Without exception, begin every day of your life with gratitude. As you look in the mirror, say, "Thank you, God, for life, for my body, for my family and loved ones, for this day, and for the opportunity to be of service. Thank you, thank you, thank you."
A few years ago, I was working as an intensive in-home therapist for kids that were either at risk of being removed from their homes or they had just returned to their homes after being in treatment centers. These kids were anywhere from 6 years old to 16 years old.
My client was always the kid who was displaying behaviors that were causing stress in the family, but my job entailed working with the whole family, as it is rarely the person who is acting out that is in need.
It was contracted that I spend approximately 10 hours a week with the family. As you can imagine, that is an intense amount of time (hence it being called “intensive in-home therapy”).
Our sessions were generally 3.5 hours 3 times a week. During the sessions, I’d work with the child-client individually for part of the time, then we would do a family session for the remaining time.
In one particular case, my client lived with her mother and stepfather, who had a 1-year-old daughter together.
During the family session, the parents were talking about how much they were fighting about various issues and they felt like there was no end to it.
As we discussed action steps to take before the next session, I gave them an assignment: whenever they fought, they had to fight in their room, and they had to do it naked.
As soon as I said it, the stepfather said, “oh, that will never happen; she never lets me see her naked."
Internally, my thought was: “WHAT??? You are married! You just had a kid together. Why do you not want your husband to see you naked?"
Being the professional that I am, I calmly and compassionately asked the mom, “What’s going on that you don’t want him to see you naked?"
She proceeded to say that she doesn’t like how she looks since she had the baby and is embarrassed by her body.
After our session was over, I couldn’t stop thinking about the mom’s comment and my inability to immediately help her. I later consulted with a fellow health coach and asked her if she looked at herself naked daily. She said she did, but that she had many friends and clients who said that they didn’t because they were ashamed of how they looked.
This made me so sad.
Then I remembered a time about ten years ago when I was heavier than I am now, and I always thought I was ugly – looking at myself naked or having anyone else look at me naked was not something I welcomed. I had a low-grade depression that never seemed to go away, and most of the time I didn’t want to live (more about that in day 15).
That started me wondering: what changed in me to move me from hating my body to embracing and loving it?
In many ways, I took myself through the process that you are about to go through. I allowed myself the opportunity to really look at my body – completely naked. As I looked with the intention of seeing if there was anything good about it, I gave myself the gift of seeing me for the first time.
Whether it was for my nose that I didn’t like or my bloated belly, I began to express gratitude for the body I live in. As I started that practice, everything changed. I will admit though, it wasn’t easy at first.
Really seeing myself naked allowed me the opportunity to get honest with myself. When I really saw and acknowledged that my arms didn’t have the definition I desired, I decided to work to create the arms I did want. With each push up, I expressed gratitude for having arms that worked.
Seeing my bumpy Italian nose confronted me with the thought of getting a nose job. Deciding that the pain of the surgery would be greater than the pleasure of having a different nose, I realized my best option would be to choose to love the nose I was given, so I began to thank it for being the amazing gift it is. I thanked it for allowing me to smell the delicious aromas in my kitchen and for taking in air with each deep breath.
Looking at my stomach, I finally admitted to myself that I had become a bit overweight and that it was a bit jigglier than I was comfortable with, so I decided to change my diet to support how I wanted to feel and look. As soon as I eliminated gluten from my diet, my flat stomach returned. With each bite of veggies, I thanked my stomach for processing the foods it needed to create health in my body.
I also began to realize that my body was not the entirety of who I am; rather it was a container and a playground for my soul. Just as there are varieties of vases to hold flowers, each body contained a different soul. My body is the place my soul resides while I am here on earth.
With this understanding, coupled with the gratitude practice that we will do, I found that even though there is no magic pill that could make me love myself overnight, there is a magic wand that I can wave that would help me increase my love for myself over time.
As I immersed my mind in the practice of gratitude, I slowly began to feel the cloud lift from my mind. I started to see myself for who I really was, one who was, to quote Marianne Williamson, “born to make manifest the glory of God."
It wasn’t that I changed; it was that the true and best version of myself was given permission to finally live.
The crazy thing is, as I began the exercise of daily gratitude for my body, so many other areas of my life shifted – my health, my career, my relationships, and my spirituality.
I won’t act as if I have a perfect life now because of the gratitude practice. There are definitely times that it takes everything in me to express gratitude for my body.
Just when I thought I had this almost mastered, my ability to stay in gratitude versus negativity towards my body was tested in a huge way.
In 2015, I decided to do something I had always wanted to do: I started taking aerial silks classes. (If you don’t know what this is, Google aerial silks—think Cirque du Soleil. It is my absolute favorite workout – it’s challenging, strength-building, and beautiful. I highly recommend it if you are looking for something new and unique.)
A few times a year, the studio has a student showcase where the students perform a self-choreographed piece. Although I had only been taking classes for four and a half months, one of my instructors encouraged me to perform.
I thought she was crazy for suggesting it and happily thought that I would get out of it because I had a work trip scheduled during the weeks leading up to the show, which would cause me to miss a week of obligatory practice time.
A week and a half before auditions, my work trip was pushed back a few months, so I decided to audition – mainly because I knew that it would take me way out of my comfort zone and cause me to grow exponentially. I had barely enough time to choreograph a piece and practice before the audition, I have NEVER done anything like this before; to say that I was nervous was an understatement.
I’ve never taken any dance or gymnastics classes like so many of the other girls in the studio, so I felt completely inadequate. My little inner saboteurs started screaming in my mind, “Who do you think you are to do this? You aren’t good enough! You aren’t muscular enough, you aren’t skinny enough! And your choreography is ridiculous!”
A few of my girlfriends literally had to talk me into going to the audition.
My inner voices became even louder when I found out I “passed” the audition and would be performing. Crap! What did I get myself into?
The inner voices became even louder again when I went shopping for a leotard for the performance. I’d gotten comfortable with looking at myself naked but looking at myself in a leotard was a whole different idea. Stepping into the aerial studio in a leotard, looking at myself in the full mirror, seeing myself in a way I had not seen myself before was truly an exercise in practicing what I teach: gratitude.
As I looked at different parts of my body, the natural inclination was to berate myself. I had to very consciously choose to say and think thoughts such as, “Thank you for my belly for it houses muscles that allow me to do amazing moves on the silks; thank you for the cellulite on my legs as it protects my bones from breaking.”
Hate and gratitude cannot co-exist; there is no room for hating our bodies when we express gratitude for them. In order to get back to a place of love for my body, gratitude was the only way.
There are times when expressing gratitude may come easy for you. There are times, such as what I’m experiencing as I write this, when it may be challenging. I can say with 100% certainty that my life is richer and has more meaning when I take back my power in how I experience life by choosing gratitude. And I believe it will be the same for you.
My desire is that after these 28 days, you will love the skin you are in. My desire is that every time you look or think about your body, gratitude will be your first thought.
For the next 28 days I want to invite you on this journey with me.
Are you in?
If so, I welcome you on this journey.
I can’t wait to hear about the shifts you make along your experience!
If you’d like to receive support on your journey, please join us in a private, women only Facebook group where every February we go through the book together and throughout the rest of the year support each other in the journey.
You can find us at “The Love, Yourself Book Experience”. We’d love to have you!