Announcing the 2nd Edition of Beautiful You


Late last fall, my publisher, Seal Press, reached out to see if I’d be interested in doing a 2nd Edition of Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance. This book, with its focus on providing women the blueprint of an action plan that can guide them to a more self-accepting life, has been a powerful tool for so many women of all ages and they wondered if there were things that I would include now that I hadn’t originally included.

Absolutely! I said (this is probably the easiest question I’ve had to answer in my professional life). The original Beautiful You came out in late 2010 and, since then, I’d further developed my ideas about self-acceptance and how to share it with others and so I was so excited to have this opportunity to infuse BY with even more valuable material.

beautiful-you-choiceThe result is the 2nd Edition of Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance which has a brand new introduction, about 20% new or updated passages, and this gorgeous new cover.

It launches October 4, 2016 (and just in time as the original Beautiful You is practically sold out everywhere—which is so, so humbling!). I am so proud of this book—both it’s original message and the updated version—and honored at the role it has played in the lives of so many individual women as well as the role it has played in relationships among friends, teammates, siblings, and moms and daughters.

THANK YOU for embracing me and this precious book and sharing it with the people in your life. It is my great hope that this 2nd Edition will also call to you and that you might be inclined to share it with others.





Want a personalized copy? You can join me at my hometown launch of the newest edition OR order a personalized copy from Main Street Books (you will be able to enter a note of how you would like it personalized when checking out).



Showing Up Less to Show Up More

show-up-less-to-show-up-moreA few weeks ago, I went to breakfast with a dear friend and we were talking about presence, about showing up, about breadth versus depth.

As a person, I like to choose depth and, yet, all the choices in my life say otherwise. My life isn’t nearly as deep and narrow as I would like it to be. It’s pretty broad.

“I am practicing availability,” Erin shared. And when she said those words recognition flashed in me.

For so long, I’ve been focused on a desire to be present, to practice presence as a fundamental priority and value, and for there to be stillness in that presence not the frenetic-ness of having somewhere to be next. Because I always have somewhere to be next. And somewhere to go right after that. There is so little breathing room.

I know that I am not precious or alone in that. So many of us are managing these broad swatches of living, sprinting into exhaustion.

“I don’t know you do it,” someone says to us, and the reality is that we aren’t really doing it all that well. And if that’s the case, we aren’t thriving, we aren’t living our best lives, we aren’t, even though we are everywhere, really all that present.

Here’s the irony of being present. You have to show up to less in order to show up more.

Show up to less so more of you can show up.

And so the challenge I am giving myself is to not just be even more discerning when I am reminding myself of and using the Wholehearted Continuum. That’s a start, yes, and it is a start that will help with my current day-to-day but what I want and need is even deeper reflection on this.

Here are the ten big questions I am asking myself right now for greater clarity, in case they can serve you:

What do I most long for at this stage in my life?

What do I want to do more of in my life?

What do I want to do less of in my life?

What feels effortless right now?

What feels fraught right now?

What parts of my life need to shift to give me more of the deep presence I crave?

What do I need to do differently?

What is one simple decision I can make right now given what I know?

What other decisions are possibilities and how do I feel about each one?

What else do I need to learn or understand or consider?

Here’s to practicing presence and embracing life’s journey and the growth that it always allows for us.

Your body isn’t anyone else’s business.


Summer break is over. There is a new puppy in our house (meet Hank!) and I only had 8 official work days in August (many of which were spent in back to back meetings) as we tried to squeeze the last drops out of summer so I am super behind on my massive to-do list so today’s post is going to be super direct.

Last week, Happy and I had a double playdate (meaning he hung with one of his best buds while I hung with his best bud’s mom who is one of my best buds). As we bowled (I had the game of my life, by the way), my friend said, “I need some body image help” and shared that a recent change in her appearance had brought the body commentators out in droves.

My friend’s life is filled with big challenges as many of the people in her life have chronic, significant health issues and have been struggling for years. This spring things got just a smidge easier—some medicines working better here, some respite care there. Who knows how long this {relative} calm will last but, for now, there’s a little bit more breathing room. A little more breathing room when you’ve been drowning for years can be unbelievable, can be life changing so my friend got to go back to the gym, she got to pay attention to herself a little more, and, with that self-care and less stress, she lost some weight.

