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  • Writer's pictureLeah Lair Conner

Try approving of yourself.

Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens. – Louise Hay

A dear friend of mine made a Facebook post about loving yourself whether you’re raw or made-up or however today, and it struck a real chord with me. She posted a pic of herself after a day of working in the yard, comfy clothes, makeup free, next to one in cute clothes, hair done, makeup on. She was stunning in both pics, and what’s awesome is that she thinks so, too. That’s a rare thing…especially for a woman. Why are we so very critical of ourselves?

I commented on her post about a recent habit I’ve developed. I post live videos from time to time, usually either a little promo about a workshop I have coming up or a full yoga practice I want to share. I’ve started watching myself, after the fact, and forcing myself to find good, loving things in those videos, instead of destructive critique (which has always been much easier). Negative criticism is just no longer allowed. I’ll allow a little constructive criticism to improve myself, but no more tearing down. No more telling myself I look awful or cringing at my body or voice or facial expression. I’m done. I will be 48 years old in June, and until just quite recently, I have criticized the absolute hell out of myself. Relentlessly. Ruthlessly. And it has not done me one tiny bit of good. Even worse, while I’ve tried so hard to hide it from my girls, they’re smart. God in heaven, I do not want them to see themselves and speak to themselves the way I have to myself for way too much of my life. So. No. Freaking. More.

If it resonates with you to see your body, your outer shell and appearance as your enemy, please keep reading. I empathize with your struggle…okay, it’s more than a struggle. It’s a torment, and I get it. One of my very early childhood memories is asking my father how I could be skinny. I don’t remember the exact words I used, but I remember exactly where we were standing, and I remember what was for dinner that night – my mom’s homemade chicken fried steak with gravy, mashed potatoes, mac-n-cheese, and rolls. Good, southern, delicious cooking! I also remember, at the age of eight, not really understanding what I was doing, but eating enough to make myself sick, somehow knowing that that was a way to get rid of the food that kept me “fat.” It wasn’t until a bit later, somewhere around age 12, that I learned the fine art of intentional bingeing and purging, and I got really good at it, as most bulimics do. Another bleak memory is the night I spent on the bathroom floor in a pool of sweat, curled up with the worst cramps I’d ever felt, hoping I hadn’t accidentally killed myself – was it possible to overdose on ex-lax?

Fast-forward to age 15, when a close friend’s sister caught on to my game and informed my mom. Imagine a 15-year-old country girl at an intake interview for a psychiatric hospital in the big city. It was terrifying. For my mother, too. So, I dutifully promised her that I would stop the throwing up and get better. I made good on part of that – I didn’t throw up anymore. I just stopped eating, entirely, and I didn’t get better. A week before my 16th birthday, on Father’s Day, I passed out in church. I remember, so clearly, coming awake to hear one of the church ladies, basket in hand, saying, “what she NEEDS is one of these biscuits!” What I needed, in fact, was hospitalization, and I got it. I spent my birthday and lots more days on the Eating Disorder Unit at Baylor Hospital in Dallas, and I worked really, really hard at getting better. And I absolutely DID get better…but far, far from whole.

I’ve been in a psychiatric facility two more times since that initial stay. I don’t feel ashamed, at all, about that. I actually wish more people would talk about the various kinds of help they need and receive. Sometimes, it takes something a little more intense, acute, and focused than what can be accomplished with meds and once or twice weekly counseling sessions. And that’s okay, because what matters is that you keep breathing. What matters is that you keep breathing. What matters is that you keep breathing.

I am far from the point that I can say I love my body, unconditionally or completely, but y’all, I’m the closest I’ve ever been, and that feels so good. I can watch a video of myself and catch myself SMILING at what I see. Smiling! Can you believe that?!?!? I have discovered that changing how I speak to myself REALLY DOES make a difference, and that I actually CAN reprogram those negative thoughts and words.

Another friend who speaks often on loving oneself and being self-affirming promotes standing in front of a mirror every day and not walking away until you can find one thing you love about what you see. I would try, and I’d be like, “well, I mean, I guess my lips are OKAY, but I mean, they’re not great…they’re maybe good enough. Maybe. I don’t know.” I’d even catch myself doing the whole, “well, for my age, I guess…” FOR MY AGE??? Why is that even a qualifier? What does that even mean? There are no conditions for self-love. None. And I am getting there. When you find yourself approving of something, but then attaching a qualifier, a condition, that’s when the pattern has to change. Squelch those little uglies that creep in and roar back with, “no, you know what? My lips are great. They form my words and release my voice, and what I have to say is so important. I love my lips.” No more, “my thighs are too big, but they…” No. “My beautiful thighs support my body and carry me through this world, and my presence here is necessary and valuable.” Flip. The. Script. It’s time. It’s past time. I am tired of hating on myself. If others can see my value and my light, it’s damn time I let it work for ME, too.

I am enough. I am so much more than enough. I am strong. I am one-of-a-kind. I am necessary. I am light. I am love. I am perfect, just as I am. I am worthy. I am beautiful. I have so much to offer. I have always been and will always be enough. I am you…and you are me. #lovealwayswins

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