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Top 3 Qualities

For healing, thriving, and body neutrality…

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Someone recently asked me what I thought the three most important qualities, skills, or areas of knowledge were.

Image of a chalkboard with skills listed

It was a sort of “what advice would you give to newcomers” question, intended to be focused on body neutrality, so at first my mind went to qualities like self-compassion, authenticity, empowerment, and resilience. It went to skills like intuitive eating, emotional literacy, self-advocacy, mindfulness, communication, and self-care. And it went to the importance of learning about things like diet culture, weight stigma, nervous system regulation, the mind-body connection, and systemic oppression.

But as I thought back on a decade of helping clients feel better in their bodies and their lives, I realized my answers would actually be the same whether the “goal” was cultivating body neutrality, self-acceptance and self-worth, mental/physical health, fulfilling relationships, or just the overarching ability to thrive. 


Because most of our pain and suffering comes from a similar place. The superficial details and topics vary widely, but fundamentally most of our pain and suffering comes down to the same deeper issues: 

  1. Fear. (Of pain, loss, isolation, or annihilation.)

  2. Shame. (Feeling like there is something wrong with us.)

With that in mind, I think the most important qualities/skills/knowledge a person can have or develop apply equally in all areas of life. And while there are many important ones to choose from, I’ve decided to focus on the following three, which I’ve seen consistently have the biggest impact:

  1. Courage. It’s so scary to really face yourself, including both the hard stuff (like your pain, shame, trauma, and neediness) and the stuff that seems like it should be easy or pleasant (like your pleasure, joy, desire, and intuition). It takes an extraordinary amount of courage to look inward, and even more to acknowledge, accept, heal, and integrate everything you find there. It often feels a lot safer and easier to avoid ourselves—for example, by spending our lives numbing, repressing, or distracting ourselves with the endless pursuit of external validation or “perfection”—but all the things we crave most most (think: intimacy, authenticity, belonging, peace, joy, and contentment) are on the other side of this courageous self-examination. 

  2. A Shift in Accountability. Most of us have internalized a victim-blaming model of accountability (due at least in part to the western value for “rugged individualism”), in which everything that happens to us is our responsibility and/or fault. We learn that respect has to be “earned,” which means we become accountable for other people’s behavior, and we dutifully take on the task of looking/acting however we learn will “make” other people treat us with respect. This distorted view of accountability makes us inadvertently blame ourselves or our bodies for the bad things that happen to us, and leads to a lot of shame and anxiety (not to mention body image issues!), because we come to believe that if someone hurt, violated, or disrespected us, we either must have done something to make them do it, or we must have been a bad or broken person deep down who “deserved” it. The truth is that each of us is only accountable for ourselves, and everyone else is accountable for themselves. If someone treats you with disrespect or cruelty, it’s because they’re disrespectful or cruel (or perhaps, if it’s easier to think of it this way, because they’ve inadvertently internalized disrespect and cruelty from a culture that upholds and encourages such ideas and behavior), not because you’re unworthy of respect or kindness. Holding others accountable for their bad behavior instead of yourself/your body is a crucial part of releasing shame, and recognizing that other people are accountable for their own thoughts, feelings, and needs (while you are accountable for your own) dramatically reduces stress and anxiety, and makes life feel a lot simpler and more enjoyable. Personally, shifting accountability for other people’s opinions, needs, and behavior from me to them is one of the most powerfully impactful and empowering things I ever did in my own healing journey, and I see the same thing play out for my clients all the time. 

Principles of Accountability

3. Curiosity.

The human experience is strange and fascinating and complex; on the one

hand we’re these incredibly intelligent and highly evolved beings, and on the other hand we’re just animals following our inborn instincts to survive. Plus our brains and bodies are connected, which means our physical state impacts how we feel, what we think, and what we do… and what we feel, think, and do also impacts our physical state. Put another way, everything we feel, think, and do makes sense and serves a purpose— even if our conscious and logical minds don’t understand it, don’t like it, or don’t agree with it. The problem is that when we align ourselves with our conscious and logical minds, we not only miss out on a ton of important information, but we also get locked into patterns of self-judgment and self-criticism. It’s very easy, for example, to watch ourselves make “bad decisions,” and conclude that we must just be lacking in intelligence, discipline, or moral character… but when we remember that we don’t do anything for no reason, we can get curious about those decisions, and explore what deeper factors might have led to them, and how they might have actually been serving or protecting us! This is why, though it might feel counterintuitive to some folks, it’s actually curiosity (rather than judgment, shame, or self-rejection) that allows us to access the information we need to understand, address, and even change our thoughts, feelings, and behavior in the long term. Plus, judgment and curiosity are mutually exclusive, which means you can’t really experience both at the same time. Think about it: judgment has a kind of self-righteous certainty to it, doesn’t it? It supposes that you have all the answers already, and that your opinion is objectively factual, even when you’re just making up a story. Despite the incredibly limited information you’re working with, you feel very certain about your conclusions– you just know that the person who cut you off in traffic is an asshole, for example, or you’re positive that if anyone found out about the parts of yourself you try to keep hidden, you would end up completely abandoned and alone. There is an element of narcissistic and delusional certainty to our judgments, as well as a concrete finality. When you’re that sure about something, there’s really nowhere to go and nothing to do, which keeps you stuck and miserable. For example, if you’re sure you can’t love/accept yourself because you’re fat, and you’re fat because you’re a failure, then there’s nothing to do but feel bad about yourself, is there? Curiosity, on the other hand, invites us into humility. It requires us to acknowledge that we don’t have all the information, and that in fact we might never have all the information, to consider our own interpretations as objective facts. That’s why stepping into a mindset of curiosity tends to immediately turn the volume down on judgment and criticism. Let’s return to the previous example, but say you approach the topic with curiosity instead of judgment this time! Recognizing that your beliefs are subjective interpretations rather than facts, and that you never think, feel, or do anything for no reason, you interrogate your beliefs (that you can only feel good about yourself if you’re thin, and that fatness equals failure) from a place of curiosity. Where might those beliefs have come from, and who might have benefits from them? How have they impacted you, and how true are they, really? What do you think/hope would actually be different in your life if you were thinner, and are there ways of going after those things more directly? How are weight and worthiness connected in your mind, and what might that mean about the work you’d need to do to love/accept yourself in your current body? See what I mean? Curiosity gives you something to do, and somewhere to go, which immediately invites growth, compassion, and hope into topics that are otherwise remarked by stuckness, shame, and despair.

Now I’m curious what you think! 

Feel free to hit reply and share your “Top 3” qualities, skills, and/or areas of knowledge when it comes to healing and thriving!

Note: I get a lot of emails so I can’t promise I’ll respond, but please know that I do read every single one personally, and I love hearing from you!

Big hug,


PS: Looking for guidance and support on your body neutrality journey? I’m currently accepting new clients for the summer season– apply for coaching here!

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