positive words: self talk

Hello, friends! I’ve been missing you for the past few weeks while I’ve been hard at work on the fall patterns and haven’t had time to check in as much as usual. S has been visiting grandparents all month, and it’s amazing how productive a person (or, in our case, a couple) can be when given long blocks of time in which to work. Todd and I are both missing her terribly, but we’ve also really appreciated some time to be alone together. All the same, I can’t wait to go retrieve her and see my family later this week.

In the meantime, I’m just back from a fun trip to Nashville to teach my fit workshop at Anna Maria Horner’s Craft South, and it was a very inspiring weekend. I’ve told you before how much I love to teach that class and to spend time with so many wonderful women. New friends, lots of laughs and tears over shared stories and shared meals, plenty of time to sew and to learn new techniques, and a chance to learn the many ways to adjust patterns to fit your own body. I learn something new every time I teach. And it’s humbling how far some of you are willing to travel to attend these workshops!


craft-south-workshop-Lieslphotos from Anna Maria and Craft South


Since women’s apparel and making clothes that fit have been so much on my mind lately (wait until you see what we’ve got in store for you this fall!), I thought maybe we could discuss our bodies today.

We all have things we don’t like about our bodies, don’t we? It’s easy to obsess over those parts and to really knock ourselves down, especially when we’re shopping for clothes and nothing fits. That’s certainly one of the reasons I love to sew for myself. I can adjust clothing to really fit my own body. And that’s why I love to teach fitting, too. It’s not actually all that hard to fit your body and needs once you understand the process a bit. And once you’ve learned to sew clothing that fits you, I think you’re less inclined to feel like there’s something wrong with your body and more likely to recognize that mass-produced clothing has its limitations in terms of fit.

I think it’s important to pay attention to what we tell ourselves about our bodies. Do you ever think, “I hate my ___”? If you do (and you may not even be aware that you do), I have a couple of short videos to share with you.

In this video, plus-sized model (if you can really call a six-foot, size 12 woman “plus sized”), Robyn Lawley addresses negative comments about her body with a very positive attitude that I think can be a good example for all of us. (The good part starts at about 40 seconds.)



What’s your internal dialogue about yourself and about your body? Since watching that video I’ve been paying closer attention to what I think and say to myself about my own body. By being aware of what I tell myself and what I’m thinking, it seems like it’s already making a difference in how I perceive my body.

Shortly after I watched that video I happened to read this article. Which got me to thinking, what if I changed my computer password to something positive about my body and how I feel about it? Do you think we can change the way we think and feel about ourselves by changing the words we type every day?

It’s important to note that appreciating and liking our bodies doesn’t mean we can’t also work to improve them. Once I start to really like and appreciate my body for what it is, what if I changed my password to something that would encourage me to improve the parts of my body that I could be working to improve? Even if it’s something small.

For example, a week or two ago, Todd and I started doing the Seven Minute Workout every morning. It really does take just seven minutes to get a pretty good little all-body workout. The first few days we were both a bit sore (“a bit” might be putting it mildly), but we’re already both starting to feel stronger and better during the day as a result of this small time investment. Which makes me think that maybe I’ll change my computer password to something that encourages me to keep doing those workouts all year long, just to help me stay motivated.

What do you think? Can we simultaneously appreciate our bodies for what they are while also working to improve them? And what do you tell yourself about your body?



  1. Jenny

    I will say your fitting class in June helped me a lot. It made me realize that bodies are just shape. And while I need a healthier shape, it is for health and not appearances.

    I will say a good bra makes me feel better. Playing up the positive assets you have help.

    1. So true, Jenny! I’ll be talking more about bras soon, too. xo

  2. Thank you for this post! I needed this this morning. I have a hard time accepting my body and I need to change my attitude, not just for my happiness but to be a good role model for my daughters. I don’t have a password that I need to enter everyday but I could find some sort of positive affirmation to hang in house, somewhere where I would see it frequently during the day.

    Now, to the last question. Can we both appreciate our bodies while also working to improve them? I would say that depends on the definition of “improve”. If I love the way my body looks, why would I need to improve it from a looks perspective? Working out and eating well to look better means that you actions are going in an opposite direction as your positive talk, rendering that positive talk useless. However, if “improving” means becoming healthier, then absolutely, both can be done! In fact, I think that loving your body might want to push you to taking better care of it. And as you get healthier, more energetic, you love your body even more. It’s a virtuous cycle… One that I need to get on!

