Body Image Activist Gives 4 Tips To Help You Accept Yourself

After the holidays, I heard a familiar refrain from people  ” I ate too much”, “I was such a pig over the holidays.” “Why did I eat a second dessert?!” You may be a member of this chorus.

Too often, an accompanying note includes “I’m fat.” “I hate the way I look.” “I have to go on a diet.” Beating yourself up about what you ate and how you look is painful and unproductive. It undermines your self-confidence.

Sharon_HaywoodSharon Haywood, body image activist, who told her personal story last year to the Confidence Chronicles, has four tips you can put into practice immediately to stop negative self-talk about your body, as well as a tip related to how you eat. (Not to worry, it’s NOT another diet!)


Sharon, what tips do you have for people to deal with their negative thinking or self-esteem issues related to body image?


1. I think one of the most powerful things, which has worked for me over the years, is tuning into self-talk whether it be fat talk, or aging/ “old” talk and flipping it on its head. I still go back to it when I have a bad day.

One of the techniques I use is based on the concept of cognitive dissonance, which is really powerful. Essentially if we have two thoughts at the same time that are conflicting, we are uncomfortable with that and seek to marry the two because we can’t live in a constant state of  conflict.

So, applying that to body image, if you dislike your appearance in some way and find yourself thinking or saying how ugly how you are or you hate your nose, or your freckles or whatever it is, stop yourself in the moment and tell yourself something positive, such as I love my nose, or my freckles or my hips are gorgeous.

Even if you don’t believe it, say it anyway because eventually you will. It’s an incredible technique and I’ve seen the transformation in myself after using it repeatedly. I may not love my stomach but I sure as heck don’t hate it and I know a large part of why I feel that way is because I’ve used this technique.

2. The thought-stop technique is very similar to the technique I just mentioned.

I remember reading in Glamour awhile ago that women have, on average, thirteen negative thoughts about their bodies every single day. That’s huge. Huge.

So that gives us a lot of opportunity for change. Tune into that monologue in your head. The moment you have a negative thought about yourself, tell yourself, “Stop!” and replace it with a positive one. The effects will happen gradually, don’t expect the change to be immediate, so keep practicing this technique.

You’ll be uncomfortable saying positive things because you feel like you’re lying to yourself.  I say “fake it til you make it”. Lie to yourself using positive thoughts you have trouble believing about yourself, and eventually you’ll start to act in more concordance with those positive statements. The effects will happen gradually, so don’t expect the change to be immediate.

3. Become media literate. Question what you see and hear in the media. Be aware you don’t have to passively consume and accept the messages you hear daily. Are the images of women in magazines “real” or have they been touched up and altered. In other words, is the purported standard for you to live up to even real or possible?

4. Tune into your body’s signals, especially related to food and eating (Intuitive eating).

There’s an incredible little book by Susie Orbach On Eating. It outlines the basic tenets of intuitive eating, which is about tuning into your body signals of hunger and satiety rather than moving around in the world according to what external sources tell you what you should do. “Eat lunch now.” “Eat supper now.”

I highly recommend that people get off the dieting cycle of losing and gaining weight, which plagues so many women and men. Listen to your body. Are you actually hungry or are you feeding some emotional need? The first step towards change is having a greater awareness of your choices around food.


I certainly know I eat at times when I’m not hungry because it’s supper time, or someone is offering me food when I visit them.


There are so many reasons why we eat and very few have to do with our physical hunger signals. Often we’re emotionally hungry for something else. Everybody’s eating patterns are very individual but what most of us have in common is that we don’t listen to our body signals.

Susie Orbach says in her book that we don’t do that with our urge to pee. Do we hold it until a certain time? Do we try to control that? No, we listen to it. When the body says to empty our bladder we do. We need to take the same approach to eating.

So many of our eating choices are unconscious habits. It’s becoming more conscious on a holistic level, not just awareness of our thinking but also aware of what our body is telling us.

Cherry: Those are excellent tips, Sharon. Thank you. Whether my readers are cognizant of any of them or not, they serve as an excellent reminder of how to keep our selves in balance and self confident.


Coming Out Of Your Closet – What’s The Hard Conversation You’re Avoiding?

My brother recently found out he has brain cancer.

He’s had Parkinson’s for over a decade. This fact complicates his treatment. It ups the number of specialists and therapists that you need to talk to and coordinate with.

