Adventures In Body Acceptance: Letting Go Of The “Have To”s

I have a confession to make.

In the last few weeks, I’ve only shampooed my hair once (and that was actually kind of an accident).

Some of you are probably thinking, “That’s gross!” Some of you are probably thinking, “I’ve been there.” And some of you are thinking, didn’t I just read about this last week?

Actually, you’re all kind of right. I’ve decided to try out “no-pooing.” If you’re curious about this at all, I wrote a kind of extensive post about it here. I decided to do it for a number of reasons, but mostly because it’s supposed to reset your scalp and make it less oily, my hair color will probably last longer, and it’s an environmentally friendly thing to do.

A "No-Poo" Exemplar? (Edgar Degas "Woman Washing", public domain)

I decided to do this on a whim, but not shampooing my hair has actually been weirdly difficult for me. I’ve been washing my hair every day since junior high, mostly because I was deathly afraid of having greasy hair. My hair is both oily and fine, so I washed it every day without fail because I thought it looked even finer when it wasn’t washed.

But when I really connect to the emotions behind this, I think it also had to do with the body hatred and the particularly awkward stage I went through in 6th grade. I was chronically unhappy with my body, and puberty was exacerbating all of that. I was dieting all the time and struggling to be thin (with very low levels of success), so I thought that at the very least I could have the best hair that I possibly could. Washing and styling my hair every day was something within my control. Having perfectly squeaky clean hair was both socially acceptable and a form of body denial. As Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby noted in Lessons From The Fatosphere, “fat” is such a charged word because it’s often meant to stand in for a variety of adjectives, including “smelly [and] undisciplined.” So it was important to me as a fat kid to be able to deny those other ascriptions.

Now more than 20 years later, I’ve let go of so many “have to”s about my body, the biggest one being the idea that I have to lose weight before I can do, be, and have a variety of things. I don’t see losing weight as a precondition to happiness anymore, which has been hugely transformative. And yet, I find it interesting when these other “have to”s come up. Things like letting go of the “have to” of washing my hair every day has actually deepened my appreciation and approval of my body. I know that if I work through the resistance and let go of the “have to,” big things happen. Sometimes the littlest action yield big results.

So I’d like to challenge you to let go of one of your appearance-related “have to”s. This can be really challenging, so I would recommend trying it out for even half a day first. Just notice how you feel, what feels different, what fears come up. This can be really magical. And I’m not suggesting anything I haven’t tried myself. (And I know that for some of you, these things will not be challenging at all or are just part of your daily life, while for others this will be much more difficult.) Here are a couple of suggestions, just to start you off:

  1. Go out wearing no makeup (or a lot less makeup than you usually do).
  2. Try a no-poo option for a few days.
  3. Go out without wearing a bra or with a much less constructed bra than usual.
  4. Go “commando.”
  5. Go much longer without shaving your legs or underarms.
  6. Stop wearing deodorant.
  7. Wear an outfit that is more form fitting than you’re used to.
  8. Wear an outfit that is baggier/looser than you’re used to.
  9. Wear an outfit that draws attention to a body part that you normally hide.
  10. If you normally straighten your hair, try letting it be curly, or vice versa.

These relatively simple action steps can feel like a huge deal, but they can also yield big reward and be extremely freeing. Let me know what you try and how it went on my Facebook page!

Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. Go to http://www.bodylovewellness.com/free to get your free download – Golda’s Top Ten Tips For Divine Dining!

4 thoughts on “Adventures In Body Acceptance: Letting Go Of The “Have To”s”

  1. Been doing the no-poo for over two years (sort of).  I wash my hair maybe every 10 – 14 days.  In between, I use baby powder to soak up the oil.  Love it!

    My color stays awesome – like just out of the salon awesome.  It also has gotten used to not being washed; I have slower oil build-up. I now have a whole arsenal of creative hairstyles to appear non-greasy/dirty.

  2. I only wash my hair every few days, only sometimes wear make up and often don’t shave my legs.  But I can’t conceive of leaving the house without a bra or without shaving my armpits.  I have large boobs so I’ve just always strapped ’em in and headed out.  I feel really self conscious without a bra.  Maybe something I’ll try after work one day… It is funny how odd I thought it was that someone would feel self conscious about not wearing make up or not washing their hair everyday ’til I thought about my own routine and the things I don’t think I could stop doing…

  3. I always shaved, every day, even though my body hair is very fine and fair.  My mother was extremely conservative, so my peers were shaving years (literally) before I was allowed to.  As a result I was teased mercilessly for being ‘hairy’ during my early teen years.  As a result I shaved (once I was allowed) religiously.  I never had a “I can’t wear shorts because I didn’t shave today” day.  Fast forward a bunch of years and now I’m a mother of three small children.  Having more than 5 minutes to shower without interruption seems a vacation.  So I started skipping shaving.  The first time I thought I’d be “icky” all day.  But I wasn’t.  So I skipped shaving again.  In fact I went 3 whole days without shaving.  It was really cool.  I used to force time to shower in the morning, even when I didn’t really have time, just so I could shave.  No I don’t have to do that.  And you’re right, the littlest changes can yield big results!

     

  4. I actually have just started going out in public in a sports bra, rather than my standard industrial-strength boulder-holder.  It’s been freaking me out, because it changes the proportions of my body (I have always taken comfort that my boobs stick out further than my belly, and in a sports bra, they don’t.) While I don’t think I’ll start going to work or formal occasions in a sports bra, it sure is nice for errand running!

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