On vacation over the summer, I was reminded about the importance of how we talk to ourselves when we look in the mirror. I was reminded of the impact physically, emotionally, and mentally.
I believe the words that morning as I stood in my hotel bathroom mirror went something like, damn, your gorgeous. I could feel the shift in my body, shoulders back, a sense of pride in who I am. It instantly sparked me doing this blog, especially when I recalled all the years that I had a completely different story.
For all too many years, decades actually, I built a story about my weight and body image. When I looked in the mirror, all I saw were flaws and extra weight. Even after a massive weight loss (160 pounds worth), I still saw a big girl. I remember countless times looking in the mirror and picking apart every flaw I had or at least what I defined as flaws. I would completely disempower myself with words or phrases about how fat I was or how disgusting my belly is with the extra weight. To add to the already self-deprecating words I was saying to myself, I often caught myself criticizing my own willpower and mental strength surrounding food, which then, in turn, impacted even more areas of self-confidence. It was a terrible cycle to be in and one I have worked to break for years.
For a girl who grew up obese and took many comments that came along with it, I let other people's words become words in how I spoke to myself. Fact is, when we are kids, we often don’t realize how what we say impacts other people. I really do believe people don't intentionally harm others.
But the words can and do impact us none the less, generally, from an early age.
When I started realizing how frequently I criticized myself, it became an area of focus and one I have worked on for years. I believe self-criticism is human nature to some extent, and in healthy doses of recognizing areas that we need to shift or change can be beneficial. For example, you notice your jeans are getting too tight because you have been loosening up on your food choices, so you decide to get it back on track. But you do not stand there criticizing yourself each day; you focus on the outcome you want.
Daily self-criticism can have severe long-term consequences, including depression, anxiety, and self-worth issues, to name a few.
It is not healthy for anyone to endure daily criticism from anyone, especially themselves.
During my growth journey, I’ve learned a lot about the brain, subconscious, and how the words we speak and our thoughts impact our actions. And how these can impact us physically. I knew our brains were mighty but did not recognize that our brains quite literally will do what we tell it until I started studying and learning more in-depth.
Before my healing journey, I also didn't realize the impact of looking for what you want, not what you don't want. The quote "seek and you will find" comes to mind.
If you are not familiar with the part of the brain called the RAS or Reticular Activating system, I encourage you to look it up. This part of the brain is basically responsible for deciphering information, what you see, what you feel, what you pay attention to, what you look for. It connects your sensory and nervous systems to your thoughts.
The things you tell yourself, quite literally, can be manifested. Of course, you can't just look in the mirror and say I am thin, continue to eat like crap, and think it will change anything. But being grateful for your body and NOT cutting yourself down could help you make better choices in your eating habits simply because you love and appreciate yourself.
Start paying attention to how you talk to yourself.
Is your self-talk empowering or dis-empowering?
Do you criticize yourself often?
Once you recognize how you talk to yourself and the words you say, take an honest assessment, ask yourself, “Is there something in this that I would like to change”? If the answer is yes, decide what steps you can take to start shifting in that area.
Then recognize yourself for working on it. Each time you hear the negative words come in, acknowledge the work you are doing, congratulate yourself for being on track.
To get started:
Recognize the criticisms you have to yourself
Can you pinpoint when they/it started?
Did they come from other people's opinions? If so, how do you think you can squash them? If these are areas you want to change, perhaps acknowledge that their comment may have been hurtful and wrong but recognize it’s an area you want to change and decide what steps you can take to get started.
Are these areas you genuinely want to change?
What are some simple steps you could take to start shifting them?
Set SMART goals to get started in one or two areas
Choose 2-3 powerful positive word shifts you can use to change your state when you start hearing your internal negative talk.
Make a list of all your positive traits. Then be ready to pull these out when you get stuck in criticism. If you need to, use the phrase, "you may have work to do in the area of (fill in yours here), but you have already kicked ass when doing (fill in something you excel at here)."
Write positive words on your mirror. And change them frequently to keep your mind thinking. We tend to look over things when we are used to seeing them. If you are changing them often and putting them in different places on your mirror, it doesn't become the norm.
Journal how the day went. Did you have negative self-talk? How did you overcome it? When did it show up? Was there something that sparked it? Write as much as you can, then reflect on the areas you can.
Be kind to yourself always; it's a journey, not a race!
For more tips, suggestions, or coaching support, please message me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay well, my friends!