Now everyone wants to talk to her about it. They want to tell her that she’s lost too much, and she needs to stop that shit, and enough already. And now, her body is on her mind more than ever because everyone else has made it a conversation point.

“I feel like I’ve done something wrong,” she told me.

And so this is what I told her and what I want to remind you.

If someone has something to say to you about your body or station in life, it is not about you. It is about them and what they have going on around that issue. It is about how interpreting you through their own lens impacts them. Their interpretation of you has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with them and where they are.

Their own stuff is coming up, and they don’t have the discipline to consider it on their own because then they would have to examine their own lives, and examining our own lives is so hard. It is so much easier to displace those feelings by shaming someone else in some way.

“Your body isn’t anyone else’s business,” I told my friend. “And now your job is to figure out how to protect yourself. How do you set a boundary for people so that they know your body isn’t up for grabs and that you aren’t open to their opinions about your body?”

In the beginning, boundary setting can be hard work but, overtime, it becomes easier as we realize the invaluable work of keeping ourselves safe. What boundary do you need to hold today? How can you begin?

Need help figuring it out? Leave a comment here, and we’ll come up with a solution together.

The one about everything.

worthy. enough

When I first started writing this piece, I thought the big message was life keeps handing you the lesson you need to learn until you learn it. Then, after the first few paragraphs, I thought it was really about choosing what you love over what you are good at. Later, I thought it was about wholeheartedness and then, towards the end, it seemed like I was writing all about living without regrets. Now, I am done and I have no idea what it’s about other than what has been rolling around in my head about life lately, but here it is anyway:

I’ve had conversations recently with a couple women in the midst of significant transitions in their professional lives because of difficult work environments. One left a position despite the fact that she was good at the actual work. The other is contemplating leaving a position that is rapidly becoming no longer right for her. Both were/are torn over it.

But as we have talked about their experiences and the decisions they either came to or are coming to, a very clear thing came to me: life had been trying really hard to steer them towards these decisions for months and even years. Only now were they willing to admit that to themselves.

I am a firm believer (because I have learned this the hard way over and over again) that life keeps handing you the lesson that you need to learn until you learn it. Typically, it starts with a gentle prodding but if you fail to learn it the first time, life/the universe/the God of your understanding turns the volume up just a bit making the next experience with the lesson a little harder to stomach so that you might learn it the next time. Ignore the lesson again, and it gets even more uncomfortable. Eventually, the situation is so unpalatable, that you HAVE to get it.

As I was talking to my friend who recently left her position, we marveled at how there was lots of evidence piling up that said she should leave much earlier but she couldn’t bring herself to do it because the daily-ness of her job—the actual tasks she had at hand- was satisfying and she was really good at it.

“But here’s the thing,” I told her. “You are good at more things than not. Just because you can be successful at something doesn’t mean you need to stick with it. You have to ask yourself what do you most want to be doing. You’re at a place in your life and career where you can actually make THAT be what you do. You don’t have to do what other people want you to do because they don’t want to be doing it. You can choose.”

So many people are good at more than just one thing and we forget that just because something is more effortless for us that doesn’t mean that’s what our purpose is. You get to choose how to fill your days and what you choose doesn’t have to be a favor to someone else. Because when you do tie what you most want to do with your talents, your purpose becomes your gift to the world.

In current talks with my friend whose considering a career change, one of the things that has come up is how long she’s known that this wasn’t the right work for her any longer. She’s at the point where her regrets might measure more years that her joy was there if she doesn’t act quickly.

You don’t want to get to the point where you quit, start enjoying your new life, and regret not doing it YEARS sooner, I’ve told her. If you know now, don’t punish yourself. How you spend your days shouldn’t be like being forced to eat your vegetables.

For all of us, there are lessons before us, waiting to be learned. There are regrets waiting to be recast. The good news is that the lessons don’t always need to be learned with the most drastic solutions but they need truthful solutions; moments where we look at ourselves and our lives, acknowledge that we are already worthy and always enough, and do right by ourselves, knowing that inherently means we’ll fundamentally do right by others.

