Running Into Love

Author’s Note: This is a piece I wrote for the Chicken Soup for the Soul book on body positivity. It wasn’t accepted so I’m publishing it here.



Running into Love

It was a beautiful, sunny day and I was jogging lightly. Out of breath and pained, I was still enjoying the sensation of my lungs filling with air and the wind on my face. I had been running for about three minutes which, for this overweight, middle-aged smoker, meant I looked as if I was at the tail end of a marathon.

Out of nowhere, I was hit hard on the side of my face. Jerked out of my zone, I stopped short, my hand going involuntarily to my cheek. It felt sticky and for a wild moment, I thought I was bleeding. Looking down at the sidewalk, I saw a can of coke lying on the ground, its content spilling onto the pavement. When I looked up, I saw where it must have come from. A man in a pickup truck was parked on the side of the road. When he realized he had my attention, he sneered. “Try not to break the sidewalk, you ugly sow,” he yelled.

Devastated, I walked away from him as fast as I could, heading for home in a panic, sure he would follow me. Sobbing and riddled with shame, I made it home and crawled into bed. I spent days in hiding, hating myself, hating my life, hating my body. I hated every inch of my flesh and everything that I had done to myself to get that way. Every time I went to the bathroom and caught sight of my bruised face in the mirror, I hated myself even more. It was particularly painful because, though I thought he was a cruel and viscous jerk, I also thought he was right. Somewhere deep down, I knew that I was disgusting, and that people had a right to be offended by the sight of me.

I had only started running about three weeks before that incident. Fed up with being overweight, tired of being mocked, and stared at, and given unsolicited advice about the latest fad diet, I decided it was time to run. I just wanted to lose weight. I was tired of being unhappy and I thought my unhappiness came from the size of my body. I bought the best pair of running shoes that I could afford and I went out to run. My first run lasted about twenty seconds, and though I nearly passed out from a lack of oxygen, something about it appealed to me. I decided to keep trying.

The next time, I ran for a few seconds longer. After that, I added a few seconds each time I ran. I started to enjoy the freedom and the sensation of expanding my lungs every time I moved.

I started running to lose weight, but I kept running because it felt like an escape. I ran from the years of torment, from the memories of kids in school calling me fattie and lardo. I ran from the well-meaning adults who told me I had such a pretty face. I ran from the years of yo-yo dieting when I alternated between starving myself and binge eating until I was sick. I ran from that ex who grabbed a handful of my stomach flesh once and told me I’d be attractive if I lost it. I ran from the weight of the expectation that as a woman of size, my very existence was offensive.

I ran from the abusive relationship that I stayed in because I was so convinced that, worthless as I was, I didn’t deserve any better.

I ran and ran but I wasn’t losing weight and I felt like such a failure. I would come home from a run and eat. I was eating in the same way I was running – to escape. I was still miserable, I was still eating too much, and most of it unhealthy, and I was still in an abusive relationship, I was still afraid, and I still hated my body.

That moment on the street was a turning point. I was lying in bed filled with so much shame for even existing. It was that life or death moment between giving up completely or making a change. Change or die. I stayed in that bed for days with that theme running through my head. It was terrifying to come to the realization that I couldn’t come up with one positive reason why I deserved to take up space on this planet.

Change or die. That was the moment. I got out of bed and made a list of things I wanted to change about my life. The list was long and it looked impossible. So I broke it down into smaller lists, and plotted out action items for each step.

I left my abusive relationship. I quit smoking.  It wasn’t as easy as it all sounds now. There were long months of planning and tears. There was so much fear and so much misery. Sometimes, I felt as if I was taking two steps forward and three steps back. But I kept going.

All of those positive changes helped to lift me out of my depression, but they weren’t enough. I had to find a way to believe that I was worth all of this work. I started a practice of catching myself whenever I would say something negative. If I looked in the mirror and thought or said, “God, I look so ugly in this dress,” I would stop and remind myself that I would never talk to anyone else like that. Eventually, I could replace many of the negative thoughts with positive ones. It took years of concerted effort. I would praise myself for the slightest accomplishment, celebrating every small victory as if I had just scaled a mountain. I learned that I loved the shape of my face, and the strength in my stride. I learned that I felt sassy and fun when I wore an outfit that I loved.