It makes the conversation about medical choices, death and dying harder. Or that’s what I would have said before listening to this poignant, powerful TEDx talk by Ash Beckham. She said one hard conversation is not harder than another. Hard is not relative, it’s just hard. 

Take the 10 minutes to listen. It is so worth it. She discusses a universal theme for all of us.


As Beckham said, the feelings you have about having a hard conversation are universal. You’re scared. You don’t want to do it. And it needs to be done.

Having the conversation makes you stronger.

What’s the hard conversation you’re avoiding? 

Interview: Queen of Women’s Fiction Debbie Macomber Has Never Dreamt Small

Debbie Macomber

Debbie Macomber


Being a #1 New York Times best selling author of romance novels translates into an exceedingly long line of women standing with books in their hands to meet Debbie Macomber and get her autograph.

It was the 2013 BookMarks Festival in Winston-Salem, NC and I was on a mission to sign authors to be interviewed for the Confidence Chronicles True Stories of Becoming Strong. So I stood at the end of Debbie’s line in order to make my request. Little did I know the end of the line was a moving target and I would have to keep stepping back to allow another group of happy female fans get ahead of me.

I understand why The Sacramento Bee  dubbed her “the reigning queen of women’s fiction” .

Finally I arrived at the table to stand directly in front of my target, Debbie Macomber. I handed her Rose Harbor in Bloom to sign, as well as my promotional material. Smiling, I directly made my request. Smiling back, she graciously said “Yes!” to an interview to share her story and help inspire other women to fulfill their dreams.

Listen in to the fun interview Debbie and I had from her home in  Port Orchard, Washington State (the town on which her Cedar Cove novels and Hallmark channel series are based).

Click on the arrow on the left of the audio link below to hear what Debbie has to say.


Great advice from Debbie Macomber’s interview:
  • There’s power in dreams. Dream big. [Debbie has never, ever dreamt small.]
  • There are no guarantees in life. If you want something, go for it. [Remember, Debbie didn't start out a success. When she began writing in the 1970's she initially received rejections but she kept following her dream of writing and she became a #1 best selling author.]
  • Dreaming is your beginning; then you need to follow through.
  • Structuring your day, rather than just allowing it to free flow, helps to provide the discipline to act and a feeling of control.
  • Writing things down is important. It helps you follow through on your ideas and your goals.


If you want help getting unstuck and increasing your skills and confidence to do the thing you’re dreaming of, give me a shout. I’m offering a free 1/2 hour coaching call (click here to sign up today)  to celebrate all the wonderful women who give their time for these interviews. Next up is part 2 with Raquel Cepeda , journalist, filmmaker, cultural activist, author.






Award-winning Journalist Raquel Cepeda – Claiming Your Identity – An Interview

Interviewing author Raquel Cepeda was fun. Her energy and passion are palpable; her mission in life as a cultural activist inspiring.  The words she chose on her website to describe herself are, in themselves, telling: Journalist. Filmmaker. Gemini. Buffalo. Madre. Time traveller. Internationalist.

But those words don’t describe all of who Raquel Cepeda is. What labels ever do?

Struggling against labels and claiming your own identity is the heart of Raquel’s book Bird of Paradise How I became Latina, a memoir.  It’s also the topic we discussed in Part 1 of our 2 part interview. Listen in. Enjoy. See if her struggle against being pigeon-holed by others resonates with you.

(You may have to hit the Refresh button on your computer for the video to appear.)

Great advice from Raquel Cepeda’s interview:


  • None of you fit in a box. Each of you is unique even if you’re labeled as part of a racial or ethnic group.
  • Know that even in your darkest moment, there’s a reason for your being here.
  • Even if the steps you’re taking on your journey are difficult, it doesn’t mean they’re wrong. Keep moving forward.
  • Women have a sisterhood. Don’t be afraid to rely on each other;  to lean on each other.
  • Begin each day as a completely new day.
  • Don’t put the pressure of societal norms about appearance and race on yourself.
  • You are your temple, your own church, your own history book. Love and accept yourself.


Watch for part 2 of our interview coming out next week. We discuss how Raquel Cepeda was empowered by boxing; as well as other ways she moved past the pain of her past and learned to take chances. At the end, Raquel challenges you with a call to action and she wants to hear your results!


Below is a written version of the interview for those who prefer reading to listening or are hard of hearing.

