Why Self-acceptance is the First Step to Meaningful Change

cover art for episode 81 with Monica Sherese on using bridge thoughts on CBaS podcast

In this episode, I’ve extracted the gems from a conversation with Monica Sherese on how self-acceptance fuels change to share with you. You can consider this a companion interview to episode 79 although the order in which you listen to the two episodes does not matter.

We invite you to interrogate your own thoughts about yourself and your body so that you can make changes in a way that is respectful and caring of yourself and your body. Two key ideas are self-acceptance and loving your body, concepts that are tied to the challenge from episode 79 of the podcast. Listen to find out how to hold space for other people to support them in living the life that they want.

Next season, the focus will be on relationships. As we close out this season on self-acceptance, the next few episodes will create a bridge between this season and the next. You will notice that relationships and community show up in the conversations along with the topic of self-acceptance.

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We recorded this episode on May 21, 2021.

Be sure to connect with Monica and learn from her. She has a coaching website in development is monicasherese.com and her boutique can be found at monica.cabionline.com. To schedule a free coaching session with her, visit calendly.com/monicasherese. Also, follow her on Instagram at @monicasherese.

You can connect with Damianne on the Changes BIG and small website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube. You’re also invited to join the Changes BIG and small Facebook community.

Regardless of whatever state the body is in, it shows up for us every day and does its very best. – Monica Sherese

Similar Episodes

Timeline of the Chat

01:34 – Building a Community of Women
02:19 – How to participate in peer-coaching
04:13 – Holding space for each other as women
07:18 – A love of style and fashion
08:44 – The importance of clothing in creating a feeling and self-image
11:55 – How to develop your self-image
13:33 – Loving your body
17:32 – Dressing your body
18:49 – Find out the color that Monica considers rich, chic, elegant
21:49 – Curiosity and practicing care for your body
25:42 – Weight loss through self acceptance
27:45 – Cultivating thoughts that will empower you with change

Cultivate a sense of curiosity and fascination with yourself. – Monica Sherese

You’re fully deserving now. – Monica Sherese

Transcript of the Episode

Building a Community of Women [01:34]

Monica Sherese: [01:34] I think that there are no more fiercer advocates or women than other women. And I also intend to break down barriers and deepen connections between women so that we can actually be that for each other in a tangible way. I’m working on launching a community to that end. 

So I am a self-image coach. That is, where my natural giftings are. And I’m interested in lots of other things as well, one of them being the establishment of authentic, real relationships between women.

 How to participate in peer-coaching [02:19]

So the community that I am starting and the tribe that I wish to develop is going to be not only conceptually discussing the idea of uplifting and empowering other women, but having actual conversations around how to do that, how is it that we can transition from being friends who provide advice, input, sometimes judgements, assessments of what the women in our lives are doing, and know when to effectively move into more of a coaching mentality. 

I believe that everyone has it within them and operates in the context of being a coach at different times in their lives, but they’re just not aware of it. So how is it that women can begin to peer coach each other? That’s one of the activities that I’m going to be initiating and discussing a lot in that group.

Damianne President: [03:31] That sounds wonderful because so often we hear that women are catty and all of that. There’s all of that negative imagery about women and it’s such a stereotype, but I’ve also found that I have strong women friends, but that’s not a common part of the conversation.

And so how to be that peer coach for each other, I think, is a very necessary twist on the conversation. We expect that we should support our friends, that we should be good friends, but it’s not always clear what that means in terms of when do we question our friends.

Holding space for each other as women [04:13]

What does it actually look like to support somebody doesn’t mean agreeing with them all the time, which is sometimes the default role we fall into. 

Monica Sherese: [04:21] Right, right. You know, agreeing with them or chastising because we put ourselves in a position of what I would do, and if I was in her position, I wouldn’t do that and I don’t think she should. Who really knows what’s best for someone else’s life? The only person that we really have any kind of insight into is what’s best for us. And it’s easy to project. And so, like you said, it’s teaching the skill of holding space, which I think is most important. It’s like, how do you hold space?

I know that as mental health is becoming more discussed and more acceptable in conversation, and coaching, as a tool, is making its way through different communities, especially among women of color, there may be mentions of this idea of holding space. There may be the possibility that people have heard the term, but really don’t have any idea what that is, how to do it, or what relevance it might have in their own life.

It’s really about truly empathetically and actively listening to someone without interjecting, allowing them to be completely heard, and beginning any response that you might have with questions versus statements.

The idea is to help someone on the journey of their own discovery of what’s best for them versus being told or talked at in terms of what they should do and shouldn’t do, which is often based on someone else’s experience and not theirs.

