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Body Image and the “Serenity Prayer”

If you’re perfectly happy with your body, thank you very much, and if you’ve never struggled with the issue of body image or self acceptance – well, you probably won’t be particularly interested in reading any further.

But if you’ve ever obsessed about your weight, or felt dissatisfied with your looks, or wished you could change something about your body – and I suspect, sadly, that many of you can relate to this – then you just might appreciate these musings.

I’m guessing that you’ve probably heard of the Serenity Prayer – you know,

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

While the Serenity Prayer has often been used by and incorporated into various twelve-step programs, I believe it can also be effective in working through body image and self acceptance issues.

Though I have a long way to go in my journey, I’d like to share with you some of my insights as I’ve been meditating on the Serenity Prayer and applying it to my own struggles in this area.

Serenity to Accept

Barring extreme surgery or the unlikely invention of a time machine, I must recognize that there are certain facts about my body, my choices, my history – all of which contribute to my body image as it stands today – that simply cannot be changed or undone.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change

  • my body type and overall weight distribution
  • my bone structure and frame
  • my height
  • the size of my feet
  • the shape of my hands
  • the shape of my fingernails
  • the texture and thickness of my hair
  • the manner and culture in which I was raised
  • the attitudes I learned
  • the time I have wasted
  • the mistakes I have made
  • my failures
  • others’ opinions of me or my behaviour

My acceptance of these facts as unchangeable relinquishes me from their power to distract my efforts and energy away from the things over which I do have control.

Courage to Change

I recognize and celebrate the fact that there are a great many areas of my life that are well within my power to change… and drawing on my courage and inner strength to do so will help guide me towards redefining my body image into a healthy, positive vision of self acceptance.

Courage to change the things I can

  • I can learn positive ways of thinking and translate them into positive behaviours.
  • I can cultivate new beliefs and attitudes about life, myself, my body, my choices.
  • I can learn from my upbringing and culture by keeping the good and discarding the unhelpful.
  • I can choose when and what I eat.
  • I can become active and fit.
  • I can reach and maintain a healthy weight.
  • I can choose to take care of myself by visiting the doctor and dentist regularly, getting enough sleep, staying hydrated.
  • I can choose to make the most of what I have by paying attention to my outward appearance and accentuating the positive with flattering clothes, hair, makeup.
  • I can make the most of every new day I’m given.
  • I can proactively plan for the future.
  • I can learn to forgive myself and move on when I stumble or fall.
  • I can plan for success.

I am not a victim!

Wisdom to Know

And wisdom to know the difference

My experience has been that wisdom to know the difference comes by setting aside the time to meditate on these issues… by being willing to explore some uncomfortable and possibly painful feelings… by putting nebulous thoughts into tangible words.

And then it’s about making wise choices…

…the choice to take the list of unchangeables and set it aside – not to be forgotten, for it is part of who I am, but to be put in its place and not given another moment of wishful thinking or regret.

…the choice to be courageous and take control over the items on the list of things that can be changed.

…the choice to stop, and think, and be aware when something slips from one list to the other and, gently but firmly, put it back in its rightful place.

Your thoughts?

Laurel Storey, CZT – Certified Zentangle Teacher. Writer, reader, tangler, iPhoneographer, cat herder, learner of French and Italian, crocheter, needle felter, on-and-off politics junkie, 80s music trivia freak, ongoing work in progress.