Cherry: Hello Raquel! I’m excited about our interview and glad you agreed to be interviewed for the CONFIDENCE CHRONICLES True Stories Of Becoming Strong.

Raquel: Of course. As soon as I saw you with your red hair and your energy and your coolness I couldn’t say no.

Cherry: I’m so glad. I admit to also dressing a certain way that day, wearing snake skin tights, thinking it would help me be remembered. I wanted to do what ever I could to be memorable as I asked authors at BookMarks 2013 Festival to be part of my interview series.

Raquel: Well it worked because you’re one of the only people I remember meeting.


Even in my darkest moments I knew there was a reason for me to be here.

BOP-Final-CoversmallerCherry: I want to talk, in part, about your book, Bird of Paradise, When I Became Latina, a memoir.

You’re a cultural activist and the theme throughout your book is about finding your identity.  As a child, you weren’t willing to accept the identity or the labeling that  your parents and your community were giving you. Would you please talk about that.

Raquel: Bird of Paradise How I Became Latina is really two books in one. The first part is about Paraíso (Paradise) the neighborhood I kind of grew up in with my mother’s family in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic (DR). I formed a bond with my maternal grandmother who instilled that value in me, maybe unknowingly, to question everything and not accept what’s before me.

After a few years I went to live with my dad in New York City (NYC), where I was born. As soon as you go to NYC, to America, and leave the Caribbean, DR,  it’s a culture shock. Race and ethnicity and identity are foisted upon you as opposed to in the Dominican Republic where you’re just Dominican.

Here, it’s a culture obsessed with race and appearance and putting people and things in boxes and using those boxes to put yourself above someone. I couldn’t get used to that idea. I always remembered the unconditional love showered upon me from my Dominican family in the Dominican Republic.

My father [although Dominican himself] was alway trying to encourage me to fit in – to be white if you will – and therefore be better than the other people around my community.

Then, when I went to Parochial School we were taught in history books about how certain  groups of  people were putting down other groups of people. Something in me sparked to rebel against that.

I remember when I called my maternal grandmother in the Dominican Republic to tell her I sold my book and it would be published, she started laughing hysterically. I could only hear this loud noise.

Are you all right? <noises continued>

Are you laughing? <noises continued>

Are you laughing at me?



Because when you were about 6 years old [living in DR] and pissed at us, you’d tug on the hem of my skirt and say “One day I’m going to write a story about this family and set the record straight. You’re living your destiny.

Cherry: That’s a great story.

Raquel: Even in my darkest moments I knew there was a reason for me to be here. I always had that insight. I don’t know why. I can’t articulate it but I knew at the end of the day things were going to be OK.

Cherry: In the book you talk about someone who had a tarot card reading and he told you that you had come up in a reading.  The message was that you were supposed to be talking about your people’s destiny or some similar words. It was talking about what you’re doing now!

Raquel: That was Maria’s husband and he was a father figure for me. He told me he had a reading and it said you [Raquel] are to going to be carrying our tradition in some way.  At the time, I was like ‘whatever’.

But I remember that conversation now and when I’m walking down a street where he and I walked together, I’ll recall it and others like it and get chills. I feel like it means I’m walking in the right direction, even though some of those steps were hard to take. It’s kismet.

Cherry: It is. Definitely.

Raquel: That’s my favorite word. <laughing>

Cherry: Well I’m glad you got to say. Perhaps it will come up again. <laughing>

Raquel: Yea, at least 10 more times. <both of us laughing now>

Not feeling like you belong seems to be a universal theme among women.

Cherry: As a teacher and coach of women, a recurring theme I hear from clients is a feeling that they don’t belong. They say things like “I always felt different, like an outcast”. Some of them turned to alcohol or drugs to suppress the feelings of not belonging.

For the most part, these aren’t women of color, so that wasn’t their issue. But they still felt like they didn’t fit in because they weren’t thin enough or they didn’t have blond hair or they were poor or they were rich.  It doesn’t really matter what made them feel different.

Not feeling like you belong seems to be a universal theme, sadly. It may happen to men too, I just don’t hear it from them because I work with women.

My sense is Raquel, overall, you’ve moved past those feelings. I’m wondering what suggestions you may have for other women about how to embrace their uniqueness. Their own identity.  Not who their parents said they were, or now that I’m in North Carolina, not the Southern Belle role that society may say.