Damianne President: [06:09] I’m hearing you say that it’s about relationships and it’s nurturing those relationships where you can really listen to the other person and solicit information from them, as opposed to just putting your own spin on things. 

I was having a conversation with my sister earlier. She’s doing some coaching with me around social media because that’s her area of expertise. And at some point I said to her, Oh, you told me to blah, blah, blah and she was very careful to correct me and say, oh no, I’m not telling you to do it. I’m suggesting that you might do this. We can have a conversation about it. Just that small language change really resonated with me, really made me pause. She was being so intentional with her language. And how often do we catch ourselves in these ways? 

 Next, Monica shares her coaching vision with us. We learn what first attracted her to this field. And what she hopes to achieve in her work as a coach. 

A love of style and fashion [07:15]

Monica Sherese: [07:15] I work with women specifically on their style of wardrobe needs and sell clothing. And it’s actually a combination of those two things and my experiences in each that led me to coaching. 

I’ve always been into fashion and style. I think that there are things that I am absolutely certain of that we are endowed with at birth in terms of natural inclinations and giftings. It’s just a matter of figuring out what those are. What are the things that come easily to you so easily that it doesn’t even involve much thought? 

And for me ever since I was a little girl, I have always been riveted by fashion and all things beauty, you know, like girly things and frilly things. And so I wanted to model at one point in time. I wanted to do hair, uh, neither of which was an acceptable path forward for my parents or my family more broadly. We’re much more traditional type folks where you get an education and you get yourself a real job. So I left that behind very early in my life and was able to sort of rediscover an opportunity to get back into it when I was introduced to Cabi, which is the clothing company that I sell clothing for.

The Importance of Clothing in creating a feeling and self-image [08:44]

In my work with women as a stylist, it was clear to me that there was a very obvious connection between the way a woman felt about the way she dressed and the way she looked and what her self image was. And I could see, in doing fashion experiences where women are together in groups, and they’re learning about fashion tips and tricks and wearing the clothes they’re getting an opportunity to try on, the glint in a woman’s eye when there is something on the rack that I’m beckoning her to try on that she would ordinarily completely walk past in a store, would never consider wearing, and so telling her just try it, you know, just try it, and her girlfriends or other women in the room like, yeah, I mean, we’re just having fun here, just put it on. And she puts it on and she looks gorgeous and she knows it. And that’s the glint in her eye that I’m looking for, that moment of recognition where something changes in the physiology when a woman knows that she looks good and it translates into feeling good.

And so I wanted to explore that connection and I thought about it and reflected on it in my own life and how I had very unconsciously used style over a large part of my life to develop this relationship with how I felt about myself and I could engineer feelings that I wanted based on the clothing that I chose.

I recognized that if there were certain colors that I had on, I felt more cheerful. If, you know, I was wearing a red suit, it definitely felt more powerful. Some of that is from the programming and the conditioning that we get, and there is a psychology around color and the impact on us. That informs enclothed cognition, which is a broader cognitive behavioral study of the impact of style and fashion on the wearer. 

I got completely geeked out. I mean, I’m a nerd at heart. I’m an analyst and I wanted to be able to not only get involved in the fun and surface side of fashion and style, but I really wanted to dig into what the real impact was and how we can use style as a tool in our toolkit to enhance and elevate our self image. And so that’s the part of the work that I do with women. It’s more broadly working on self image, but also teaching tools for how to impact that.

How to develop your self-image [11:55]

Style is one, future self identity is another one that sometimes can involve establishing an alter ego for yourself, which is kind of like a middle point between who you are currently and the ideal version of yourself that we all have in our mind, the person who we actually are, but we just don’t recognize ourselves that way.

And so, it’s how do you take that journey and move toward the ideal version of yourself in your mind’s eye, which is your future self and an alter ego can be a very powerful way to move yourself from your current towards your future.

 Damianne President: [12:32] Do you enjoy shopping with people or do you prefer to go shopping by yourself? What Monica just said really gave me pause to think about what might be the benefits in going shopping with someone else. And how might that help me expand? My concept of self image, of clothing. And what might I discover about myself? Let’s think through that a little bit more.

 I was just thinking about the times in my life when I’ve trusted somebody else’s suggestion to try something and realized I don’t have to give up anything to try something. It’s free to try something and see what happens and have fun with it.

It’s incredible, but often we do let fear stand in the way of trying something new. And so there’s that other thing that comes up for women too, in terms of putting limits on when or where we might actually go for the thing that we know we want.