As I grew out of my misery, I pushed away all of the people from my past life who didn’t celebrate me, and I started attracting the people who did. I learned that people found me intelligent and funny. They were attracted to me and my circle of friends grew. I found a space of loving and warmth and people who cared about me, just me, just the way I am.

I learned that positive change doesn’t grow out of shame, it grows out of love. That love for myself blossomed into a desire to take care of myself. I never did take up running again, but I found other exercises that I loved, including weight lifting and yoga.

Most importantly, I learned that I can help other women learn how to love themselves just the way they are. I started teaching online self-love and mindful eating workshops. I became a workshop presenter, holding in person events designed to empower women to move into a place of more confidence and greater self-respect.

I’m still a woman of size and I still struggle with my body image. I still deal with people staring at me or the self-doubt that comes from not finding an outfit that fits. I still have moments of disbelief in the deep desire of my loving partner. I still sometimes tell my reflection that she’s ugly. I’m still a fat woman. But I am a beautiful, strong, brilliant powerhouse of a woman. I gave myself the most incredible gift anyone can ever give. Unconditional love. I loved myself back to life. And I deserve that.


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New Year’s Resolutions

This year, I will not make any resolutions that imply I am anything other than perfectly wonderful just the way I am. I will not make any resolutions meant to make me feel bad about myself, nor will I make any sweeping pronouncements about how I want to be thinner, smarter, better, more.

This year, I won’t make any New Year’s resolutions that aren’t expressly intended to make me or my loved ones feel good about themselves.

This year, I resolve to practice self-care. This year, I’d like to treat my body with loving care. I want to spend more time at the farmer’s market and less time at big box stores. I would like to walk more, bike more, eat more vegetables. I would like to spend more time dancing. I want to save the money for a few pedicures. I want to make sure my sex life stays fresh and loving and invigorating. I want to sleep soundly. I resolve to hug my dog daily. I resolve to spend more time playing with my cat.

This year, I want to connect more. I resolve to send more paper letters. I want to reach out to someone who hasn’t heard from me in a long time. I would like to smile at more people. I want to compliment strangers. I want to tell my friends when they are wonderful and let it go when they are not. I want to appreciate the people who love me. I want to continue to be grateful for calling a partner into my life who loves me and shows me in a billion different ways. This year, I want to talk to my mother more often. I’d like to have more women come to my house for talks and coffee and shared breakfasts. I’d like to touch my friends more, hold their hands, hug them, ask them if they are lonely, or if they are living their dreams. I want to help people who need help.

This year, I want to spend time focusing on my career. I want to finish my fourth novel and start my fifth. I would like to submit at least one more short story this year than last. I want to find ways to market my self-love classes to a wider audience. I would like to network with other writers and teachers. I want to find a job teaching online with a college or university.

This year, I would like to stress less about paying bills. I don’t want to buy more stuff, but I would like to be able to pay the electric bill and my mortgage in the same week. I don’t want to be rich, but I want to be unafraid of where the next groceries are coming from. This year, I want to put some effort into making enough money that I can make decisions about spending, rather than reactions. This year, I’d like to make enough money that I can donate some of it to causes that touch my heart.

This year I want to stay informed about political decisions that can harm myself and my family without letting the news drag me into a depression. I want to act to protect myself and my loved ones without allowing myself to be silenced about that which is important to me.

This year, I want to be myself. I want to do what I want to do. I want to follow the calling of my own soul. This year, I resolve to be proud of myself. I resolve to follow my dreams. I want to love freely and live openly.

This year, I will cherish what I have, rather than pursue what I don’t.

Happy New Year.



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Dear Men

HI Guys,

You’ve let me down again. I’m not actually surprised. I’ve been trying to make peace with you for most of my life and I know how fruitless it is.

I’ve tried to tell you that I’m inviting violence every time I interact with one of you, simply because I was born in a female body. I’ve tried to explain that more women are killed in genocide worthy numbers by men. I’ve told you that almost every single woman I know has been raped or hit or grabbed or kicked or beaten. And the ones that haven’t been physically hurt have still been the victims of verbal assaults. I’ve tried to make you understand that women are under siege in this world.

I’ve even tried to make it personal by explaining that I’m afraid. That I’ve been a victim of your violence and that you scare me. And I’ve asked you to please listen and understand that it is our whole culture that contributes to you feeling as if you own women, that we owe you something.