A call to be the light

Rosie Natl Anthem

In the spring of 9th grade year, I unequivocally learned that the ideas some people had about what being a Latina might mean could actually impact my life. As I met my HS guidance counselor for the first time to register for sophomore year classes, it wasn’t my perfect grades or cheery disposition he was struck by. It was that I was Puerto Rican, and he had an idea of what being Puerto Rican meant.

“I think we need to be a little more practical,” he said, after eyeballing the Honors classes I had put on my wish list.

He pulled out the list of classes our award-winning vocational department offered, and something in my mind clicked. I had no problem with taking vocational classes- my mom had enrolled me in a night school typing class that I loved when I was in 6th grade and I knew how important practical and trade skills were, but I also knew that the mostly vocational course load he was changing me to would never get me into the University of Virginia. And UVA is where I wanted to go to college. But he didn’t ask that.

I knew what had just happened wasn’t right, but I also knew I wasn’t supposed to question adults. Walking out of that office, the possibilities in my world shifted smaller. Just as I was about to step into the hall, another guidance counselor saw my devastated face (I have the world’s most transparent face. This usually does not play in my favor. This 1 time, it did).

“Are you okay?”

I paused, keenly aware that what I said in that moment would betray either the guidance counselor who had just redone my schedule or me. The good girl in me wanted to say nothing. The survivor in me wanted to spill it all. I chose to be true to me.

A few years later, my new guidance counselor dared me to apply schools I had never heard of, to see what options were out there for me. I never applied to UVA; I am not sure if my confidence never fully returned after that conversation with my first guidance counselor or if my dreams shifted. That doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that someone showed me, at a critical time, that I did not have to settle for what someone else thought my capability was. My dreams mattered.


In 2008, a group of compassionate women with an unwavering sense of justice conceived Circle de Luz in order to take on the issues of resource equity, educational access, and empowerment in our community. Since then, our circle has grown to over 300 women from all over the world committed to this cause and we have worked tirelessly to radically empower young Latinas by supporting their transformation through extensive mentoring, holistic programming and scholarship funds for further education.


Circle de Luz does our work by selecting a small cohort group of Latinas in 7th grade whom we then follow until HS graduation. During the 6 years of the program, we offer the girls holistic programming and thoughtful group and individual mentoring. Our developmental model requires that the girls have exposure to programs that support their academic readiness, career awareness, college preparations, personal growth, arts exposure, and more.

Today, I am writing to ask you to become part of the circle. As a member of the circle—a mija (the Spanish word for girlfriend)—you contribute just $100 a year for each of the six years the girls are in the program to support their post-secondary education. When our participants graduate, they receive a minimum of a $5,000 scholarship to support their further education. The Class of 2022 will hail from Eastway Middle School in Charlotte, NC, and our goal is to support the future dreams of 8 young women through that class. To do that, we need 50 more women to join the circle before the end of August.


Won’t you join me in the circle? Because when we succeed in our efforts, it is not just insular. Entire communities change. And if we want our community, our world to be as strong, vital, positive, and healthy as possible, we have to connect to one another.


Together, we can empower these amazing young women to be true to themselves.

You in? Complete this Letter of Commitment (no need to send your contribution now) and mail it to Circle de Luz PO Box 2 Davidson, NC 28036 or email it to

Questions to Answer for When You Need a Reset

Lola in office

Thank you so much for your sweet notes of encouragement last week. Not long after I penned that post, our sweet dog of twelve years fell suddenly ill and we had to put her to sleep. Our sweet Lola was my constant companion, my little co-worker. Since my office is at home, she could easily demand a morning play session, an afternoon petting session, and periodic snacks. Around the house, she was always sweet, gentle, and oh so earnest. Losing her was so hard, and we all still are doing things out of habit—reaching to feed her in the morning, looking for in under her favorite bush, moving to offer her my leftover lunch.