Loving your body [13:33]

Monica Sherese: [13:33] That is so true. I encounter that so much in the clients that I work with as far as styling is concerned. My question is always why? My best friend does this all the time, and we talk about this and it’s like it’s so important to get to a place where you absolutely love your body now, even though it may not be what you would prefer it to be. It is so important to acknowledge the body that you have and to love what it’s brought you through and to decide to make changes to it from a place of love versus a place of I don’t like it, and I don’t want it, and this is not good enough for me, and it’s certainly not good enough for me to reward with nice things. 

And so I have to wait for my body to look a certain way before I am willing to spend money on it, before I’m willing to invest in draping and clothing it with beautiful pieces that look amazing on the shape it is now. It’s a very interesting relationship I think that you touched on what we have as women when it comes to fashion and our weight.

 I don’t think that it’s all together conscious. I think that it’s kind of like in unconscious thoughts that we have that, you know what, I’m not going to go shopping until I lose this amount of weight. Then I can reward myself for doing something good to my body because my body is not good now, or it’s not what I would like now so I don’t deserve to wear nice things, or the clothing is not going to look nice on me until I lose the weight.

 There is beautiful clothing all around for women of all sizes. I think that we’ve come a long way in terms of fashion for women as far as accommodating women of all sizes. So that would be kind of like, my question is like, why not now?

Damianne President: [16:06] It’s so funny because I took a course a couple of months ago. It was a weekend workshop and there was a lady in a bigger body and she had on this red dress; she just looked so beautiful.

When people ask me, oh, what’s your favorite color, I say, oh, red and orange, but not for wearing. And so I’ve been interrogating this in myself recently because red and orange are bright; you don’t hide in red or orange. And so I think the other thing that comes up for people who are not accepting of their bodies or who are waiting for that when, is thinking that we’re hiding and I’ll definitely put myself in that, we’re hiding by wearing looser clothing or dark clothing or whatever, and thinking that somehow if we make ourselves smaller or more invisible, then other people won’t notice the judgements that we place on ourselves.

Monica Sherese: [17:08] What’s interesting is that I think that we notice everybody regardless of what they have on. I would say in a field of people, obviously the eye is going to be drawn to someone that has on something brightly colored more so than someone who doesn’t, but you still notice the field of people. You still notice and can see everyone.

Dressing your body [17:31]

I learned this from one of my mentors, who does not allow her clients to have black in their wardrobe at all. I am not that strict, but she is so against the notion that most of us have been indoctrinated with that black is a color that looks great on everybody, and black is the color that you wear when you want to kind of slim your body, when you want to look smaller, and when you want to kind of blend in. So she’s like, no, we’re not doing that. First of all, it’s not true that black is the only color that slims the body. I think it’s the way you wear any color.

There are ways that you can dress in such a way that slims the body. One tool is monochromatic dressing, and that essentially is wearing the same color on the top and bottom. It doesn’t matter necessarily what the color is, but the fact that you’re creating a sleek column of color, even if the shading is just slightly variant between one piece and the other, but it’s very close, definitely in the same color family, you can create the same effect of looking slimmer.

Find out the color that Monica considers rich, chic, elegant [18:49]

So it’s not so much that you have to wear black. I even suggest navy in place of black. I think that navy is such a rich, chic, elegant color that I would offer as an alternative to someone who is rigidly fixed on wearing dark colors, or is very drawn to black and is finding it difficult to kind of untether from the thought that they need to wear black. I would start them with navy, so little things like that. 

I think it’s just so important to begin to really deepen the work on embracing all of who we are, which is not just a body that people can see and/or objectify. To be honest, whatever thoughts other people have about our bodies, it’s their problem; it’s not ours. And I think that that’s the reason why you perhaps saw the woman who was larger and was confidently wearing a red dress, because it is truly only about the thoughts in our own minds about ourselves. Like I have seen 400 pound women be fierce. You can’t tell these women anything when they are walking down the street and it has nothing to do with their size. It has to do with their thoughts about their size and they’re completely comfortable in their own skin. 

And so that’s where the work is. It’s not on fixing the body or changing the body and not to say that we can’t have goals as far as, you know, for health, fitness, or just because I want to lose weight. I think it’s loving ourselves fully and completely all the way through the journey from beginning to end, and loving that body now for what it does for us, for our heart beating, for our legs carrying us, for our eyes to see, for our hands to do work. Regardless of whatever state the body is in, it shows up for us every day and does its very best.

Damianne President: [21:23] The challenge that Monica gave us in episode 79 was about. Touching our body. With gentleness, taking time to save our skin, noticing our body. We come through some of the same ideas here again, but I think it bears repeating. And she presents it in a slightly different way. So let’s listen. 

Curiosity and practicing care for your body [21:49]

Monica Sherese: [21:49] One of the things that I offer with my clients is to ritualize the simple act of putting on lotion. 