Raquel: One of the people who really inspired me was a rich white girl, if you will. She talked about this whole idea of being in limbo. I found she had a lot of the same issues as many of my peers growing up. I realized, wow, this is a universal theme. It will bind all kinds of women together because first and foremost, I think, our gender transcends race. We have a sisterhood. I believe we have to not be afraid to rely on each other;  to lean on each other. I think women have issues of misogyny, sometimes more so than men do. We hate each other. We project our own insecurities.

Once you learn how to accept yourself that can go away.

The way I do it is: Everyday is a new day.

Don’t put the pressure of societal norms on yourself. It’s crazy. We comment all the time on how crazy this is or that is. How crazy they’re running the government. We can apply that type of thinking to how people perceive and define beauty. It’s crazy, so just relax.

I have a friend who thought she was too fat to go to the gym. She felt like she had to be a certain size before entering. I said nobody cares. You are your temple, your own church, your own history book. You have to be able to give thanks to that history, that temple before you lose yourself completely.

I find that sometimes that works and sometimes it takes more work with some of the women I know, of all races. Once you understand that your identity is always shifting, that you’re cosmic and not containable, you ignite a spark within you. Once you free that spark then you start sitting differently, walking differently, talking to people differently. I feel like more of us need to do that.


If you want help getting unstuck and increasing your skills and confidence to do the thing you’re afraid of, give me a shout. I’m offering a free 1/2 hour coaching call (click here to sign up today)  to celebrate all the wonderful women who give their time for these interviews. Next up (after part 2 of Raquel Cepeda) is Debbie Macomber, #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author.  Cherry


Author PL Byrd talks about writing again after devastating criticism

Like unusual birds? Then you’ll definitely enjoy getting to know PL Byrd, author of Love in the 4th Dimension – A Restaurant Tale.

This Byrd (Lynn) is a colorful, witty woman with a wing span of experiences that made me want to listen to her and then listen some more. Combine her tales with a honed storytelling ability and my tightly planned interview delightfully deteriorated into a lanquid afternoon of fun campfire-style stories minus the bugs.

For those of you who’ve berated yourself for not sticking with one career or for getting bored easily and moving on to yet another new venture; it’s time to reframe your thoughts in a positive way (as Lynn would have you do).

PL Byrd & friend

PL Byrd & friend

Lynn’s variety of experiences (and yours) bring a richness to her relationships, her life, and her writing. She’s:

~ a master riding instructor

~ a seasoned restaurateur

~ an alternivore

~ a good food farmer

~ a community health educator

~ a Nascar show car driver (that experience alone would be a powerful interview for Confidence Chronicles True Stories of Becoming Strong)

~ and an author of 3 books and countless short stories.

Cherry: How did you become a writer?

Lynn: I was always a writer – from the day I was born. Becoming a published author, well that took time, and surmounting several hurdles.

I’m going to start in the middle of my story about writing Love in the 4th Dimension – A Restaurant Tale, but in some ways it’s really the beginning.

I was working as Admissions Director for Hawthorn University (yet another instance of my taking on the challenge of a job without direct prior experience). Although grateful it paid my bills, I wasn’t suited for the work. I was chronically stressed and knew something had to shift.

Because being in nature has always inspired and  healed me, I went for a walk with my dog, Jaco, into the magical Uwharrie Mountains.

It’s a great place to unplug by being quiet…or not. Sometimes I yelled or cried my way around the mountain, asking for answers. This particular time a message came clearly to me. “Quit your job, move on. Get back to writing. Give them two weeks’ notice.”

I’d learned to pay attention to my intuition and messages that resonated with me, as this one did.

When I got home, I called my boss, gave my notice and took a nap. Then I took the manuscript for my recent book out of its hiding place. Two years prior, after a very hurtful event, I had ceremoniously wrapped the manuscript in Saran Wrap – an embalming if you will – and laid it to rest in a box which I put on a shelf in my closet.

Cherry: What made you bury your manuscript in a self-made coffin?

Lynn: I accepted the cruel words of another person who was supposed to be an expert in writing. Big mistake. Her completely negative feedback about my writing hurt me to the point that I let my manuscript die.

