Once I realized that listening to my inner voice had the ability to propel me just as much as it had the power to restrict me, I started taking notes. Literally, I started writing down my negative thoughts. Putting them on paper made me recognize how much I was listening to my frenemy, especially when it came to being assertive or advocating for myself. Even when it felt natural, and when I did advocate or negotiate or take charge, my frenemy would give me a play-by-play afterward and point out all the things I could have done, such as softened my tone here or been less firm there. Ridiculous, huh? Then I also realized a tiny voice was cheering for me. She was in my corner, fixing my crown. You might need to spend even more time discovering what kind of movement your body experiences as pleasurable. Take as much time as you need! These are the crucial, foundational building blocks for the relationship of a lifetime--with your body. When my body made a last-ditch attempt to get my attention--by ruining my health with migraines--I went to see a healer. He said to me, 'You are really fucked up. And if you don't start taking care of yourself, you'll be dead by the time you're forty. ' Needless to say, this got my attention. I heeded his advice and started to ask, What does it mean to take care of myself? This question landed me in yoga class, where I found, for the very first time, movement my body actually enjoyed. ) OAC advocates for those affected by the disease, especially in the areas of discrimination, which happens in a lot of places, including in the workplace, schools, and doctors' offices. OAC believes this, and I believe this, too: Nobody should be discriminated against because of their size or weight.

Furthermore, people should have legal protections against these forms of discrimination. Okay, now that that's out of the way, let me tell you a few of the more interesting things I learned. Obesity affects people differently. On paper, I have been considered obese since I started college. I think many people who saw me wouldn't think that. (I have managed to get myself to the low end of merely 'overweight' by medical standards through an extremely limited diet and heavy exercise, but still. I stayed at that weight for only a few months before I gained enough to put me back into obesity range. Few words. It was a connection that I could tap into with some ease. I am grateful that forty-five days after she died I woke up from a dream in which I was with my mother as she moved up and up into the light. It was the most powerful dream I can remember in my life--it felt as real as anything else I've known, with a feeling of ecstasy, of her moving from one realm to another. As I drove home later that day, a big orange full moon hung like a lantern in the sky. Ever since, though the sadness of missing my mother remains, I have had a felt-sense that she is safe, well, and peaceful--and I have no concerns or worries for her. As I reflect on my mother's life and death, gratitude spontaneously arises. There is so much to be grateful for. And in the weeks after her death, sadness came in waves, but all the grieving was held in an open field of gratitude. The gratitude was large and spacious enough to hold everything that came up--and when I felt stressed or burdened, I chose to shift my thoughts to the gratitude I felt for my mother and, with attention, my mental state would shift and become more spacious. She was telling me to go for it, to keep moving forward, and that no one was perfect, so why did I think I had to be? She encouraged me to lead, to assert my ideas, to state my opinions, and to take charge of situations directly because that's my style. Her voice grew, and guess what?

So did my actions. One of the most important aspects of growing our confidence is letting go of our perfectionistic tendencies and showing ourselves grace. This is one of the most difficult things we can do because this requires us to let go of our failures and to throw off the labels that we and others often place on us, which we then start to believe about ourselves. I can tell you that forgiving yourself is not just a one-time, aha, feel-good moment. It takes repeated work on your mind-set because guess what? You're human. I think we forget this sometimes. I was immensely relieved, but also heartbroken, because I discovered for the very first time how thoroughly bereft my body had been of my time, care, and attention. No one had done this to me. I had done it to myself. Worse yet, this complete and utter self-abandonment was the result of doing what I thought was 'right. ' Our culture teaches us to abandon ourselves, and the first, most violent act is rejecting our bodies. It's a 'normal' mind-set in which many of us have become spellbound, and it's slowly killing us. My awakening from the spell generated a lot of anger (at the world) and also regret (for how I'd harmed myself). But awakening also compelled me to keep moving forward, because moving away from a fantasy and into reality is freedom--and I love freedom. Not coincidentally, I think, liberty is also a founding principle of our great nation. And, dear reader, above all, I want for you your freedom. ) But when I attended the conference, I saw folks who were affected far more than me. Some folks had had bariatric surgery to actually decrease the size of their stomachs so that they would consume less food, which comes with a whole slew of other issues.

Some folks had trouble moving because of their size, so they used wheelchairs and walkers to get around. And others, because of complications from obesity-related diabetes, were missing some of their extremities. If anything, it made me aware of how lucky I was that I hadn't been affected as much as others. Or perhaps, because of my gender and my race, I had been given better treatment by doctors, or treated better by the world at large (we'll get to that), which helped me in the long run. Pet obesity is also a problem. A lot of people who suffer from obesity also have obese pets. I'm no exception. Gratitude became my main meditation practice, the place that I returned to. And as I inquired into the power of gratitude, I realized that what I was most grateful for was the unconditional love she gave me and all our family. It is the teaching I take from her life--her transmission of unconditional love that I experienced and can share with others. Is gratitude a practice that you have explored? If it is, you'll know how it can help make a shift from self-absorption--being caught up in the worries, fears, and stickiness of our life--into an experience of greater openness and connection with all of life. If gratitude practice is new to you, I encourage you to explore readings, talks, and meditations on gratitude, beginning with the following simple practices: Reflect on what you are grateful for daily. Taking time regularly can help you make gratitude a central quality and practice of your life. It can be just a few minutes each day--at the beginning or end of the day, for example--when you focus on and allow yourself to experience deeply your appreciation for the gifts and blessings that enhance your life. Keep a gratitude journal. I do. I beat myself up for ways I could have spoken more articulately, led a meeting differently, or written something more eloquently. And when my professional performance isn't on my own personal hit list, I can always turn to my parenting skills or my appearance.

Sound familiar? When we give grace to ourselves, it allows us to increase our margin of failure. One of the most important aspects of increasing your confidence is to allow yourself a margin to fail. This may sound counterintuitive, but it is so important. Women tend to be more self-critical than men, and one study found that women tend to self-report their performance lower than men in the workplace. 7 Our own self-assessment and mind-set about how we perform can have significant professional or personal repercussions. This is great news. Freedom, however, is earned. You might recall that many wars have been fought to acquire, and defend freedom. Only when our bodies and minds are liberated are we truly free. As of this writing, it's been eighteen years since I first took a Forrest Yoga class and began to breathe, and feel, and earn my freedom. I tell you this to put things in perspective. It all takes time. Be patient with yourself. So far, you've already done a ton of work reframing how you think about your body and your self, and how these engage in the world. Changing your mind is the hardest thing to do, so I applaud your willingness and your efforts! Change requires not only time but also repeated effort. My super fluffy cat, Tiberius, is a lot of fluff but also a bit of a mega-chonker. He's eighteen pounds, which, last time I talked with my vet, was about a 3. out of 5 in terms of health.