I know a lady--we'll call her Sally--who has recently lost 40 pounds.  When I saw her, and she told me that she had lost 40 pounds, my first thought was that I didn't realize she had 40 pounds to lose.  She had always looked good to me, just as she was.  She did look wonderful; there was something different about her.  I finally realized what it was--confidence.  She was standing up straight, her head held high; her posture was amazing.  She smiled more readily and seemed more relaxed. I realized that it wasn't the weight loss that made her look amazing. It was the way she was carrying herself, full of confidence and knowing that she looked great--without realizing that it was the confidence that made her look great, not the weight loss. 

Seeing and talking with Sally, then realizing what was at the core of her absolute gorgeousness--confidence--prompted me to start looking at other women in a different way.  I began paying attention and noticing that women who seemed exceptionally attractive or beautiful appeared comfortable in their own skin, regardless of their size or age or situation.  Their comfort in their own skin--that solid confidence and acceptance of themselves JUST AS THEY WERE is what made them so attractive, so beautiful.  I'm not talking about vanity or conceit or self-absorption--those things are the opposite of true attractiveness and beauty.  I'm talking about self acceptance, a solid underlying knowledge of one's own worth regardless of appearance, a true acceptance and love and caring for oneself in the skin you're in.  That is the most incredible beauty product in the world, and it's absolutely free. 

As the momma of four daughters and the sister of two sisters, I have a special interest in body image in women.  For me personally, for my mother, her mother, and for most other girls and women that I have ever known, body acceptance is as elusive as a golden unicorn.  Body issues for girls can start as early as kindergarten, and here's the kicker:  I believe that the body issues of their mothers contribute to this problem.  How many times have I unthinkingly made a negative comment about my body in front of my daughters?  How have those negative comments impacted them and the way they view themselves?  We want our daughters to love themselves unconditionally, yet do we do this for ourselves?  The "do as I say, not as I do" style of parenting does not work in this area any more than it does in any other area of living and parenting. If I had a dollar for every time that I've looked in a mirror and called myself a fat cow, I'd have a pile of money in the bank right now.

So how do we fix this?  We do it by changing the way we think about our bodies and the way we treat our bodies.  Period.  This won't be easy... but it is definitely doable.  I call this the "think and do plan."  This week, we'll focus on one change in thinking and one change in doing.

1) THINK:  Do not allow yourself to say anything to you that you would not say out loud to your best friend.  (See "fat cow" comment above.)  Replace this type of ugly talk with something true and positive--"This body gave me four wonderful daughters."
2)  DO:   Remember the first thing that I noticed about Sally?  Her posture was amazing.It's incredible how much the simple act of straightening up, with your head held high, can increase your confidence.  I've been practicing, and anytime I catch myself slouching, I lift my head high, put my shoulders back, and sit or stand as tall as I comfortably can.  Give it a try--you'll be surprised at the result.  Walk around like you are the goddess of the universe.  It's a great feeling :)

Look for more on loving yourself, just as you are, next week...