I’ve tried to show you the news articles about men who kill women who say no to a date or to sex. The one where the man slammed his fist into a woman’s vagina and eviscerated her intestines. The one where the woman was beaten nearly to death, then set on fire and then managed to crawl to a road where she was found and hospitalized and lived for several days in unbearable agony until she finally died. The one where the guy asked a woman to marry him and she said no so he shot her. The one where a woman had acid thrown in her face because she said no. Male violence.

I’ve even learned to control my words, to say them in nicer ways because your feelings get hurt when I just tell the truth. So I sugarcoat my sentences. I start by saying, “I know not all men rape, but can we please talk about the ones that do?” or I say, “I know *you* care about this. So maybe you can help me understand why you’re the only one.”  Even when I sugarcoat my words, you still get upset and shout me down and yell about not all men. And you call me an angry feminist and you try to invalidate what I have to say by calling me too sensitive. I’ve learned that men are more concerned about their feelings than they are about the fact that the women in their lives are in danger every time they leave the house. (And even when they don’t.)

But now something has happened that affects you, too. We have a man in the white house who has gleefully admitted to sexually assaulting women. We have a rapist misogynist in the white house. I know that’s not enough to alarm you. But he is also threatening immigrants and people of color and the LGBT community and those on medicaid and the poor. And the things about that is that those groups include a lot of men.

And even though you have let me down repeatedly and even though I have never seen you share statistics about violence against women and even though you didn’t speak out when I was trying to get you involved in the fight against female genital mutilation and even though you didn’t answer when I asked you to talk to me about male violence and the cultures that create it, I am still going to stand with you when your group is targeted. When your group, whatever it is, is the next on the block, I am going to be there, trying to help. Because even though you have let me down and you’ve refused to help me and you are part of the biggest wave of violence against any one group in history, I believe we still have a chance to work together.

Let me know if you need some pointers on surviving a ubiquitous enemy. I have years of practice.


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What Rape Culture Teaches Women

Women learn at any early age that we need to put up barriers to try to protect ourselves. We learn to be aware of our surroundings when we are alone. We learn to hold our keys between our fingers. We learn to look behind us. We learn to lock our car doors as soon as we get in. We learn to try to not be alone with a strange man. We learn to control the way we dress. We learn to keep our heads down and ignore the calls when men scream at us on the street. We learn to try to sit or stand in a protected position on subways and buses so as not to be grabbed. We learn to lock our bedroom doors. We learn to install safety lights. We learn to go in pairs to any place where we can be a victim, which is every place. We take self-defense classes. We buy mace. We learn to shoot. We learn to find safety in women’s spaces. We learn body language that might indicate we are in danger. We learn that when we talk about these things, we are being alarmist or hurting men’s feelings.

We learn that no matter how many of these things we learn, it won’t be enough. We are raped, assaulted, beat up, grabbed. We are kissed against our will. Our hair is pulled on the playground and we are told that boys will be boys. We learn that a man can brag about sexually assaulting women by grabbing their pussies and people will still proudly proclaim their support for him because boys will be boys. We learn that being raped is our fault, even when we try to say it isn’t, because people like Brock Turner rape women and still, the main fear is that the poor boy’s life will be ruined. Women learn that our lives do not have value. If you have been raped or assaulted or attacked, and if you are a woman, chances are, you have, please know that I, at least, know that it is not your fault. I know this because whether you were drinking or you were wearing a short skirt or you left your bedroom door unlocked or you forgot to look behind you when you stepped into the parking garage, you are not at fault. You are not at fault because this society has determined that you do not deserve to have autonomy over your own body because it was born female.

We are under siege and the war is being be perpetrated by males. Women learn that men who claim to be good men aren’t really good when they refuse to speak out against male violence. Women learn to protect each other or we learn to build walls around each other in an effort to try to protect ourselves.

Women learn and continue to learn and we grow and evolve and we develop more elaborate security measures and in the end, it all comes to shit, because we are not teaching men and boys that women’s bodies do not belong to them, that there is no such thing as a friend-zone, that rich, white boys who rape unconscious women are violent criminals who deserve to do hard time, that men who brag about grabbing women’s pussies are rapists.

We learn that your silence about these things means that we can’t trust you. This is rape culture.

