This is a lesson I've learned the hard way... And it's been a long time coming.

When I went through sudden surgical menopause at age 44 my whole world as I knew it changed very quickly. My body went into shock after having to have a full hysterectomy in 2011. The past four years has been a journey of ongoing exploration, experimentation, trials, errors, adjustments, tweaks and twists as I've sought this moving target we call "balance."

Just when I thought I had figured it out, the target moved.

And I did what a lot of women do. I was hard on myself. When I saw my reflection in a window the things I said to myself in my head I would NEVER say to someone else.

And it wasn't just my physical body I was judging. I was also hard on myself for continuing to miss the target.

As I was leading a live version of my 12 Weeks to Total Transformation Program recently, this lesson hit me square between the eyes. I heard myself coaching one of the program participants telling her, "Maybe the most important part of this entire program is to just accept you are doing the best you can do and just love yourself..." and she replied, "Yeah... I need to love myself the way my mother loves me - without condition." It clicked for her. And it clicked for me. This is the key.

Choosing to accept yourself  - all of yourself - your BODY, your FEELINGS, the CHOICES you've made up until now with radical love and forgiveness is not only an option. It is required. Required in order to find way to peace.

I realized I had to accept that given the circumstances in every given day I had done the best I could do and it was time to release the struggle. Somehow, this frees up a lot of energy to actively choose loving actions to support my body, mind and spirit each day.

Instead of aiming for that target goal, I shifted my focus to wanting what I have in this moment. Instead of striving and struggling, I decided to accept exactly what is right now and just love all of me. Even in the face of feeling judged or criticized by others.

Here's the thing: There will always be a critic. There will always be someone out there who can find something wrong with what you look like or what you do or what you say. And there is nothing you can do, say or be that will eliminate it. The key is to stop criticizing yourself and choose love and forgiveness of self instead.

Here are 7 ways to begin practicing radical self love and forgiveness:

  1. Acknowledge the gift of your body. In the privacy of your bathroom or bedroom, stand in the mirror and acknowledge out loud that you are a spirit in a human body and this body is a gift - a beautiful gift -  no matter what it looks like. Give thanks to your body for carrying you around.
  2. Write a love note to yourself every day. It need not be long but make it sincere. Find ways to acknowledge your beauty. Here's a sample of one of mine: "Dear Lynn, I want you to know how much I appreciate the way you work so hard to support yourself and your family. I love your tenacity, your generosity and I love your tender loving heart."
  3. Belly laugh. Let it rip. Practice laughing with no reason to laugh when you are all by yourself in the car or in the house where no one can hear you. Pretend like you've just heard the funniest joke you have ever heard. At first it will feel fake but keep going and soon authentic JOY will bubble up from inside of you leaving a REAL smile on your face.
  4. Take an inventory of all the things you consider wrong or bad you've ever done. Dump them all into one long list. Empty out your brain and heart. Get it on paper. Look over the list and say out loud, "I choose today to forgive myself for all of this and I release myself from any further guilt and shame. I move forward choosing to fully and radically love and forgive myself for the past." Then burn it and watch the list transform into ashes. Bury the ashes somewhere outside as a gesture of sending it down into the earth to be transmuted.
  5. Meditate daily. Sit in reverent silence and stillness simply observing the natural rhythm of your breath flow in and out of your body.
  6. Ask for what you need. First, ask your inner self, "What do I most need right now?" and wait for the answer to bubble up to the surface instead of thinking for the answer. Then ask the people around you for the space, the time, the help that you need to support you.
  7. Smile in the face of judgment. Whether it's the criticism of another person or the voice of your own inner critic, when you hear judgment take a breath and smile remembering that everything is either love itself or a call for love.

The most interesting part of this practice is that when we embrace radical self love and forgiveness, it makes room for so much more love and forgiveness for others! When we choose to actively love, respect and honor ourselves and let go of the past, accept our bodies as they are, we naturally have more energy, time and space to find that healthier choices in life are just more appealing.... And they feel like CHOICES rather than obligations....

May you find peace... and if I can be of assistance, feel free to contact me directly at lynn@staging.wonderswellness.com .