You see, I’d sent the second draft of my manuscript to a professor emeritus at a university near where I lived. I was looking for constructive feedback and ways to make the story stronger. As it turned out, this “expert” was incredibly mean-spirited. It was like reliving my first three days of first grade when the teacher didn’t believe I was left handed and humiliated me by laughing at me and making me stand in the corner.

After reading my manuscript, the professor said she’d give me an hour of her time. She came to my home and, Cherry, she stood at my dining room table for 55 minutes and told me all the things she hated about my book. She didn’t like any of my characters. She didn’t like the flow or my writing style. Five minutes before the end she said, “Oh I did find this one sentence I liked.”

Five words out of eight-eight thousand. That’s all the grace she could extend.

I should have kicked her out long before she finished. It’s OK that she didn’t like my book. Not everyone’s going to like it. But she was cruel in her feedback. I allowed it to shut me down. 

Until that day on the mountain, when I listened to myself. My higher power. God. The Universe. Whatever you want to call it. I had an epiphany that day and I did what I needed to do for me. Quit my job to write.

Cherry: After two years of not working on your manuscript, how did you get yourself back into writing?

Lynn: I made a ceremony out of creating a beautiful space to write. A place where I felt safe, comfortable. Writing is important to me, and it deserves to be done in a space of beauty and comfort.

Cherry: So true! I did a 5 week video and email Confidence Builder series and one of the weeks I talked about the value of ceremony and ritual. They help you mark and move into a new stage of life. It’s such a feeling of renewal. I love the sense of before and after that rites of passage offer.

You were marking a rite of passage and a celebration into your renewal as a writer by creating a sacred space for your work.

Lynn: I also had a dream that validated my choice. It was beautiful and elaborate and at one point people were cheering and clapping for me. What I took from that dream was that I was being congratulated on making my move to God’s gift, which is writing for me.

Cherry: I think that’s an amazing dream. I’m envious, as I think many women would be to have such a clear sign of validation for a choice.

Lynn: A clear sign is great but the definition of that sign is solely mine. I told you how I interpreted my elaborate dream. Someone else could have had the same dream and interpreted it completely differently.

We can’t get hung up on thinking there’s one absolute right answer or way of looking at things. What I took from that dream resonated for me and that’s what makes it real.

Knowledge doesn’t solve life’s problems. For example, my money concerns didn’t go away but I gained comfort in my choice and spent less time worrying about them.

The point is to make a decision and believe in it. Again, if it resonates, go for it. Other people, even friends, may disagree with you. I’ve had friends fade away because of choices and successes I had. It hurts, but I like who I am.  A work in progress. Still willing to grow after all these years.

Cherry: Thank you Lynn, for talking with me and sharing your experiences with my readers.


Great advice from Lynn Byrd’s interview:

  • If you’re feeling stuck, go for a walk in nature. It’s a wonderful place to find inspiration.
  • Ceremony and ritual can mark life’s transitions. Use them to aid in your transformation.
  • Believe in yourself and what resonates for you.
  • Like who you are.


If you want help getting unstuck and increasing your skills and confidence to do the thing you’re afraid of, give me a shout. I’m offering a free 1/2 hour coaching call (click here to sign up today)  to celebrate all the wonderful women who give their time for these interviews. Next up is Raquel Cepeda , journalist, filmmaker, author.




The Lesson In Traffic Circles

I heard the following on a radio show, which prompted this post.

traffic-circle ”Yesterday I was driving in a traffic circle and saw someone going the wrong way in the circle.

The week before that I’d seen the same thing happen.

It got me thinking.

Sometimes what’s obvious to us, isn’t obvious to other people.”

Your Response To Mistakes

People often voice their impatience with someone who’s made a mistake because the other person “should” have known better.

If they’re new at doing something how “should” they have known better?

What if someone grew up in a household where their parents never discussed budgeting. “Should” s/he innately know how to balance a checkbook and how to live within her means?

Or if someone never had the opportunity, as you might have, to be a girl scout or boy scout, “should” they know the basics of camping that you take for granted?

Even what appears fundamental to you – work etiquette, for instance – might need to be taught when you hire someone.

Remember people’s humanity and uniqueness.

They don’t know what you know.

They haven’t had the same experiences as you.

Be gentle with your expectations, your judgments, for tomorrow it may be you that makes a mistake.

Patiently yours, Cherry

PS – I hate traffic circles…particularly the ones I’m learning in DC. Who knows, maybe the guy on radio was talking about me.