self-loathing and judgment. It’s unsurprising that we avoid being present with our thoughts. We think tons of repugnant, petrifying, miserable things about our own bodies and other folks’ bodies every single day. It’s easy to slip into a pit of shame for having these thoughts.
Being intimately connected to our thoughts is not enough to change our behaviors. Knowing why we do something will not necessarily keep us from doing it. Doing is a choice. It is an act of will. Doing often demands that we act despite our thoughts. When we are no longer on autopilot, we are forced to deal with the discomfort of new action. Think of radical self-love as resistance training against our decades-old, tight, calcified thoughts. Adopting actions that promote radical self-love is comparable to working a muscle that has not been moved in years. It’s going to be sore and tender.
Children are a glorious example of this ability to radiate love. Having not yet experienced layers of body shame, young kids are reflections of the source relationship of all our beings: love. We, too, can access that source relationship. Through the power of thought and action we become who we have always been; we enter a new way of being in our bodies and in the world. We return to our inherent state of being: radical self-love.
Four Pillars of Practice
We know that adopting a radical self-love lifestyle is a process of thinking, doing, and being. But changing the way we think, act, and are in our daily lives can feel like an assignment of planetary proportions. The four pillars of practice can help us corral our wily thinking, fortify love-laden action, and give us access to a new way of being in the world.
Pillar 1: Taking Out the Toxic
Marketers diversify their body-terrorism tactics with both conscious and subconscious directives. There is nothing subconscious about “Don’t delay! Lose that unsightly belly fat now!” Advertisements like this are designed for immediacy, urging you to act now because your body is awful!
Equally sinister are the advertisements that remind us by repetition and erasure that unless we are youthful, blonde, thin, able-bodied, and muscular, with perfectly white teeth and glossy hair, we are fatally flawed and will need their product… eventually. Body-Shame Profit Complex profiteers know it is easier and more economically efficient to sell us body shame directly, to simply say “You suck” rather than allude to it. They prefer to highlight your epic flaws in grand detail on repeat until you get up off your couch and go give them your money!
Not only does this toxic messaging impact our spending, turning us into detriment buyers, but it also impacts how we talk about ourselves and others. What can we do to get out of the toxic sludge of media marketing? Limit our media intake. If we cannot limit it, be intentional about what we ingest. Next time you are watching television, notice what commercials your favorite shows air between scenes. Those commercials indicate what advertisers believe about you as a consumer. Commercials use racial and gender stereotypes to target your wallets because they know that doing so works.
Pillar 2: Mind Matters
Reintegrating our brains and our bodies is a necessity for a radical self-love life. Pillar 2 highlights how our reintegration gives us access to new levels of care and offers us new opportunities to examine our thought patterns and, with hard work, create new ones.
Expanding our mind’s capacity for radical self-love means we may need to tear down some mental walls. If radical self-love is an open floor plan, expanding our space for connection and joy, rigidity and judgment are concrete walls, cutting off visibility and partitioning us off from our best lives. Pillar 2 is about expansive thinking, and expansive thinking is not possible unless we see our bodies and our lives with nuance. We are not either/or beings; we comprise a multitude of grey shades. Inviting love into our contradictions and uncertainties takes a wrecking ball to those concrete slabs of separation, giving us much more space to decorate with love.
Pillar 3: Unapologetic Action
It is difficult to deeply love a stranger. Familiarity breeds fondness. Pillar 3, unapologetic action, asks us to get to know these bodies of ours. If you have been avoiding looking at or touching your body, this is your chance to shift.
Not only have we avoided intimately knowing our bodies; we have forgotten that our bodies like doing stuff—walking, dancing, running, having sex! Body shame has severed our love of activity. In the chronicles of body shame, movement became a thing we avoided lest we jiggle while in motion! Unapologetic action is our departure from those old stories, prompting us to reconnect to the joys of movement.
Many of us cannot recall a time when moving our bodies was something other than a way to punish them for failing to meet society’s fictitious ideals. But just as we were once babies who loved our bodies, we were also babies who loved moving them. We can invite ourselves back to this place. There was magic there.
Pillar 4: Collective Compassion
Have you ever run into someone many years after the last time you saw them only to discover that they had undergone some phenomenal inner transformation?
Perhaps they got sober after years of addiction. Maybe they healed a relationship that appeared completely irreparable from the outside. Whatever the transformation, when you saw them, you were flabbergasted. I am guessing your next thought was not, “Hey! I could totally do that!” For most humans, transformation does not seem achievable from the distant shores of another person’s life. From far away, transformation looks like a miracle, or the result of magical powers possessed by the transformed person.