    1. Yes, Raphaelle, posting it somewhere at home is a good idea! Saying it would probably be a good idea too. With regard to the improving part, I don’t think it’s mutually exclusive to say “I love my body” and “I want to improve my body.” Just as loving someone doesn’t necessarily mean wanting them to stay exactly the way they are at one precise moment, we can also love and accept our bodies while working to make them better. Right?

  3. Gloria Smith

    Thank you for such a wonderful post, Liesl! I am 56, 6′ tall, size 12 and can say that I am so happy with my height and curves. Our daughters and grand-daughters need to hear what Robyn and other women like her are saying about their bodies, lives and how to accept who we are. Growing up as a tall young woman in the 70’s it was almost a necessity to sew my own clothes to find anything that would fit. That need has turned into one of the greatest creative pleasures of my life. I can still feel my mom gently poking me in the back and urging me to stand up straight and be proud of who I was. Thank goodness I took her advice!

    1. Well said, Gloria! And good for you.

  4. Sarvi

    This is very timely for me. Post-college (which for me, happened only recently), post-40, and post-baby, my body is significantly different and it just doesn’t feel like me. I never had joint pain and fatigue before like I can have now. I think that’s been a stumbling block for me in practicing loving appreciation. I am pretty good at self-care in other areas of my life, I think because I’ve had quite a lot of practice. My body just didn’t need that much attention before.

    I do remember being younger and wishing my older friends would cut out the self-hate already so I recently promised myself I would delete specific words and phrases that I’d caught myself repeating. Not only is not contradictory to love yourself while making changes, I don’t really think doing it any other way works. If your body is some kind of enemy, there’s little motivation to do wonderful things like feed yourself luscious fresh food, make yourself beautiful clothes, take yourself into the garden or pool, or whatever it is that you enjoy.

    Getting good at self-care in this area is taking a bit of time but after recently making myself something to wear that I felt pretty in (and felt like *me* in), I found myself very encouraged to look after myself a bit better.

    1. Oh, well put, Sarvi! And I’m so glad to hear that you’re making progress in a positive direction. Cheers!

  5. Oh I so wish I could have been at that workshop in Nashville! Oh well next year, right? 😉 Anyway, I think it was a combination of two things that changed my body image because I went through years of the “I’m not good enough,” thought process. The first was actually sewing! Borrowing fitting books and pattern drafting books from the library and learning that my body is a very unique to myself set of numbers and that, when I make clothes that fit, how I can emphasize my favorite parts of my body 😉 The second, is oddly enough, having a baby. I mean seriously, how awesome are our bodies? They can create and give birth to little human beings! I never thought myself strong until I realized I could do that! On that note, though, after having a baby and finally loosing all the baby weight (which I can officially say took a total of 1 1/2 years and many hours of wii fit and home video yoga haha), one of my neighbors said to my face after complaining about her body that the only reason I was so skinny now is because I’m anorexic. Sad world we live in where we are accused of being fat when we gain weight and then accused of anorexia when we loose it!

  6. Mirelys

    I can’t thank you enough for your help this weekend! A few small tweeks and my garment fit perfectly! I’m petite, almost plus sized and large chested. I took away from the class much more than the fitting instructions. Beautiful women come in all sizes and shapes. The patterns (for practical reasons) are not made to fit your unique body shape. But it can be adjusted! Thanks Liesl and Ana for a great weekend!

  7. This is really wonderful. Thank you for the reminder. I pinned the 7 minute workout to do later! I haven’t wanted to buy any patterns for myself because I’m not excited to see how poorly the clothes might fit. Maybe I should, instead, be excited about how wonderfully they might fit!

  8. Sarah

    After two babies in my late 30’s/early 40’s parts of me simply aren’t going to return to their former glory. But I recently had a proper bra-fitting done at a store specializing in just that. What an amazing difference it makes having the girls staying put is the right place. Makes me stand taller and feel so much more confident in whatever I wear. Bust lines of the most simple tops and dresses finally look right. Can’t believe it took me 40+ years to find a bra that fits so well! Highly recommend it!

