You stare into the mirror.
'God, I look so fat. Why do I look so ugly today? I hate my stomach. And my skin looks like shit today. I'd die if I ever had to go out without makeup...I'm so gross without it'.
Now let's change the scenario. You're at home getting ready to go out with your best friend. You turn to her and ask her how you look.
'Hmm I'm not so sure. That dress makes you look really fat...your stomach's popping out. And definitely need more makeup...your skin looks awful at the moment. If you want to anyone to even look at you, you better change that dress and fix your face.’
Pretty brutal right? How would you respond?
Would you agree - or would you send her packing- never to see her again?
Most of us would cut this person out of our lives for good. No one needs a friend like that.
So, the real question is - why do we allow ourselves to do it?
We must hold the same standards-if not higher-to ourselves. You are the only person you will spend 100% of your time with. Therefore, your relationship with your self is the most important of all. And every relationship takes work. You must listen, understand, help, advise, trust, accept, compromise, show compassion and love. You must allow these same qualities for yourself. You must work your hardest on your relationship with yourself. It affects every single aspect of your life from the choices you make to the quality of the relationship you have.
But not many of us do this.
As a personal trainer and nutritional therapist, many people tell me about their fitness routine, eating habits and of course all of their supposed flaws, their failings, what they don't like about themselves and what they would change.
It's so refreshing when someone comes to me and says ‘ I quite like my body- I just want get fitter and stronger. I eat pretty well but I allow myself to have a treat now and again.’
Each and every one of us struggle with this to some degree. Personally, I have done for as long as I can remember. I always felt different, I hated my my unruly curly hair and my spotty skin, if I didn't understand something straight away I was stupid and whether it was my study, career choices, relationships, money, happiness- I just never thought I was good enough or deserved it.
If you take one thing from this article - realise this: our words are more powerful than we know. Will my skin or hair look any better to me the more I hate it? Will I understand much more by berating myself? Will I ever have a fulfilling relationship or career if I don't think I'm good enough? Will I ever be happy if I don't think I deserve it?
Our beliefs about ourselves shape our realities. Whether it's about appearance or abilities or personalities- what we think about them plays a very large role in our lives.
If I tell myself I can't do something, or look a certain way, chances are I'm probably right. The more we think about something - the more we add energy to it. That can either be positive or negative-the choice is ours. I can build myself up or tear myself down. Giving voice to the words adds even more power and energy to the thought. Be mindful of your words. It's impossible to feel good about yourself if you're thinking about how ugly or fat you are. Or stupid or undeserving. It just can't work.
Of course your friends will try to pick you up and tell you how beautiful you are. And you'll feel better - momentarily. But once they're gone - the voice creeps back in and drags you back down again. Some of us even say these negative things to our friends consciously just to get some sort of consolation - to hear good things about ourselves and feel better. It's great to have friends that will do this for you, but those positive affirmations should also be coming from within. It is felt much deeper and understood more fully by our bodies when the message has come from our selves. We are the only ones responsible for how we feel. Acknowledging and appreciating our beauty inside and out should be a priority in our lives.
I wish I could tell clients looking to lose weight that the first thing they should do is accept themselves as they are now. Because that state of being - a state of self-acceptance is a much more powerful state to work with than one that is based in self-loathing and shame.
The first step is raising our awareness. We must become aware of our thoughts. Everytime (or as often as possible) recognise the nasty thought and bring attention to what it is you're saying. once you become conscious about it you'll be able to correct yourself more often - either by stopping yourself in your tracks or even better - replacing it with a positive comment instead. ‘You look so ugly today’ turns into ‘no, that's not true. I am beautiful.’ This at least cancels out the negative statement.
Whatever you give the most energy to wins. What would you like it to be? Self-acceptance or self-loathing? The next step is adding to your positive pile of thoughts so that it can surpass the negative. Keep a list of all the things you like about yourself. Write down everything you're good at. Ask yourself: what do I most need to hear every day that will change my outlook? Think of a way you can remind yourself of what you’ve come up with. Put it on your mirror or a note in your wallet. My personal favorite so far has been sitting down and taking the time to look at my core beliefs ( more on this in an upcoming post). Write down what you believe about yourself (eg. ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘ I’ll never have my dream job’, ‘people don’t like me’) then you rewrite them in a positive light (eg. ‘ I am enough’, ‘I deserve to work a job that I am passionate about’, ‘ I am happily received by all’.). Take the first two or three that you resonate with the most and focus on making them your new core beliefs.
Self-compassion is about treating yourself how you would expect a friend to. Allow yourself understanding and time to create a better relationship with yourself. Most importantly, watch your language. How you speak to and about yourself sets the standard for many other things in life. We all love compliments but why should they come from others? The point is that only we can truly have the power to make ourselves feel good. He “didn't make you feel like s***” and she “didn't hurt your feelings”. You allowed yourself to feel that way. And the reason it has affected you so much, is that it has touched one of your insecurities, often revolving around self worth. If someone calls you stupid it is up to you whether or not you accept those words. If I've spent time working on my beliefs and I absolutely believe 100% that I am not stupid - those words have no effect on me. I don't believe them. I'd have the same reaction if they told me fish have four legs and love climbing trees. However , if I tell myself how stupid I am on a regular basis then that comment will touch a major nerve and then I will be offended.
Start becoming aware of when you're doing it, then look at why, before asking where did you pick up this belief? After that you should be well equipped to start cancelling them out or stopping yourself in your tracks or correcting yourself. Finally, figure out what you need to hear the most. What would benefit you and help change your view. Write it down and put it somewhere you can be constantly reminded of it. Repeat it to yourself throughout the day. And most importantly-believe it.
Happy Christmas and new year,