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Fear of Self-Acceptance

By Michelle May, M.D.

When I talk or write about the importance of self-acceptance, some people feel afraid. For example one person left this comment: “If I accepted myself as I am why would I change? If I accept myself, I admit defeat.”

self acceptance finish lineWhile it may seem counterintuitive, self-acceptance is the starting line for change. It may help to think of it like this:

Let’s say you had a child who had some behaviors that needed to be addressed. If you said to that child, “You are horrible! I can’t stand you! I will love you and accept you when you stop ___________ (fill in the behavior).”

Would that child be motivated to change for the long run? Or would they feel wounded, unloved, and unworthy? Isn’t it more likely that the child will become a victim to others who criticize, bully, and abuse them too because they believe what their parent said? Or perhaps that child will become rebellious; after all, you told them they were horrible, so they might as well be.

On the other hand, if you said, “I love you so much! I want you to have a wonderful life. When you are ________________ (fill in the behavior), it creates problems for you and I don’t like to see you feeling so unhappy. Let’s work on this together so you can be all that you were meant to be!”

Doesn’t that feel different?

Now reread both paragraphs again but fill in the blank with “overeating” or whatever behavior you feel you need to change. It is a simple fact that lasting change is more likely to take place in a climate of love and understanding.

Take care of yourself because you love and accept yourself, not so you’ll love and accept yourself.


About the author

Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yo-yo dieter and the founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs and Training. She is the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: A Mindful Eating Program to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle , winner of seven publishing awards. She is also the author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating, and Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating for Bariatric Surgery. Michelle shares her compelling message and constructive keynotes with audiences around the country, offers workplace wellness programs, and has trained and licensed hundreds of health professionals to facilitate Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs worldwide. She has been featured on Dr. Oz, the Discovery Health Channel, and Oprah Radio, and quoted in Diabetic Living, Fitness, Health, Huffington Post, Parents, Self, USA Weekend, US News & World Report, WebMD and many others. Her personal success story was published in Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul. Michelle cherishes her relationships with her husband, Owen and grown children, Tyler and Elyse. She regularly enjoys practicing yoga and hiking near her home in Phoenix, Arizona. She and Owen, a professional chef, share a passion for gourmet and healthful cooking, wine tasting, photography, and traveling.

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