  9. Well, too be honest, I can’t help but wonder what “improving my body” means. If it means being healthy and fit, I completely agree that it’s compatible with loving it. But from an esthetic perspective, it brings forth so many questions. How would my body be more esthetically pleasing? Is it through weight loss and muscle gain (but not too much)? Is it a flat stomach, a thigh gap? How much of what we find visually appealing is actually what our society dictates rather than what we really like? Does “improving my body” actually mean “making it better fit societal ideals”? That’s kind of where I get stuck.

    I’ve been thinking about this all day! (That’s a good thing.)

  10. Alyson Ray

    Such great positive information. I truly believe sewing for YOURSELF is very liberating! And, think it also helps you to accept and appreciate your body. I love that you are helping us sewists learn more about fitting. The one thing I need to do is slow my process down and take time to make a muslin.
    Thank you!

  11. Sarvi

    It’s so easy to come to think that there’s some kind of unanimous standard, isn’t it? Like ‘thigh gap’ — that is something utterly fake. You’ve only ever heard about it in the context of people being horrified that it’s a thing now, but who in your life actually ever thinks about thigh gap? It’s the amplification effect — if a hundred people read an article and agree and two read it and disagree, those two will comment, probably in passionate terms and at length. And because the other hundred didn’t comment, it will now look like passionate disagreement of that article is a thing.

    What do you like for yourself? What do you like to see? Growing up I wanted a voluptuous figure through about my early twenties, then I wanted the more boyish figure I had, and now that I have a more womanly shape I find I quite like some things about it. But when I look at other people I find all kinds of bodies very appealing. Really, the common factor seems to be a kind of swagger or self confidence. The reality on the ground is that people’s ‘esthetics’ are actually far more diverse and embedded in their relationships and emotions — in real life you never look at a person’s body and see it totally stripped of your feelings about that person, to compare to a singular ideal. It just doesn’t work that way.

    Alyson, I timed myself the other day doing an FBA and it was under an hour. I’m not sure what changes you’d need to make for whatever you’re sewing, but since you’re not making a proper garment, you don’t have to do all the little fiddly things like match thread, finish seams, hem, make a whole garment just to check the fit of a bodice. It’s relatively quick and then you can make a million of your perfectly fitting garment. Give it a go!

  12. Carrie

    Such a fabulous and thoughtful post, thank you! I feel extremely blessed to have been able to attend last weekend’s Craftsouth workshop in Nashville. Aside from the obvious perk of making friends who share a common interest (obsession, maybe?!), it was also great to see so many different sizes and shapes of women, all striving for the same goal of getting a good fit for their body. I, too, have fallen into the habit of thinking negatively about my body. This really bothers me because I have 3 daughters, and I worry that I will inadvertently pass this mindset along to them. I have started trying to be more vocal about the fact that we are all beautifully different and unique and what is most important is to take care of our bodies by making good choices. One key factor for me personally is to make a conscious effort to avoid extremes! No strict diets and time consuming workouts, but we do enjoy light exercise together and an overall healthy diet, including a daily dose of chocolate :). Hopefully those good choices now will develop into a healthy lifestyle for my girls for years to come. The saying, “Comparison is the thief of joy” is so true in regards to this topic and many others. Let’s stop comparing ourselves to others and just accept and love ourselves. Thanks, Liesl!

  13. Sarah

    I try so hard to not talk about my body in front of my daughter, unless I am talking about strength or speed, etc. Sadly, I’ve had to talk to my mom about her comments about her body in the presence of my daughter. Already, my exceptionally tall and skinny 7 year old has told me she has “chubby” thighs. What?!?! I also hear my 8th grade students talk about their bodies negatively all the time too. They are all different and beautiful and I try so hard to make them realize that. I’m not perfect, but I am happy and part of that is realizing that being active and healthy makes me feel best about myself.

  14. Peggy

    I completely agree with Carrie! The workshop was amazing and invaluable, of course, and one of my favorite parts was watching a room full of differently sized- and shaped women make a pretty similar pattern work for their unique bodies. It was incredibly empowering (and also loads of fun). So thankful for Liesl’s willingness to share her knowledge!

  15. francesca

    Great post and discussion. It’s so hard in this day and age with the constant media bombardment of airbrushed images not to feel like there are many things wrong with one – I think my turning point was when I read about a photographer who left fashion photography for reporting afte being asked to shave off some of Claudia Schiffer’s ankles. He said he couldn’t believe he was being asked to perfect her and it made him see what a sick world it was becoming. I cut down on magazines and it made a difference to my attitude.

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