Last week, I shared that I was finally feeling myself come out of the fog and weariness of grief and devastation. And then we ended up having a crazy week filled with all sorts of heartbreak and challenges beyond losing Lola. Despite an especially hard week, I am relieved to share that whatever clicked into place in the sun of Sunset Beach is still there. I am tired, yes. I am so so sad, yes. But I am also okay.

When I realized that the weariness cloud had finally been lifted, I sat down one afternoon at the beach and did a little journaling to really claim this new feeling of possibility by defining how I wanted to feel in the coming months and what I intended to do during this time. For me, claiming my intentions is always an empowering process.

Want your own intention setting process as you prepare for the end of summer and the start of fall? Here are the questions I asked myself.

What do I need right now?

Here I identified three things that my body and soul were craving (for me, it was energy, clarity, and belief in myself).

What are my top three values for this time?

Which of my values do I most need to plug into right now to drive myself forward? I am plugging into being present, being brave/bold, and being optimistic.

How do I want to feel?

My list included: whole, healthy, inspired, vibrant, focused, loved and loving, supported and supportive.

 What I intend to do/prioritize?

All things wholehearted.

What are your hopes for yourself in the coming months?

For this one, I wrote the descriptor as if I was removed from myself, watching how I moved through life in the coming months.

What are your hopes for your work?

What sort of things do you want to see happen professionally? How do you want to be in that space?

What are your hopes for your family in the coming months?

If you’ve been struggling in any way recently (or even if you haven’t been), perhaps a few minutes to claim your intention might serve as a powerful reset for you, too. Don’t overthink any of the questions, whatever comes up for you in response to each question is just what you need. When you are done, revisit your answers and then place your reflections somewhere where you can easily review them whenever you need a reminder.

Finding words to begin again

Wild Geese

I disappeared for awhile there because I lost my voice. Well, not my voice so much as my words. They just left me.

In the days and weeks after my mom passed away, I had to have all the words. Words to let family members and friends know the devastating news the doctors had delivered to us, words to let the doctors know it was time to stop the machinery that was keeping our mamacita alive when she had already left us (for all intents and purposes) days before, words to choose a casket and flowers and an outfit remotely suitable enough for saying goodbye to our mamacita, words to write my mom’s obituary and eulogy and the thank you notes to all of the sweet people who delivered meals, held us, sat with us, told us stories about our mamacita and shook their heads in disbelief with us, words to navigate the phone calls to banks, insurance companies and probate court, words to explain death to a 7-year-old who had just lost his best friend, words to console my stunned father who was in the midst of a conversation with my mamacita when she left us, words to explain to my husband why I couldn’t come straight home from the grocery store because I was bawling in my car. There were just so many words that had to be said in the weeks and months immediately after my mamacita died.

Then the semester started and I needed to be a good teacher (well, as good as I could be at the moment), a good mother, a good volunteer for Circle de Luz and my other commitments. Then there were professional projects that had to get done and emergencies and the stuff that lines life all demanding the same thing: still more words.  And, finally, the school year was over and the world seemed to lose its mind and I was still managing my mother’s estate, my dad’s next steps, my little family’s life, and big transitions in different parts of my life, and the word well, which was already sort of dry, totally evaporated.

In the last couple months, I have been probably the quietest I have ever been. Not just in my writing life, but in all areas of my life. A few weeks ago, I told a friend how weary I was, how exhausted, how extinguished. But I couldn’t even find those words. I said, “I just feel so….” and she was the one who filled in the blank.

I kept thinking, ‘I want my light back.’ But, truth be told, I’ve been so extinguished that I was starting to think any memories of light weren’t memories at all but mirages.

Then last week, we went on our annual trip to Sunset Beach, a little barrier island off the coast of North Carolina. And there, washed in salt water and sweat and even tears, I felt a little something shift in me. Like words might be coming back to me, like I might have something to say, like maybe I was still tired but not so weary. Like maybe, just maybe, way was being made within me, like maybe I was no longer weighed down by all the lead balloons, maybe some of them had popped or drifted, somehow.