Damianne President: [21:56] I think that whole idea of getting into the body is something that would be helpful for me because I tend to be so cerebral.

Monica Sherese: [22:05] Yeah, I definitely agree with that and to pay attention to all of the parts of our body. I talk to my body sometimes and, you know, I tell parts of it that it’s beautiful, that my hands are beautiful and like, look at your arms. I like to have people cultivate a sense of curiosity and fascination with themselves. And I think that that is an access point to acceptance. 

It’s like thinking about the fact that there is literally no one like you that has ever come before, nor will ever come after, and to bask in the amazingness of that. Like no one will have your arms, no one will have your legs, no one will have your hair color. No one will have all of these things in this perfect combination that you are, ever again. And so why not just for the sake of that alone, cherish what it is that we have. 

I put on lotion, like, you know, it’s very slow and very deliberate. I invest in really good lotion. The only over the counter lotion that I think is really one that I would advocate buying is like the Cetaphil. I think it’s like ultra hydration or something like that, that you can get at a CVS or like the drug store.

But otherwise, I’m getting body butters and now they have these new things called skin melts, where it’s like a cream to oil. I’m into all of that stuff, taking care of myself, and really, you know, kneading it into my skin and thinking about how this is nourishing my skin, seeing the natural sheen on my legs when the lotion or the oil is applied. Talk to yourself about, I mean, if nothing else, your uniqueness.

Damianne President: [24:24] Next Monica makes the connection with self acceptance. And shares why self acceptance is so important when we’re looking to make a change in our life, when we’re looking to make progress. 

Monica Sherese: [24:41] I think that that’s just an amazing access point to acceptance and you know, my overall philosophy that I really do try to live by is to make changes from a place of love and abundance. It’s the same when thinking about a business or thinking about coaching, I am learning the ability to always remain in a space of like, I love my prospective clients.

I love women over 40 and I think they’re so powerful and are at such a pivotal point in life where they have enough wisdom from experience and enough kind of like, you know, scars that they’ve lived through, that they can create something truly powerful in the second half of their lives, if they’re able to kind of harness all of that and to really see it a different way.

Weight loss through self acceptance [25:42]

I can desire to lose weight because I love my body. And, you know, I just want to be the best me that I can be. Part of that is being as healthy as I can, thinking about my future self and wanting to make sure that I can still hike at 70. I want to be able to live a full life. I want for my body to be able to move and be very active and to continue to be able to help people, to be cognitively fit. And so therefore it makes sense for me to exercise more. And as a by-product of that, I will probably lose weight, versus starting with, you know, these arms, you know, this, this gut, it’s not gonna work, not gonna work for me. Don’t like it; it’s got to change. It’s hard to get motivated from that space. It’s really difficult. 

And so I say, pamper yourself with all the things now and make changes from that place. You’re fully deserving now. And then we move forward from there.

Damianne President: [26:59] What if you do not accept and do not love the thing that you’re trying to change. What can you do to still be able to make some progress, to be able to harness some positive energy to help you make the change that you want.

One thing that I heard a meditation teacher say was, if you can’t access love yet, then start with respect, at least. If you were to respect yourself, how might you treat yourself? And then try to do something every day, in each moment where you can, that’s respectful. And I was like, okay, in terms of thinking about that intermediate, that alter ego, maybe respect is the alter ego of love.

Cultivating thoughts that will empower you to change [27:45]

Monica Sherese: [27:45] Right. We call those bridge thoughts if you can’t get to the ideal place. I love that. Something that we talk about at the Life Coach School is, you know, can you at least get to a place where you can accept the fact that you have a body? Can we get to a neutral place where we’re not calling it a fat body, we’re not thinking of it as a bad body or a good body. Let’s slide into the place of neutral and stay there for a bit. I would liken that to the respect piece, like respect and acknowledge that I have a body. 

I have a body and then you can get into yep, my body breathes, my body walks, my body sees, and those are all irrefutable. You can’t argue with those things and all of those things are good. They’re amazing. And so you begin to start from a very basic place and begin to shift your mind toward saying positive things and believing positive things about this body.

Damianne President: [28:50] We have our work cut out for us. To try to change from a place of positivity and self acceptance. Are there any bridge thoughts that you can use for the thing that you are struggling most with accepting? What neutral thoughts might you be able to access, might you be able to tell yourself so that you can step-by-step work towards more positive thoughts and self acceptance.

Start from a very basic place and begin to shift your mind toward saying positive things and believing positive things. – Monica Sherese


Whatever thoughts other people have about our bodies, it’s their problem; it’s not ours. – Monica Sherese

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