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You are Worth the Work

All relationships require work, don’t they? There are moments of pure joy and moments of tearful recriminations. The best relationships aren’t great because there is no conflict, but because both parties make a point of being kind to each other, to keeping open communication, setting boundaries, engaging, being passionate about and for each other.

But that takes work and sometimes the work is hard. And sometimes, you have to ask yourself whether the work is worth it.

A relationship with yourself requires the same commitment. Your own self-esteem, self-love, all of that takes work. And it’s a process. Sometimes, I feel I go through months of feeling on top of the world, proud of myself and all of my accomplishments, sure that I am living the dream, looking in the mirror every day and telling myself how awesome I am…. and sometimes, I feel I’m a half a step away from losing my mind, and just getting out of bed and changing clothes feels like a gigantic step forward.

Self-love is a process. It’s not a straight line, it’s a never-ending spiral. You’ll keep  coming back to the same problems, the same issues, the same old recordings you play back in your head. The times you were abused or insulted or made to feel less than. Self-love works to dig out those old recordings, but sometimes, the tools learned through self-work really don’t erase the tapes. They simply give us a way to hit pause when they keep coming back around.

My classes aren’t about fixing you because you aren’t broken. Even if you think you are, I promise that you aren’t. My classes are about giving you the tools you need to move forward into your own self-work… they’re about teaching you that learning to love yourself isn’t a far away dream. It’s real and it’s attainable and it’s worth it. It is so worth it.

Come join me on Monday, August 8th at 8 PM EST for a six week course on self-love. We’ll address abolishing negative self-talk, overcoming fear and self-doubt, setting healthy boundaries, and so much more.


Email me at for more information.


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What To Expect When You’re Expecting … To Go To the Con

(This is not an official GCLS communique. These brilliant ramblings belong solely to the warped, but lovely mind of me, Beth Burnett  and do not necessarily reflect the views of GCLS, but most certainly align with Carleen Spry and her travel monster baby. <See GCLS Facebook page>)


The GCLS annual conference is an epic adventure with hundreds of women gathering to discuss books, writing, reading, the benefits of hiking boots over Birkenstocks, and so much more.

We offer panels and master classes with some of the most beloved authors in lesbian fiction. There are lunches and dinners and ice cream socials and karaoke and a theme night. Not to mention the awards show and dancing.

The conference is a wonderful time and for some women, a chance to be out and proud among hundreds of lesbians…. a chance to be themselves, some for the first time. It can be the most incredible, eye-opening experience ever. And it can be totally overwhelming.

It helps to know what to expect and it helps to have some coping tools just in case the awesomeness becomes a wee bit too much.

  1. If this is your first con, come to the con virgins meeting. It is a smaller group and is intended to give a fun introduction to the other new attendees and the board.
  2. Go to panels and presentations and classes that pique your interest. Anyone is welcome to attend any panel or class. You will meet others who are interested in the same things.
  3. If you have never written a novel, or if you have written a novel but never published a novel, or you have written and published ten novels, you are a person. No one is above anyone else, no one holds more weight than you. Our members are *all* a part of the wonder that is GCLS and we need you all.
  4. Introverts unite! If you’re nervous about getting to meet people, contact Aschlie Lake at to volunteer. She is a genius at putting people into jobs they love and with which they feel comfortable.
  5. People are really willing to help. Look for board members (we wear special ribbons on our name tags) if you are feeling lonely or overwhelmed or if you have any questions.
  6. Remember that even some who have been going to con for years can feel shy or awkward. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone who looks as if they are sitting alone.
  7. Take some down time. Go to your room, find a quiet corner, go sit on the grounds, put on some headphones and walk on the treadmill in the hotel gym. Down time is important for recharging.
  8. Self-care is sexy! (And very important!) Take care of you. If you need help and advice on how to do that, come see the presentation by myself and author Karen Richard on Self-Care for Writers and those who love them.
  9. Expect to regret that you won’t get to go to everything you want to attend! We offer a very full program to appeal to as many people as possible and there will be times where you want to be in two or three places at once. Just remember you can always come back next year!
  10. Lastly, just be yourself. We are all a little weird, we are all a little awesome. Be you and find your people.