I am no expert on grief.  I’ve just been a person sitting in it for a little more than the last year, but what I’ve learned over this time is that it is best not to force the healing or happiness or productivity or profundity, either.  Waiting for your soul to journey through its loss and its new growth actually gives it the room to find something true.  There is no timetable for when the words come back.  For some people, it might be days, others months, others years.  To paraphrase Mary Oliver, you just have to let the soft animal of your body feel what it feels until it is ready to announce your new place in the family of things.

So, I have found words again. Not all of them, but enough to begin again. I look forward to communing with you again in this space, allowing our words, spoken and unspoken, to connect us and our souls to radiate light for each of us to use to navigate the terrain ahead. Thank you for being patient with me. Thank you for being there for me. Thank you for the light you offer the world (because you do, even if you sometimes doubt it).

In the Woods

For years, I have dreamed of taking the time for a writer’s residency where I just parked myself somewhere still, ignored my responsibilities, and wrote for a while. But the timing was never quite right and my teaching schedule really limited my ability to do it.

But, then, this past fall, I attended the Innovation Institute’s Think Like An Artist two-day workshop, and I was reminded of my longing to retreat. It felt like maybe things were settled enough at home that I could go for it. Moreover, I had decided to take the fall of 2016 off from teaching and so I knew that I had a little bit more time to try to fit one in. With that in mind, I researched Writer’s Residencies (basically, the idea is that you apply to usually non-profit artist or retreat centers that host visiting artists for a period of time that allows them to focus on creating and the cost ranges from $0 to a suggested nightly fee or flat rate) and found some that I wanted to apply to based on fit (location, structure, timing, etc.).


The first deadline was for Wild Acres retreat center, and so I got my materials together, sent them off, and held my breath. In late winter, I was thrilled to learn that I had been accepted there.

Wildacres Retreat is a conference center offering its facilities to non-profit groups conducting educational or cultural programs on topics such as music, art, science, religion, lapidary, craft and writing. It is also available for staff and board retreats for non-profit organization. At an elevation of 3,300 feet, Wildacres is situated on 1,600 acres atop Pompey’s Knob, a mountain near the Blue Ridge Parkway in Little Switzerland, North Carolina.


In addition to their normal conference center offerings, Wild Acres has three cabins that they offer weekly to artists for residency. Artists can create all day and dine, as they wish, at the staff table at the conference center. The residency is free after one pays a $20 application fee. The only costs are transportation to the retreat center and any food you decide to prepare on your own.

As my May retreat week neared, I started thinking about what I would write from three options I was considering:

Option #1: Work on the non-fiction book that had been brewing inside of me and felt like it was my next book.

Option #2: Work on a novel that I probably started in 2005 and then stopped after getting a contract for Hijas Americanas.

Option #3: Start a collection of essays about motherhood/daughterhood (yeah, I know that’s not a word but I am taking poetic license).

What I hadn’t realized when I was applying, though, was how stunted my writing and creativity have been since my mother’s death. In many ways, I am still in a place of deep grief and reflecting, and writing, for me, is a process of discovering what I know deep down within. What I knew about me and the world was altered a year ago, and I am not quite sure that I know anything new yet or have fully synthesized the things that I used to know through this new lens. When this occurred to me, I realized that this retreat would be an especially interesting challenge and one that would require me to make way before way had been made within me. Because I just wanted to practice writing again, I wanted to see if I could string one word with another and have them MEAN something, mean something worth investing in, I decided that I would work on the novel. It felt, on the surface, like the most emotionally safe thing for beginning again.



And then I got to Wild Acres, unpacked my little cabin, and started rereading the novel and what I remembered was that the main character had lost her mother to cancer. Life imitating art indeed. It’s funny how life knows what to do.


My residency was Monday to Sunday, and it came during a week of downpours, and so I spent every morning and afternoon just working away in my cabin with a daily word goal of at least 2500 new words, at least 10 new pages written.


