16 Aug JULY- Compliment Yourself
At times, I feel that I am my own worst enemy. I have fallen into a pattern of putting myself down or wishing I looked like someone different for years. I know I’m not alone in this. I see many of my beautiful, worthy and intelligent friends doing this all the time! I wonder if women (and men) have always done this? Or has contemporary lifestyles created a world that fixates on ridiculous, unachievable expectations? My own personal experience tells me that a number of factors over my lifetime have influenced my inner self-talk.
In my opinion it starts with my parents. Or was it their parents? In fact, it’s a habitual unhealthy cycle. I’ve watched both my parents “mess me up” in a way (unintentionally I know!). My mum was on a constant diet or “weight loss journey.” My father used foul language to put down everyone in his destructive path. The two of them pulled me into their messy relationship, only to set me up to believe all relationships were that unhealthy. It was then the boyfriends who were battling their inner demons. They had their own body image issues. I had one who self-sabotaged and another who spoke unkindly of others to stroke his own rampant ego. Today, as a woman, I am faced with social media accounts that promote unrealistic body types and lifestyles. Those six pack abs and lean bodies that we kill ourselves trying to achieve. Have we all lost the ability to be self accepting? I am all for trying my best to look after myself. I don’t believe in the self-acceptance stance that people take and let themselves go or be unhealthy – the “YOLO” mentality. That is just as unhealthy. What I have realised recently, it that I need to accept who I am, accept MY body and MY life, MY brain and work with what I’ve got to strive for improvement. I will never have a photographic memory, a exceedingly high IQ, long legs, thin ankles, tanned skin, or the body I drool over because it is physically not possible. Instead, I need to appreciate all the wonderful things I am so blessed to have and work towards something more achievable.
Now, don’t consider this as a blame game in any way. It is not my parents fault, the boyfriends didn’t make me this way either. I am just making clear observations of how this happened. My aim is to end this cycle. When I have children, I don’t want them for one second to think they aren’t worthy. That their life and happiness is dictated by their body shape, hair length, ankle circumference. It is really important to me to pass on the ability to appreciate every inch of their bodies and their minds. I’m not kidding myself into thinking that I can fix this in a month, or probably even the year. That bitchy, negative, unhelpful, insecure, sad inner voice has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. She whispers viciously into my ear:
“Your legs are chunky”
“Your skin is white”
“You aren’t smart enough”:
“People don’t like you at work”
“You were a bad daughter”
“You treated mum terribly”
“People hate you”
“You look gross”
“You aren’t a good teacher”
“You are a bad sister”
“You are a bad aunt”
I have reached that point where I am dead set focused on silencing that bitch. She creeps up on me when I am at my most vulnerable. I’m tired, run down and defeated. She wraps her snakelike grip around my mind and tugs at any last semblance of positivity I have and skulks off with it. I am determined to build up my strength and resilience to stave off her control of my mind and be more positive and grateful for the glorious life I have been given. Mostly, I am confident in who I am as a person. I know I am competent in my profession, my study and as a friend. Like many women my age, I grapple with body image issues. I am very aware that I have some form of body dysmorphia. I look in the mirror some mornings and am proud of what I see – this usually follows sustained 100% clean eating. But if later that day I eat a chocolate bar, a big meal or sometimes too much salad – I see someone who is obese… I am very, VERY aware that this isn’t the case when my realistic brain kicks in. But that realistic brain isn’t always there to help me. My end goal is to be able to embrace every inch of my body and love it. I’d love to rock a bikini or a mid drift with zero fucks given!
If I think back to my May resolution to compliment Matt more. The research shows that in order to maintain positive relationships, you need to replace every negative comment with five positive ones…
I’ve been unkind to myself for years – I know this will take a while to fix. Once I get on top of this, my goal is that my positivity will shine into other aspects of my life and deliver happiness.
In order to fulfil my commandmentto ‘love myself’ , I strategised that I would need to flood myself with positive comments. My plan to do this was to start every day with positive affirmations, before I could let myself begin to put myself down. In addition to this, whenever I made a negative comment to myself, I would replace it with some positive ones. To support my negative or emotional brain, I thought about a list of positive affirmations for myself. I created this list when I was in a good head space. The idea behind this list was that I could draw on these if my negative thoughts consumed me.