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It isn’t your fault, you know. I know somewhere deep inside, you still believe that it is. It doesn’t matter what we’re talking about. You have shame about something – there is something you are afraid to tell people because you worry if they knew the whole truth, they would think you’re disgusting or pathetic or unworthy. They might stop loving you.

Shame. Shame is that dark place that we hide, where it festers and grows and causes that pit of anxiety in our guts or in that place right behind the breastbone that gets tight and makes it hard to take a deep breath.

Your shame is your own, I’m not saying it isn’t. But friend, let me tell you, it isn’t unique. Whatever you are hiding, I promise that one of us is hiding the same thing.

Sometimes, despite years of self-work and activism and self-love, a small, still voice inside of me says that if I had behaved differently, I wouldn’t have been raped. And again.  Is that the scariest contradiction? I no longer have shame around being raped, but I have shame around the fact that somewhere deep inside, I can’t let go of the possibility that it was, on some level, my fault. That’s shame.

Sometimes, when people ask me about money, I lie and tell them that everything is all right. Really, I am drowning, and when I try to figure out what to do about it, I get such anxiety that I have to stop and ask myself if I’m having a heart attack or just a lot of anxiety. That’s shame.

Sometimes, I eat way more than I wanted to, and after, I feel sick, not physically, but emotionally, as if there’s something seriously wrong with me that I am still fighting with my demons surrounding food.

Sometimes I have panic attacks so bad that I can’t breathe and in the depths of those attacks, I start to wonder if anyone really loves me, *really* loves me, just the way I am. Sometimes those panic attacks are so horrific, I think I’m actually dying. And I think there’s something wrong with me that I can’t control them, so I’m afraid to talk about them because I think everyone else will think there’s something wrong with me, too.

Sometimes, I remember those voices of all of the people who have called me fatty, lardo, pig, disgusting, sick, whoa-my-god-she’s-coming-toward-me, and know that somewhere deep down inside, I still carry them. Shame means I’m afraid to talk about it because I think that if I tell someone about it, they’ll start to see it, too.

Your shame may not be the same as mine. Maybe you carry shame about alcohol use, or things you did when you were addicted to drugs that hurt other people. Maybe your shame is about how you wet your pants in the second grade and everyone laughed and sometimes, you still hear the laughter, and while most of the time, you remember that it’s just one thing, long ago, in the deepest, darkest parts of your soul, you shrivel up remembering. Maybe your shame is getting so overwhelmed by all that you have to do that you do nothing but sit at the computer and play solitaire and then go to bed crying because that means so much more to do tomorrow.

Your shame may be about being abused, about wondering if there was something you could have done, if you had locked the door, if you had behaved yourself. Your shame may be around your body or your intelligence or your very existence. You may have shame about your education or your upbringing or about your failed relationships.

Maybe your shame is simply that everyone thinks you are such a together person and your dirty little secret is that you have self-love meltdowns just like everyone else.

Your shame is your own and it’s not my place to tell you what to do with it, except that I am going to tell you that until you talk about your shame with someone, it’s going to hide and it’s going to bubble up in your darkest hours, and it’s going to grow bigger until you think you can’t possibly bear it anymore.

Friends, let me tell you this. You are not alone. And it isn’t your fault. It isn’t your fault because we have all of this pressure on us from birth to death and sometimes the weight of that is too much to carry. It’s not your fault because you’ve been called names or told you weren’t enough and it’s hard to hear all of that all of your life and not let it absorb into the core of your being. It’s not your fault because your parents told you that no one would ever love you unless you (fill in the blank) and it’s probably not even their fault, because someone told them the same thing. It’s not your fault because even if you were drinking, you still didn’t deserve to be raped. It’s not your fault because even if you were yelling and out on control, you didn’t deserve to be punched. It’s not your fault.

It’s not your fault.

Your shame is your own. But I am giving you mine, right here, open and laid out before you. It may not be your shame, but it is still yours. You are not alone.





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Whose Day Did You Ruin?


beth in leggings


My partner bought this dress/top for me right before we went on a cruise and I wore it on our special date night with a pair of black leggings and some white slip on sandals. It was perfect for a cruise and we both got a kick out of the dress, the way it fit, the way the bottom swings when I twirl, the colors in it, and the way she instinctively knew how perfect it would be for me.


