I’ve been preparing for a teleseminar that I’m going to be teaching with a dear friend of mine, Natha Perkins, a wonderful life coach that also works to help women feel more empowered. One of the focuses of our class, called The Art of Loving Yourself, is how to learn to connect with our bodies and genuinely appreciate them.

Women (and men too, though not normally to the same extent) have been taught since we were young to devalue our bodies. We watched the women in our lives criticize themselves, picking apart their flaws and everything that they could find wrong with their bodies. I very rarely heard a woman say, “I love my eyes/legs/hair/anything!” It usually sounded more like this: “I need to lose weight/I’m fat/I hate my arms/I have the biggest nose/My breasts are too small (or too big)” and on and on and on.

Amongst girls and women, compliments are deflected and downplayed. A greeting of “You look beautiful today” is often met with, “Oh, thanks. I feel so fat and I couldn’t find anything to wear.” We band together in bemoaning the state of our bodies and spend more time sharing how we would like to make them better rather than celebrating them as they are.

I spent years hating my reflection. From the time that I started thinking about my appearance I know that I was more focused on finding its flaws than I was celebrating its symmetry, function, or usefulness. And then in my adult years, my skin broke out really badly a few times due to hormonal imbalances and what I know now to be a candida overgrowth. I could barely look at myself in the mirror and I would try to wash my face without even glancing at it. I brushed my teeth in the other room. When I did see myself looking back at me, I felt shame and self-hatred. I didn’t wear make-up because applying it required that I look in the mirror and really see my face. I hated to have pictures taken of me. I was already a depressed person and every time my skin broke out, I found myself just wanting to disappear.

It took years to get through the healing of this core issue: I felt betrayed by my body. What I was missing, and what I uncovered through my healing work, was the fact that I felt betrayed in my life. This was a physical manifestation that had arisen as a direct result of being raped. I had been betrayed by others and I felt like my body – my very person – had betrayed me that night as well. I blamed myself and I didn’t want anyone else to see me. Not only did I not feel attractive; I didn’t want to feel pretty. I wanted to not be noticed and to just disappear.

And as women, we are taught to feel betrayed by our bodies. This was a very natural place for me to go. Unless they are picture (read: Vogue) perfect, we are led to believe that we are less than. We are shown that it’s right and good to want to make alterations to our bodies to become more attractive to men. (I’m not criticizing anyone’s decision to do so; if it truly helps you to love and accept yourself then I’m all for it. I would ask you though to look at the emotions underneath the desire and to work through any emotional issues that might be present so that altering the body doesn’t become an endless loop of trying to find validation from without.) Truthfully, there are too many layers to this story for a 1,000 word blog post. My desire here is simpler, and I will return to it at the end of this post, since most of us are consciously aware of how we’re being manipulated into thinking that we need to look a certain way in order to find love and happiness.

I had already healed the physical effects of candida and I had done a lot of work with the underlying emotional causes, which helped to keep my from more flare-ups. As I continued to heal, and I really started to step back into my body and my power, I became aware of how withholding love and acceptance from myself was creating an attitude of self-deprecation that was manifesting as a physical symptom. All of those negative thoughts in the mirror were bouncing right back into my energy body and embedding them in my very cells. Our bodies hear and they respond to our thoughts. I knew that something had to change.

Working with Natha was an important piece of my healing puzzle. She helped me to get honest yet playful with myself. She supported me in taking little steps towards enhanced self-care that felt good to me. While working with her, I started to have fun with the mirror. I started to smile and even wink at myself. I laughed and played with make-up. I reinforced the work with her with energy work and journaling. I not only stopped criticizing myself, but I started actually complimenting myself. I got dry erase markers and started writing love notes on the mirror (my son thinks I’m a nut but he benefits from them too). I still notice when I have puffy eyes or a pimple, but they don’t define me anymore; it’s just a flag that I need more sleep or that I should drink more water.

To return to my above intention, I’m wondering what it would be like if we could all start by taking the self-criticism off the table. What if we could start by agreeing with our friends to accept all compliments with a “thank you” and a smile? What if we could allow ourselves to feel, for just a second, the love that was shared with us by the person that gave us the compliment? How much could shift just through this awareness and practice? I’d love for you to try this and to share your results with me!

For more information on the class I’m teaching with Natha, click here.

If you’ve experienced candida and are interested in finally uncovering the root emotional issues that are keeping you from enjoying total wellness, join me and Elicia Miller for a one week retreat in beautiful Santa Teresa, Costa Rica.