Each day, I would start by reading and editing what I had written before, plotting out what I thought would happen that day or points I wanted to make, and then writing word after word until I reached my goal. It wasn’t effortless, but I did it over and over again. If I reached my goal early, I read. And then each night, I would make the journey up the mountain to the retreat center (sometimes by foot on a hiking trail, sometimes by car, depending on the weather) for dinner with the gracious Wild Acres staff and the two other artist residents for the week- Cynthia Lee, an incredible potter specializing in hand builds and Rachel Pollock, a fiercely creative writer, professor, and costume designer. Cynthia and Rachel were wonderful company, and I found their work so inspiring. Sometimes while I was up the mountain for dinner, I would check email or text messages (there was no signal down in the cabin), but, mostly, I tried to just focus on my writing that week. On Saturday, with our self-imposed writing expectations met, Rachel and I ventured into Little Switzerland for a delicious lunch and a stroll through a little gallery.


The gift of that week was incredible, and I am really so humbled that Wild Acres offered me this opportunity. What they give artists is beyond a gift; for me, it was breath and air, a way back into me when that route has felt both so very far away and rugged.


Finally, though I have no idea what will become of this novel, I wanted to share just a little bit of it with of you. If you want to catch other excerpts, you can find them here and here.

“I just stopped to tell Anna,” I say. “I am running home to Charlotte to clean up my classroom and get clothes and then I’ll be in Atlanta for a while.”

“Anna,” he says, and it occurs to me that he thought I had stopped at the pub to see him, to tell him. And, maybe, I did, but I don’t really know and now I can see him trying to repackage this in a way that isn’t too much for me but still true to him.

“Listen,” he says and his hands fall to mine, gently holding them. “I know this is a whole lot for you to deal with and I want you to know that it’s not too much for me. I am here for whatever you need. I can be in Atlanta in an hour. It’s not exactly the best timing, I know, but I loved Sunday and I would like nothing more than to string together even more days like Sunday with you.”

Overwhelmed with his words, with his intentions, I nod. And, yet, I don’t have any hypothetical Sundays to give him right now. I have a little brother who I have long neglected who needs me to show up this time and, truth be told, I am terrified that when I finally show up for him it will be for his death and the idea of that is wrecking and consuming me.

“Yeah, cancer never really has the best timing, does it?” I say, and my joke falls flat.

His face registers something, and I see his features change with that realization.

He hugs me one more time and then gives me a final pat on the back before saying, “You be sweet, Cami Cruz. You have my number if you need me, if you need anything at all.”

And though I want to explain myself, though I want to find words to keep this from being the end of us, though I want to tell him to just let me get to the other side of this cancer and then maybe I can figure out how to make room for him not just in my life but in my heart, what I know deep down inside is what I already knew on Sunday. Justin Sawyer is capable of reading every single one of my fault lines and to be known like that is a reality that I cannot bear.

The Kids Are Alright Spring 2016

a slide from a Body Image class conversation

a slide from a Body Image class conversation

At the end of each semester, my body image students write a process paper where they synthesize their learning- both personal and academic- for the semester. These papers are always a delight to read and there is so much wisdom in them that I just have to share a fraction of it (with my students’ permission, of course) with you. Here, some wise words from my students this semester. May they give you hope and inspiration the way they did me.   

Self-Acceptance isn’t selfish.

I’ve learned that body acceptance isn’t about selfishness, but about self-acceptance, which cannot be fully realized until I release this idea that I can’t be beautiful and realized while also uplifting and learning about other individual’s journeys. Moving forward, this class has given me perspective into interaction with other people knowing that they have stories and experiences that maybe I cannot understand, but that I know impacted them in ways such that my own experiences have impacted me. Body image is so much more than how you perceive yourself, it’s how you hold yourself, how you behave around others, and going forward I know that I need to comprehend and respect that in every facet of my life. ~Howie


Our bodies do not hinder us the way our minds do.

My physical appearance doesn’t hinder me from anything, but my self-esteem/mentality does. I had to realize that in order to first begin my journey to self-love.  ~Samantha


My body’s job is NOT to please others.

I realize now that my body is not something that society can say is wrong or unattractive because it is not my body’s job to be pleasing for others. My body’s job is to take me on my life adventures, to be my vehicle and if I am not taking care of my body or if I keep punishing my body then I am essentially just stranding my vehicle and not going anywhere.  ~Timbre


It is not any of your business what anyone else thinks of you.

