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Photo of Woman in Bikini Goes Viral (Not for the Reason You Think)

04/06/2015 01:23 pm ET | Updated Jun 06, 2015

A photo of a woman in a bikini has been shared on Facebook over 60,000 times over the past week. But it's not being shared for the reason you may think.

The woman in the picture, Rachel Hollis, author, event planner, chef and fashion reporter, and founder of The Chic, is inspiring women (and men) everywhere to embrace their perfectly imperfect body and OWN their beauty.

In her Facebook post, Hollis wrote:

I have stretch marks and I wear a bikini. I have a belly that's permanently flabby from carrying three giant babies and I wear a bikini. My belly button is saggy... (which is something I didn't even know was possible before!!) and I wear a bikini. I wear a bikini because I'm proud of this body and every mark on it. Those marks prove that I was blessed enough to carry my babies and that flabby tummy means I worked hard to lose what weight I could. I wear a bikini because the only man who's opinion matters knows what I went through to look this way. That same man says he's never seen anything sexier than my body, marks and all. They aren't scars ladies, they're stripes and you've earned them. Flaunt that body with pride! #HollisHoliday

Why did this image get such a response? What causes women and men to rally around images like this?

I think the reason is because we all look up to this type of vulnerability. We want to be completely ourselves. We want to love and accept ourselves, unconditionally, stretch marks and all, yet to be this transparent ourselves is so hard!

We all know that we are not perfect, yet for the most part we're unwilling to flaunt our imperfections for fear of judgement. I mean, because once it's out there... it's out there!

And that's okay to choose not to put yourself out there like that if you don't want to. I really don't think Rachel's intent with sharing this image of herself was to prove anything all all, but rather to share her own self-love.

If you ask me, the whole point in putting it all out there isn't really about "opening the kimono" but rather about connecting with ourselves in a way that releases the hold that other people's opinions have on us.

It's funny how once we let go of the need for outward validation and acceptance, that's usually when it comes.

Here are three steps you can practice starting today, to move toward more self-acceptance and unconditional love.

3 Steps to Self-Acceptance & Unconditional Love

1. Awareness

The first step in any sort of sustainable positive change is awareness. In order to be more loving and accepting of ourselves, we have to be able to see the areas where we aren't being so loving and accepting.

ACTION STEP

Take an inventory of your typical self-talk, e.g., the thoughts that you think about your body when you are looking in the mirror or choosing your clothes for the day.

In what ways can you replace these thoughts with self-talk that are a bit more loving and accepting?

For example, maybe instead of thinking "I feel so fat" or "I hate my thighs" you say a little prayer of thanks: "Thank you for this healthy body. Thank you for these legs that support me day after day."

Over time, we can choose more empowering language, which shifts the way we think about and treat ourselves overall.

2. Choose To Be "There" Now

So often we believe that reaching a certain number on the scale or the waistband of our pants will be the answer to our dreams. We think that once we get "there" THEN we'll be happy, confident, sexy, and our life will be puppy dogs and rainbows forevermore.

That's just not the way it works.

Happiness breeds success, not the other way around.

ACTION STEP

Look for reasons to appreciate the body that you have now, on the way to any goal you want to achieve. It's okay to have desires and to want to challenge yourself. But do it from a place of inspiration rather than out of fear or lack. The results will be much more sustainable and the road there will be a lot more fun.

The key to self-acceptance and unconditional self-love is being happy with what is while being eager for more. There is so much to appreciate about right now, why put off happiness and joy for some arbitrary point in the future anyway?

3. Look For The BEST Case Scenario

We could have nine things going well and one thing going not so well and we'll put all of our attention on that one thing that isn't going well in order to "fix" it.

We are conditioned that the only way to be happy is to fix our problems. We think that looking at the worst case scenario and trying to smooth it all over is the way to be solution-oriented.

I say, why spend so much time, energy, and focus in our lives on something that feels so icky? There have been so many times in my life when I just took my focus off of what was going wrong and put it on to something that is going right and then that thing that was going "wrong" had a way of working itself out far better than I could ever have imagined or manipulated with my limited viewpoint.

Sometimes, the solution really is to chill out. That feels so scary, because it's so opposite of how we've been trained, but there really is great power in letting go.

ACTION STEP

Look for ways to ease up, worry less, laugh more. Trust.

Trust in the amazing, miracle of a machine that is your body.
Trust in a higher power.
Trust that things really do work out well for you.
Trust that you have everything you need within you.
Trust that you are making good decisions.

You'll be surprised at how much self-acceptance and unconditional love comes with trust and easing up.

It's not an overnight process, but self-acceptance and unconditional love is just as possible for you as it is for Rachel Hollis. Use these three steps to baby-step your way there. Because after all, baby steps practiced consistently over time are what add up to long-term sustainable change.

Sheila Viers is a Life Coach & Emotional Eating Expert
Get "3 Steps To Losing Weight Without Restriction" free now:
sheilaviers.com/freegift