Radvent day 12: Acceptance

Let’s talk about self-acceptance, acceptance of circumstances, and curtailing negative behavior that is keeping us in cycles of nonacceptance. Take inventory of the flaws–either in yourself or in others–that you are constantly checking up on. How much of that do you have the power to change?

One thing that always used to get to me were snarky blog comments. Sometimes people who leave rude comments are just jerks, and the veil of anonymity does amplify someone’s courage to say something awful. However, I try not to accept constructive suggestions and not hear every dissenting voice as negative. I’ve been wrong before about something I’ve said, and I accept that I’ll be wrong again someday! I also accept that some people enjoy making fun of others–can’t change that. Just gotta roll with it and react in my own way.

Pay someone an earnest compliment.

And pay an earnest compliment about someone to someone else. (Like their mom, if you know her.) (I’m really into telling moms that their kids are cool.) (Maybe because I am one now and it makes my heart sing.) When I think about what I like about someone else, I feel like it temporarily makes all of my inner self-talk more positive as well.

Laugh at a mistake and apologize for something.

Accept the mundane and completely normal imperfections you have. It’s easier to stop beating myself up about misreading an e-mail or cutting someone off on accident while driving, or forgetting a detail or cancelling an appointment when I remember that the same things happen to everyone. I’m not the queen of unreliability or irresponsibility–I’m normal and I accept my own strengths and challenges because I already accept them in others.

Wear something that fits well.

Don’t plan for the body you wish you had. Dress the beautiful form you have today so you can take your mind off the way it fits. Whenever I wear something too small (like from pre-pregnancy time), I WANT to feel like I used to feel in it but I just feel big. I feel the seams stretching, and I feel like people can tell that it’s not my size. I kept those clothes, but they’re out of rotation for now. I don’t miss it!

Tweet some self-acceptance

In 140 characters, tweet a simple statement about yourself without using physical characteristics. Just write. Describe who you are and what you care about and share it with the world. And if you have space left, tag me!!

“If a person is to get the meaning of life he must learn to like the facts about himself–ugly as they may seem to his sentimental vanity–before he can learn the truth behind the facts. And the truth is never ugly.

-Eugene O’Neill

Today I went back to the gym for the first time. It wasn’t a planned excursion.

An entire new course of my life started in February 2012 when an unflattering photo gave me the motivation to start an exercise regimen. Before my wedding I had purchased a top-tier gym membership for life that asks a mere $19.99 yearly fee after the first three years as a member. The three years had passed and I always had this nagging voice calling out to me at the bottom of my to-do list: “Take advantage of that lifetime gym membership you invested in and get some endorphins pumping! You need em, girl!”

So I February of this year I began doing that. I didn’t have to buy new gym clothes or shoes, I just had to put them on and get out the front door. The more I made myself go through the motions of getting my body to the gym, the more ritualized it became: Purple shoes, black shorts, t-shirt, headphones, ipod, one hour running, half an hour of shoulders-chest-legs-triceps, and half an hour of steam room to reward myself. It was a strenuous schedule to start with but I saw renewed tone in my body and, even better, an unexpected surge of self-confidence and energy came even more quickly. I looked forward to the gym–it’s where I read, it’s where I had privacy, it’s where my only competition was myself. Can I run one more mile? Can I lift five more pounds? And then ending the session in the steam room alone, feeling the comfort of the heat penetrate my skin and the sweat roll down my face. It was ritualistic, it was the same every day, and I looked forward to maintaining the routine for months to come, transitioning to outdoor exercise when the warm months came.

