Roadside Assistance —
The following review is based on a review copy of the book I received from the author.
Tom Cochrane was right: life is a highway. And so is the journey to self-acceptance.
We tend to think of self-acceptance as a destination, an end to which we aspire. We see confidence as something you achieve and then never have to think of again, like a superhero in a video game acquiring a new power that is theirs to keep. But even the most confident of people can tell you that this isn’t the case. Self-acceptance and confidence is like a car rolling down the highway of life — you may have built yourself a pretty reliable vehicle, but accidents happen. And sometimes, even the most self-confident of people get a flat tire.
The important part of self-acceptance is starting that journey and getting onto that highway. Yeah, you may have to pull over from time to time to do some repairs to your vehicle, but so long as you keep moving forward, you will be amazed at how much distance you can conquer over time.
Springtime can be a trying time for your self-acceptance journey, as you pass billboard after billboard after billboard reminding you that “bikini season” is coming and your body isn’t “ready” for it. But as we all know, there’s only one way to not have a bikini body and that’s to not have a body (I’m looking at you, Anne Uumellmahaye).
Of course, we can rationally accept the fact that we all deserve to be happy and comfortable at the beach, while at the same time struggling to actually live that truth. The whole journey of self-acceptance is our attempt to get from theories and platitudes and desires into real, actual lived experience.
We don’t just want to know that our bodies are fine the way they are, we want to live in our life without fear of the opinions of others, which can scramble that knowledge with a careless word or sidelong glance. For those just starting out on the journey of self-acceptance, the biggest question is how. How do I go from being self-conscious and self-loathing to self-accepting and self-loving?
There are all kinds of answers to that, which Fat and Body Acceptance are all about. Finding body positive blogs or subreddits that encourage self-acceptance can help, as can making friends with body-positive people. But one underutilized method of digging into your own insecurities and uprooting them all is art therapy.
Art therapy combines the fields of art and psychotherapy in a way that allows people to “transfer” the thoughts and feelings they may struggle with into a tangible project that can help exorcise the demons within. By expressing yourself through art, you learn to expel negativity in a productive way.
Our very own Dr. Deah has written a book on Body Acceptance that incorporates humor, introspection and art therapy into a handy, dandy map for navigating the highway of self-acceptance.
Dr. Deah’s Calmanac mimics the original, folksy Farmer’s Almanac, a “compendium of knowledge on weather, gardening, cooking, home remedies, managing your household, preserving the earth, and more.” What Dr. Deah has created with her Calmanac is a compendium of knowledge on self-acceptance, self-care, soul remedies, managing your self-image and preserving your self-worth.
Going month by month, Dr. Deah covers the table on how the seasons affect our self-esteem, illustrating with anecdotes and experience from the world around us, as well as her own time as a clinician, teacher and performer. These Personal Perspective sections can trigger both chuckles and deep thoughts, before outlining the Predictable Challenges that each month of the year presents.
The Calmanac also include Important Dates to Remember. For instance, did you know the first week of March is “Love Your Body Week”? If not, participating in that celebration through social media can be one of those little things you do as part of your routine maintenance that keeps your mind and body humming along smoothly.
Finally, there are the Proactivities, which I would argue are the bread and butter of the Calmanac. Dr. Deah has developed two Proactivities per month, such as designing an album cover that represents all the things you already like and accept about yourself, even if others tell you that you can’t or shouldn’t. Dr. Deah explains that this project is a way to “begin to explore our own definition of what is consonant and dissonant about our self-image.”
Speaking from personal experience, much of the discomfort we feel with ourselves stems directly from that dissonance between what we think is great about us and what others tell us is not so great. When given the option between believing ourselves or believing others, we most often decide that others are more “objective” and therefore more correct. But Dr. Deah encourages you to write down those things that you believe about yourself, to manifest them and make them real, and to accept them as true, regardless of what others say.
This is the beauty of the Calmanac: finding sweet, simple ways to extract the negativity from your soul, to put it on paper, and to leave it outside of yourself so that healing and self-acceptance can fill the void you leave behind.
Body Acceptance is hard, lifelong work, but it’s worth it. Jumping on the highway of self-acceptance can seem daunting at first, or even over time when you experience those flat tires, but by embracing the challenge and picking up as many tools as you can along the way, you will cover quite a bit of ground in a single lifetime. The real key is to just get started.