Dear style & substance,

My self image is at an all-time low right now. You would think that after all my years of living on this planet I would have stopped caring about what others think of me, but no! I have gained weight over the last two years and I do not want to go out of the house. I plan grocery shopping at times when I am least likely to be seen. Joining a gym has been on my to-do list since New Year’s Day but I cannot seem to take action and do it since I hate the thought of anyone seeing me in public in work out clothes. Please help me, I need advice that will get me out of this miserable rut.

“The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.”

― Mark Twain

We agree with Mark Twain and sense a deep loneliness and a longing for self-acceptance in your request. We all live in dichotomy; an internal self and the external self we show the world: a lightness of self acceptance and a shadowed self of our darker thoughts, a dreamer and a realist, yin and yang.

When these inner and outer selves are in great conflict, we struggle with uncertainty and guilt or shame, preventing us from truly engaging in life. When we are aligned, our best, most authentic parts shine forth and form a cohesive self-wholeness. Your conflict is tugging your true essence out of whack. We recommend a giant leap into a clearer understanding and a new focus leading in the direction of self-acceptance.

As we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the moon landing we can continue to learn from the many lessons of optimism that led to this feat. As you take your leap to self acceptance, recall the words of Neil Armstrong, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Every leap begins with a small step; your journey does too. Initiate some positive self-talk by beginning each day with kindness. Say hello to your beauty, your humanity, your humor or your sass. Find the good in yourself or a situation by increasing this positive self-talk even when you haven’t responded as becomingly as you would have liked. Guiding yourself gently will result in an overall constructive direction. Negative self-talk is destructive and saps us of motivation to change.

Take action on the outside. You shared that you have gained weight and want to lose it. While that process is in place, dress the body you have with clothes that feel good, fit and are attractive. A great outfit boosts confidence within and with whom you interact. Do not be tempted or discouraged by the size on the tag, be realistic on the look and how you feel in the clothes you are wearing.

Think of this work as both an inside job and an outside job; work on each to draw closer to your sweet spot of true self. Be clear and honest with yourself: ask how did that exchange or work task make me feel? How do those people make me feel? How do I feel before the gym and after the gym? This briefing and debriefing, the pure honesty of it, will help you in making decisions about how and with whom you interact and what you do each day. You will have an internal sense of pros and cons that give you a push to know when the outcome is or isn’t worth the struggle. Interpreting your life daily leads to healthier, more fulfilling decisions.

Build on these 3 C’s of a positive self image as you engage in this transformation;

Competence: Keep apologies and failures out of interactions if they have become your go to conversation. Determine what you do well and do those things better, unapologetically! Build on your social and work strengths for internal affirmation; the external appreciation will naturally follow.

Connectedness: Remembering humanity is hard to do when you are feeling down about yourself. Everyone struggles and has self-doubt, they just don’t lead with this. Be daring in caring for others in a way you wish to be cared for without the expectation of reciprocation. Be curious in people and the world. Focus outward to build relationships and find new avenues of support and validation.

Confidence: This comes from being true to self. Know your values and be firm in keeping them throughout this process, they are your stable foundation. Establish your limits then stretch a little beyond that comfort zone; small successful steps energize you to boldly leap outside the lines that have been confining you.

End your day with a mantra to seal up your hard work and good intentions. Even if said with a shy smile or shrug, it will manifest: “I am powerful, brilliant and brave!”

Sally Meisenheimer and Michele Armani are the owners of style & substance, which provides life coaching and creative solutions. Meisenheimer and Armani are certified life coaches, with many years of experience in health education, workforce development and teaching. Combined, they have been married more than 60 years and raised seven children. Email questions and comments to yourstyleandsubstance@gmail.com.