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Radical Self-Acceptance - 05/30/2020

When I was a little girl, before I got braces at age 11, I had a wide gap between my front teeth, and they stuck out, a little. It was funny-looking. After I got my braces, the whole shape of my jaw changed, my teeth receded, and the gap disappeared. Unfortunately, this didn't happen in time for me to escape the nickname "Yellow Fang." It was cruel, but it wasn't inaccurate. My teeth were a little yellow - I was just born that way - and one of my front teeth was slightly more prominent than the other. So this moniker stuck. I got taunted with other nicknames about my physical traits when I was a child - pug nose, no-neck, thunder thighs - but somehow Yellow Fang was the one that stayed with me. I even had a couple of agents when I was acting in Hollywood tell me that I would never land a national commercial unless I got veneers. Apparently they were right, but I never did get veneers. Veneers cost a lot of money.

So here I am now, at the advanced age of 62 as of midnight this evening, still thinking about the little girl I was and how deeply she was hurt by insults like these. Spending a lot of time alone in the desert can have that effect on me. But I have developed a way of dealing with the sadness that I still feel, and I've been passing it on to the little girls that I taught when I was a substitute. Hopefully I'll be able to do that again post-COVID. And the isolation of COVID has only reinforced the need for this plan. I call it radical self-acceptance.

Radical self-acceptance involves changing the way you think about yourself. If you struggle with self-esteem issues relating to your body image, you've probably been hurt, as I was, by cruel nicknames and taunts. If you are a woman that grew up in the 1970s, like I did, you undoubtedly thought you were "fat" at some point, no matter how thin you actually were. And unfortunately, you probably still think that when you look in the mirror. Or maybe, like me, you see no-neck, thunder thighs, or Yellow Fang. But what you have got to do is to replace those cruel thoughts with loving thoughts, every single time you think them.

During my long illness, my weight has gone up from 20 pounds added during the first two months I was on steroids, to 20 more during a period of chronic hepatitis, and back down to about 15 pounds over where I was when I got diagnosed. And that is still 20 pounds heavier than I was in high school, when I was very thin but thought of myself as fat and dieted constantly. I couldn't do very much about my weight post-steroids, because I was too sick to exercise, and spending so much time in bed that I gained weight no matter what I ate. Thankfully, my doctors told me not to worry about it then, that it would come off, and it has, but so slowly. So what I do is look at myself in the mirror, and practice absolute acceptance of my size, no matter how big (or small) I may be. I practice gratitude for my body, for still being able to walk, stand, lift, drive, think, talk, and write. It has been through a lot, and I owe my body complete acceptance and love.

And that is what I tell my little female students, when they are in tears about what some boy has said, or when they have been teased about "throwing like a girl." I tell them, "Yes, you are a mighty girl. You can do wonderful things. Of course you throw like a girl - a mighty girl!" I tell them not to listen to what people say, but to just be themselves and appreciate the things they can do. Their beaming faces after I have these talks with them make me feel so good. And I have also reclaimed Yellow Fang. Now, when I think of that nickname, I revise it to "Yellow Fang, the Warrior Princess." She is also a mighty girl, who has done and will do great things. Yes, she has made mistakes, and enemies, and she has regrets. But she is still a warrior, persisting in living a full and rich life despite obstacles. Despite having slightly yellow teeth, and being a little overweight. I offer her the most radical gift I can give: that of complete self-acceptance. It may be the most important lesson I have ever learned. And how would I have learned it, if not for Yellow Fang? Thank you, Warrior Princess. Oh, and Happy Birthday.

#Bullying #SelfEsteem #SelfAcceptance #AMightyGirl #WarriorPrincess

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