“The essence of beauty doesn’t stem from the label on your clothes, the shape of your body, or the color of your skin. It comes from the way you carry yourself and the amount of respect with which you treat yourself. “

I remember seeing a commercial last year that really stood out to me. It was of this stunning, curvaceous, woman, walking through, what looked like a castle, in her lingerie and the male in this script couldn’t help but notice and give chase. It was a commercial for Addition Elle, which sells plus size clothing and the model was Ashley Graham. I couldn’t help but think, “Damn that woman is sexy.”

She was far from the typical size zero you see on the runway. This woman had curves, big hips, big thighs and she stuck out in places models usually don’t. It didn’t hurt that her face was stunning, her hair long and shiny and her skin, flawless, but what really made me take notice was the way she moved. She strutted through the commercial like she was sexy and she knew it – and she was.

It really made me think about how our beliefs about ourselves shape who we become. The amount of self-confidence we have definitely impacts our character, our behavior, the decisions we make and how we are perceived by others.

All of us have flaws. All of us have things about ourselves that we would like to change, but it’s our attitude towards those things that ultimately decides whether or not we will succeed or fail in life. I’ve met people who can barely leave their house because they’ve been mistreated and they fear the judgement and cruelty of the world and I’ve met others who are so comfortable in their own skin that they are fearless and there is no limit to what they do and experience.

How Much Do You Allow Your Limiting Beliefs to Affect Your Life

I showed two sets of pictures to ten men I work with. One set was of super model, It girl, Gigi Hadid, the other was of Ashley Graham and I asked them, “Who would you rather sleep with?”

It’s ok, these men are used to me asking them strange questions. All of them said that they’d take both women. I then said what if Gigi wasn’t comfortable with her body? What if she couldn’t relax and felt inhibited during sex and Ashley was comfortable in her own skin and with her nudity? All of them quickly said, “Ashly.” When I turned the question around so that Ashley was the inhibited one, they all then said they’d want Gigi.

The mitigating factor in their decision wasn’t who was heavier and who was thinner, but who was more at ease with who they were. I used body size in this example but you could sub in anything, intelligence, confidence, you name it. It’s all the same. How many times have you heard of a confident man with fewer qualifications getting promoted over the more qualified, less confident, woman?

Confidence matters. How comfortable we are in our own skin matters. It’s the difference between trying and not trying, taking risks, or staying in our comfort zone. When we feel good about ourselves we feel like there is nothing holding us back. When we are comfortable with who we are we are limitless.

But for many codependents the idea of accepting themselves as imperfect beings is unimaginable. We’ve been told that there is something wrong with us, that we are flawed and that we should be ashamed of these flaws. They were shoved down our throats to punish us and keep us subdued and they’ve become a very real part of who we believe we are, right down to our very core. We don’t realize that they were the projections of someone who was taught to hate themselves. That they are teaching us to hate ourselves in the same way that their caregivers taught them.

Children are easy targets. They are helpless, dependent and too emotionally immature to know better. Our job now as adults is to get out from under these repressive beliefs, by getting to the bottom of where they came from, acknowledging their illegitimacy and learning how to reprogram our minds.

Mindfulness: Always, always, always, keep your attention on what you are thinking. Challenge your harmful thoughts and don’t let them run willy-nilly all through your head. Ask yourself where they are coming from. Dismiss them and take away their power and replace them with more empowering thoughts.

Redefine the standards you hold for yourself: It’s very likely that the most talented person on the planet wouldn’t be able to match up to the bar that you’ve set for yourself. Many codependents believe they have to get to Perfectville or bust. The problem with perfection is that it’s an illusion. It doesn’t exist and when we spend our whole life chasing it we miss out on and don’t appreciate, all of the great things life has in store for us. We’re adults now and we get to decide what is acceptable and what is not. Let logic, compassion and reality be your guide.

Change the parts of you that you can and accept the parts of you that you can’t: Being a healthy individual means practicing self-care. Self-care means that you take care of yourself emotionally, physically, spiritually and financially. Accepting yourself doesn’t mean that if you are behaving in an unhealthy manner that you’re just going to be ok with that. You owe it to yourself to be the best you possible. If you have a drinking problem, or you’re 150 lbs overweight… these are things that you can change and you owe it to yourself to change those things. If you’re 5’3, like yours truly and you want to be 5’9, guess what, you’re going to waste a lot of time and energy wanting something that’s never going to be. Make the decision that If you have to be 5’3 that you’re going to be the best 5’3 person that ever lived. Know the difference between what you can change and what you can’t and learn to embrace what you can’t.

You matter and you know it: In keeping with baseball season, I have to tell you, I read an article recently on the New York Mets star pitcher, Noah Syndergaard. The quote was from his coach and it said, “Noah Syndergaard likes Noah Syndergaard. The great ones do. They have that swagger.” I just love that. That doesn’t mean arrogant. It means I believe in me. Start thinking and treating yourself as a person of value and keep thinking that way. When you think highly of yourself other people will follow your lead.

I don’t care: Let go of the need to impress or people please. What other people think of you is none of your business, because their opinion doesn’t matter. Know that the world is full of people who are looking for a reason to be offended and people who get off on making other people feel small so they can feel big. Never give away your power to someone else. Learn to be like Teflon and let things slide off of you. When you value and trust your own opinions, those of others will matter less.

Quiet the inner critic: That pesky critical parent voice wants to keep you where you are. It doesn’t want you to grow or succeed and it will fight you. Be prepared to do battle with it. Keep thinking contradictory thoughts. Keep limiting its influence by knowing what it is and what it’s trying to do.

Reclaim who you are: You are not everyone else’s expectation of you. You are not your job, someone’s wife/husband/child… You are who you say you are. You don’t need anyone’s permission and you don’t need anyone’s approval to be yourself. You are a priceless, unique, specimen and there is no one else like you in the whole world. When you stifle your individuality and try to be someone else, you deprive the universe of the wonder that is you. Embrace who you are, warts and all, put yourself out there and shrug off the criticism.

“Have the courage to be who you are, the wisdom to be unconcerned with the opinions of others and the strength to continue setting your own definition of who you should be.” – Savannah’s Creed

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