Before going into this class, I knew in my head that a lot of people’s body image issues are tied to media, family, culture, and peers, but actually learning the statistics and numbers behind those truths taught me about the society that we live in.  We live in a society that tells us that if we are “overweight,” we are lazy and disgusting. If we are “underweight,” we need to eat more. If you love yourself, you’re conceited and full of it. If you hate the way you look, you just need to love yourself.  There is no way to please society. No matter what you feel about yourself, it will always be thrown back in your face.  What I’ve learned during the course of this semester is that no one’s opinion of yourself matters more than your own. Your opinion is the only one that should matter to you.  If you like you, what other people think of you or what society thinks you should be is all background noise. ~Melody


It is time to end the war.

I think things really clicked for me when the two ladies came to talk about Health at Every Size. They talked about how our bodies are like a vehicle to get us through this life. And that is exactly what we had been saying throughout the entire semester. But for some reason, it really clicked for me when these two women were talking about it. I left that class realizing that my body is not an enemy. Food is not an enemy. I realized that this is my one and only body. This is my vehicle for the rest of my life. I don’t want to live my whole life at war with my own body. This body has gotten me through so much. ~Becky

an open letter to my class on the last day of school

primed for struggle

It was an easy moment. There I was helping Happy get dressed for bed and he was struggling to pull up his pajama bottoms after putting on lotion. He twisted, grunted, tugged.

“The struggle is real, baby. Isn’t it?” I asked him.

He looked at me with that profound open face of his and said, “That’s all of life, mama. You just gotta keep trying.”

And, just like that, my nostrils flared, my eyes welled with tears, and, so as not to scare him with how true his words were, I embraced him. I pulled him so close that I was practically tasting his mango butter leave-in conditioner, and I felt his certainty.

“Yes, baby. Life is a struggle. And you just have to know that you already have everything inside of you that you need. You just have to keep going.”

Here is the awful news: life is hard. Just by itself, no human miscalculation, error or drama factored in, it is hard. And then we add our stuff to it—the stuff that happens to us, the stuff that we do to ourselves, the stuff we do to others—and life gets really dense, really fast.

But here is the amazing thing, the thing that it can take a whole life to realize but doesn’t have to: you already have everything inside of you that you need. And it is worth it- you are worth it- to keep going.

Here is what I have witnessed in you and from you in the last four months: profound compassion, inspired asking, deep yearning, an unquenchable thirst to understand, a true desire to connect, a healing, uniting humor, a broken open hope, a quixotic magic.

And those things aren’t just sweet. They aren’t quaint. Those are the practices, the ways of being that change everything, that heal us as a people, that create connection and change and progress.

At any given moment, what we control varies but what we always control is our relationship with ourselves. Every morning when you wake up, choose you. Choose to give yourself self-respect, patience, care. Choose to believe in yourself and treat yourself well. Choose to matter to you.

Life is primed for struggle, but while the struggle can be for you, it should never be against yourself. As our journey together draws to a close, I want you to remember that you are all you have got in any given moment. Let the truth of that bring you home. To you.   Let it crystallize anything you still need. You have everything you need inside of you. You just have to reach inside for it.

You don’t have the time to be mean to yourself. You don’t have armored souls that make those barbs not matter. You don’t have the luxury of doing the type of damage in minutes that it will take years, decades, a lifetime to undo. What you have are these gorgeous spirits that you have allowed us each to glimpse, yearning to be free. But to be truly free, they have to know they will be safe in your world. That you will fight for, honor, and cherish them.

I have glimpsed you, and I know your magic. And I know that the world needs that magic now. Put down the sword you have used against yourself. Pick up your wand. Go do what you were meant to do. And when it gets hard, keep trying. Stay gold.

At the end of each semester, I write my students a letter that is unique to their class.  This was the letter for my body image class this semester.

Want to read some past letters?

You can change us.

The world is aching for you to show up. 

The world needs your lightness 

We hunger to be known.  

Answer the call into your own greatness 

Radiate Love 

Do the world’s work 

And here is the letter I share with them on the first day of school.