You are smart
You are a good friend
You are self reflective
You are good at what you do
You are a good leader
You consider others
You think about others
You are mindful
You help others
You are generous
You have beautiful hair
You are strong
You have a pretty face
You have great eyebrows
You have lovely lashes
You do good make up
You have straight teeth
You look after your body
You have great muscle tone
You have a great back
You have a good body
You have great legs
Be ‘flawsome’ – an individual who embraces their “flaws” and knows they are awesome regardless. On the first day of the month, I was off. When I looked in the mirror and complimented the shit out of myself! My brain instantly tried to argue with me. I was gentle with myself and kept going. As each day passed, I found this easier and easier to do. If I wasn’t happy with something I saw and was unable to talk myself around, I worked on complimenting myself on other things. This worked as a good distracter from what I had originally honed in on. To compliment this practice each morning I used my final resting pose (Savasana) in yoga to focus on everything I had an abundance of. I had attended a yoga class the month before which centred on the goddess Lakshmi – the goddess of abundance. The message in the story, was to not focus on a place of lack, but on all the things you do have. This was successful as often I was in a really great rational state of mind and without the mirror in front of me arguing the negative, it was easier to compliment myself with my eyes closed!
Health is not just about what you are eating. It’s also about what you are thinking and saying. Listen, I’d like to say that this month was a breeze. That complimenting myself came easily. It didn’t. I had the added challenge of being away in Bali for the first 2 weeks on my honeymoon. Having fun by enjoying food or drinking too many cocktails meant that I didn’t feel great in my body. My inner voice always went for the jugular when I looked at myself in the mirror. Nevertheless, I still worked on the compliments. I never stopped trying. What I did learn about myself while travelling is that I have an awful habit of honing in and taking notice of chicks with hot bodies. I noticed them straight away. I’d find myself wishing I had their long lean legs, tanned skin and flat stomachs. I quickly caught myself doing this and knew it was unhealthy. I made it my aim for the holiday to notice ALL the bodies. I worked on observing women of all ages, shapes and sizes. This was an amazing strategy because then I actually began to appreciate my body more.Through taking note of all the varying shapes and sizes, I started to become more aware and confident that I was extremely healthy and fit. I started to gain an appreciation for all the hard work I put into myself and my body. This confirmed that I had blinkers on. I was only ever noticing the bodies I envied as opposed to the reality of what was actually in front of me!
Eat like you love yourself. Move like you love yourself. Speak like you love yourself. Act like you love yourself. ..Love yourself. Generally when I am on holiday, I tend to splurge when it comes to eating! To begin with, this holiday was no exception. What I started to notice was that it became increasingly difficult to see myself in a positive light and give compliments when I was not treating my body with the respect that it deserved. In the past, I hadn’t emphasised the positive inner talk so it was easy to continue eating poorly. Putting myself in a position that hindered my adherence to my resolutions made me reflect on my eating habits. I became more mindful of what I put in my mouth, I pulled back on the splurges and made many more good choices. This lead to pride. Pride in myself for making positive changes and pride in the fact that I could work towards self-improvement through self-respect.
Every word you speak should be an affirmation. The subconscious is always listening. Challenging my negative inner voice presented itself in a number of other ways. I spent the majority of my trip learning to surf. Like with anything new, sometimes things don’t come so naturally. Surfing was one of those things! I was out there day after day, working hard to stand up and balance. I eventually started to get the hang of it, but had some good and bad days. One day towards the end of my trip, I had the best instructor. I fell off my board a number of times in a row and finally he said to me, ‘Why do you always let yourself fall off the board? If you continue to tell yourself that you are no good, eventually your mind and your body will really believe it! Try telling yourself that you can do it and you won’t fall…” Low and behold, the next wave I took, I told myself over and over that I was good, that I could do it, that I would ride the wave in…And I did.
After this, I caught wave after wave and I couldn’t have been happier. Simply applying my same self-affirming strategy to a new situation and experience made a world of difference. I was so happy that this worked not just for my body image but for my confidence in other areas.
A negative mind will NEVER give you a positive life. By emulating positivity in many aspects of my life whilst on holiday, I was able to turn a bad day into a good day on a number of occasions. I woke up on the wrong side of the bed a couple of times. I was down on myself and I felt flat. Through starting my day with positive affirmations, I was quickly able to turn the day around. I started to gain more appreciation for what I had. I was lucky to be in Bali, to have a wonderful husband, to have my health etc. I pulled myself together, did some yoga and turned by day around!!! The added bonus of having a very positive husband complimented this process. He always looks on the brighter side of things and I am so grateful to have him.
Self love heals the deepest wounds. Once I returned home to reality, I got back in my routine. My eating habits were easier to maintain. The compliments were much more free flowing. I came to understand that I definitely work better under these routines. I’m happier when I don’t have the option to relax too much. It is clear that abstaining leads to success for me as opposed to indulging! The power of affirmations is undeniable. I continued this everyday for a month and what I noticed was that the positive thoughts began to flow more freely and openly. Although there were still times where I would revert to negative thoughts, it was much less often than before.
Only once you love yourself, will you listen and change. This is my body – I have began to learn to love what I have been given. I understand that I don’t have long lean legs, I carry some fat and I bloat when I eat certain foods. But I now appreciate that I am healthy, I have great features that I am proud of, I am resilient, I have the capacity to heal and to love myself – all of which I’d rather have over a 6 pack any day…
What do you love about yourself?