Up close we can also see that they are not doing the work alone! Transformation and healing demand that we open ourselves up to others. For many of us, this is the highest hurdle on the radical self-love road. Body shame and body terrorism have made us profoundly distrusting. We’ve been judged and mocked too many times. We have vowed to never subject ourselves to such hurt again.
But learning to trust others is indivisible from learning to trust yourself. You will need to practice both to get back to radical self-love. If you are working to rid yourself of years of body shame by being Clark Kent in a phone booth, you will not come out as Superman. You are going to need someone to lean against while you pull up those tights. Truthfully, radical self-love is not the work of superheroes but of community and connection. Pillar 4 asks you to move beyond self-reliance to collective care. We must learn to be with each other if we plan to get free.
A World for All Bodies Is a World for Our Bodies
Yes, we have been cutting and cruel to ourselves and have watched our internalized shame spill over into how we parent, how we manage employees, how we show up to friends and family. Yes, we believed that our bodies were too big, too dark, too pale, too scarred, too ugly, so we tucked, folded, hid ourselves away and wondered why our lives looked infinitesimally smaller than what we knew we were capable of. Yes, we have been less vibrant employees, less compassionate neighbors, less tolerant of the bodies of others, not because we are bad people but because we are guilty of each of those counts against ourselves.
Our lens to the outside world is an interior lens projecting our experience in our bodies onto our external landscape. A shame-clouded interior lens can only project shame and judgment. Employing a radical self-love ethos is like squirting Windex on our daily lives: suddenly we can see ourselves as employees or employers, as parents and friends, as neighbors and community members, as leaders, thinkers, doers—as humans, distinctly connected to other humans. Applying radical self-love to each facet of these roles and responsibilities alters the very fabric of humanity, ultimately creating a more just, equitable, and compassionate world.
As we cultivate new ways of being in our own bodies, we develop new ways of being on this planet with other bodies. A return to radical self-love requires our commitment to building shame-free, inclusive communities that uplift one another while honestly addressing body terrorism in all the ways it manifests as oppression based on age, race, gender, size, ability, sexual orientation, mental health status, and all other human attributes. Some will deride our efforts with charges of playing to “identity politics.”
We should remind those people that they, too, have identities that are informed by their bodies. Their lack of awareness about those identities generally means their body falls into a multiplicity of default identities that uphold the social hierarchy of bodies. The luxury of not having to think about one’s body always comes at another body’s expense. We should, with compassion, remind them that oppression oppresses us all, even those who are default. Not even they will always have a body at the top of the ladder. No one wins in a world of body terrorism.
As you move the conversation of radical self-love from an internal dialogue out into your family, community, and world, try on the Unapologetic Agreements that appear below. Commit to engaging in the type of radical self-love communication that grows our understanding of ourselves and one another—the type of communication that fosters global change.
- Be a body-shame-free friend.
Eliminate language that disparages bodies based on race, age, size, gender, ability, sexual orientation, religion, mental health status, or any other attribute. Compassionately challenge others you hear using body-shame language to describe themselves or others.
- Engage and encourage curiosity-driven dialogue, not debate or arguing.
Practice the value of sharing and listening to the perspectives of others. The goal of dialogue need not be to change anyone’s mind, but to offer and receive a perspective for consideration and curiosity.
- Embrace multiple perspectives.
Avoid having conversations from the assumption of right and wrong. Even if every cell in your body disagrees with someone’s perspective, remember that making people “bad” and “wrong” will never build connection and understanding. People who feel judged and attacked often only become further entrenched in their ideas.
- Have compassion for and honor people’s varied journeys.
Not everyone has read the books you’ve read or had the experiences you’ve had. There was a time when you had not had them either. Our journeys are unique and varied. Compassion births patience.
- Acknowledge intent while addressing impact.
It is possible to be well-meaning and still cause harm. No matter our intention, we practice accountability when we are willing to acknowledge the impact of our words and actions on others. Likewise, people’s words and behaviors may have an impact on us, but they are rarely actually about us. The way we respond to situations is most often a reflection of our own journey. Refraining from personalization makes accepting discomfort easier.
the Unapologetic Agreements transform hostility into human connection and acrimony into camaraderie. Like all radical self-love principles, they will take time and effort to master. But keep working at it. “You will be amazed before you are even halfway through.”