When my friend Yvonne asked me to go to a showing of The Sound of Music tonight, I was definitely up for it. We both adore The Sound of Music and she found a group that was showing it on a big screen, complete with audience sing along and some people in costumes. It was a fun, unique event and I wanted to look cute so I picked this adorable dress. I paired it with the same black leggings from the cruise , only this time, I added a pair of funky Sketcher heels. Even put on some lip gloss and added a little shrug. I felt sassy and cute and ready to have a fun evening.

After I was dressed, but before it was time to leave, I logged on to Facebook on my phone leggings memeand I saw this meme posted by a friend. She had gotten quite a few likes on it, and several comments, including one woman who said there should be weight limits on certain kinds of clothing. Then I made the mistake of clicking on the original post and reading some of those comments. And I realized that no matter how I surround myself with super supportive friends and loved ones, no matter how much time I spend with my tribe of women who love me and think I am the sexy, beautiful goddess that I am, there are still hundreds or thousands of people out there looking at me and judging me negatively because of the size of my body. Despite all of my years of self work, and my ultra-confidence, and my happiness with my adorable outfit, I suddenly felt like nothing more than a fat woman in leggings. I was so hurt, I got a knot in my stomach and I seriously considered not even leaving the house. Because I am a self-love teacher, I want to say that I went out anyway and had an amazing time. I did. But friends, I put on a pair of jeans instead and it changed the whole feel of the outfit. And when I changed, a small part of me knew that I was hiding and acting out of fear and shame. I let someone else’s bad opinion of me form my own bad opinion of myself.

I shook it off. I had a great time with my friend and I enjoyed the sing along and I laughed and danced and watched a movie I love. Tomorrow, or the next day, or the next time I go out, I will wear my sassy outfit and I’ll feel good in it again. But for tonight, just for tonight, my heart was broken by the fact that no matter how much love I put out into the world, there are still people who think that they have a right to define how I dress. And worse, I let them. As I said, I shook it off. I shook it off because I have done so much self work and I am proud of myself and I do believe in my value and beauty and awesomeness. But there are people out there who don’t. And somewhere, someone is seeing a meme like that or other mean-spirited memes and they *aren’t* shaking it off. Someone’s day has been ruined by something like that. Someone is crying because of the weight of all of the judgment of people who haven’t yet learned that the only person they have a right to judge is themselves.

This is why I teach self love classes…. because there are people out there who judge you for one reason or another. There are people out there who, purposely or not, will ruin your day or your week or your life. And there will ALWAYS be people judging you. No matter how evolved you are and no matter how you surround yourself with people who love you for who you are, there are still always going to be haters. Self love is about learning that *you* are the one who gets to define how you feel, that *you* get to choose to love yourself, that you get to decided how to dress your body, or whether or not to wear that bikini. You get to dance or not. You get to have the pure pleasure of knowing that your body, your beautiful body has carried you this far in life, and will hopefully carry you a little further. No one else has the right to tell you what is right for your body. No one.







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Shame doesn’t work. Don’t move your body because you hate it and want to punish it. Move your body because you love it and want to take care of it. When exercise and nutrition feels like a punishment, you’re constantly telling yourself that you’re not good enough the way you are. Start from the understanding that you are amazing just the way you are and you deserve to take care of your body in ways that feel good. That means moving in ways that feel healthy to you, eating in ways that feel healthy to you, and even, occasionally, eating a small piece of delightfully sinful dark chocolate or something else exquisite.

To learn how to move beyond shame and into a place of self love, join my online women’s empowerment classes. Email me at for more information.




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New Self Love Classes

The next set of classes that still have openings start on February First. Class times are Mondays at 7 PM EST, Mondays at 9 PM EST, Tuesdays at 8 PM EST,  and Saturdays at 10 AM EST. (Additional class will be added on Tuesdays at 9:30 PM if needed.) Classes are limited to ten per class. Each class consists of six weekly live classes, with homework and in class exercises. Classes address abolishing negative self talk, overcoming fear and self doubt, setting healthy boundaries, how to live your dreams, and actual steps to loving and cherishing yourself. Lifetime access to the Facebook Self Love group for all past participants is included. This class offers women a chance to come into their own power and start living their lives in joy. Classes cost seventy dollars for a six week class, however, anyone who signs up and pays before January 10th will receive a ten dollar discount.

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