After many pounds lost and much self-esteem gained, I started dabbling more in feminism, spurred partly by my self-image as a woman of strength and partly by many activists I had started following on Twitter, reading their 140-character messages and the links they posted as I ran on the elliptical each night. One night as I was running and reading, I sensed the presence of one of the overnight employees standing behind me. I turned to look at him, and he approached me and put his hand square on my butt. Just a nice big grab. I nearly fell of the machine, yelled, and shoved his hand away, my heart racing from the fear of injuring myself and the anger at being assaulted. The man walked away laughing, looking back at me.
I looked around the room. The man running a few spaces down from me hadn’t turned his head. I then looked up at the clock and noticed the time so I could report it, and then looked directly at the surveillance camera above me and pointed at it. I filed my report the next day, I talked to every manager and HR representative up the ladder to the national corporate office, and to make a long story short, nothing was done. No ramifications for this employee. No consequences for his violence against a woman, a customer.

It isn’t my intention for that awful memory to be the point of this post, but I wanted to explain the background. I am NOT glad the incident happened, I am ANGRY at the gym for letting that employee harass women with no consequences, but I decided to keep my membership at the establishment and try to work out during different hours, or with a self-defense weapon.

Now it’s December. Fast forward. I have had a grocery bag with my gym clothes in it at the ready in my car at all times, so when I feel the urge to return to the place where I had these amazing feelings of achievement, the conquering of goals and self-doubt, I can be there and return to it all. But I didn’t. For over six months I didn’t. I just saw the gym bag and felt sad. Or I’d drive past the intersection where I used to turn on my way there and feel sad. Or I’d wonder if that employee was still working my shift and feel afraid. It fueled my feminist indignation, my learning about how women’s bodies are commodified and objectified in other areas and subcultures, and it fueled my growth past hating other women, seeing them as competition, being jealous of them, I changed so much and I’ve talked about it a lot. I wanted to be strong, I wanted to feel empowered in my rights. And every time I drove past that building, the gleaming mirrors reflecting flat-screen televisions and treadmills and fitness trainers into the street, I felt afraid.

And tonight I went. And that employee was there working, alone. It was just us at 2am in the big, empty gym. I just got on with it. I put my things in the locker room, took my safety cat to the elliptical, queued up a funny show on Hulu Plus and started running. I never looked at him. I did the whole routine, and I sat in the steam room, and I left.

I asked myself all night, what changed? What changed in me that made this okay? I don’t know, maybe this isn’t the right answer (I should ask my therapist, she always knows), but I think I just felt too fatigued. The anger made me tired. This damaged, sad monster of a person had used up all the emotional energy I could give him, and the only thing left was the truth that I wanted to run. I wanted to feel sweat roll down my back as I increased my weight limit. I had the right to do it wherever I wanted, I had a great deal on a gym membership, and I would never ever let someone take away the pleasure of exercise from me again. It was a kind of acceptance–not forgiveness, not understanding, but acceptance of what happened and that nothing could change it and my rights hadn’t changed. So I went, I ran, I sweat, and that man’s ashamed eyes never once met mine. My body is my space, and I only listen to what it tells me.


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7 thoughts on “Radvent day 12: Acceptance”

  1. That is horrible. I can’t believe someone treated you like that, and even worse, that the company didn’t do ANYTHING! The company mess is so hard to accept. I though we’d progressed.
    Good for you for going back there. Don’t let him take something you love away from you, even if you are a little afraid. I think it’s ok and natural to have a little bit of fear after something like that happens. I would be.

  2. Wow. What a post. What an experience you’ve had. SO HAPPY you went back to the gym and feel empowered and are starting to conquer this demon. You are amazing. Here is my post (not as amazing, but still thoughtful): http://marriedcatpeople.blogspot.com/2012/12/radvent-day-12-acceptance.html

  3. Rachel says:

    You go girl.

  4. Kristine says:

    This is a gorgeous post, Megan–I really admire how you’ve been able to find acceptance within yourself without compromising your rights. This is one of my favorite Radvent posts that you’ve done. http://www.thesuburbanprairie.com/2012/12/radvent-acceptance.html

  5. Tess says:

    What an empowering message. You are amazing. I think acceptance is a form of forgiveness because actually both have nothing to do with anyone but yourself, so congratulations for reaching it.

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