Think of what you say to yourself when you look in the mirror or open your closet each morning. How about when you’re in the changing room shopping for new clothes? Or when you’re going over what you ate that day. Studies show that most of us are not very nice to ourselves. Personal experience shows that we are not very nice to ourselves. Now think of that same language, but someone is saying those things about your friend. It’s not okay right? You would step in and squash that negativity, because you love your friend and know how wonderful they are and even if they have a flaw, that type of language is just plain cruel and unnecessary. If someone spoke like that about you constantly, or even once, chances are you wouldn’t be friends anymore. So why then do we talk to ourselves that way? Why do we girls find it so hard to be nice to ourselves?
I recently listened to a webinar by Marna Thall and she spoke about our use of the words “good” and “bad”. Fries, ice cream, pizza, bagels, junk food, soda, bread, sugar – BAD. Carrots, apples, oatmeal, shrimp, avocados, spinach – GOOD. (But too much of good = bad. ugh). Depending on which category we eat from that day or how our calories stack up, we say “I was good today,” or “I was bad today.” It seems harmless, but think about how you just categorized yourself. Over time we get used to calling ourselves bad and letting our inner goodness and love for ourselves depend on what we ate that day. As if by eating the pizza, I take on the negative qualities of it. If I eat beer and wings or berries and yogurt, that does not constitute who I am as a person. We know this, but after years of calling ourselves good or bad, we subconsciously start to believe it. We allow our sense of accomplishment or self worth to teeter on the scale, threatening to move from good to bad with each bite. And that one bite can ruin your whole day and make you feel awful and unhinged. Then that feeling can lead to more bites and so on until negativity is breeding negativity and you’re so far past “being bad” you can’t even see it anymore.
As I mentioned here I thought for many years that I was gluten intolerant until I found out it was the yeast in the bread and beer that I was intolerant too and not the gluten. That night I sat down to a pasta dinner, but there was something very different about that particular meal. For the first time in five years, I felt no regret, no shame, no inner dialogue of how I was harming my body and health. I felt nothing but the joy of pasta and it was freeing. It dawned on me how much my emotions are tied up in food. Not only because what you put in dictates what you put out and eating poorly can affect your mood, but also because with my constant autoimmune and health struggles I always felt like such a failure and a weak person for giving in to cravings I knew would only make me feel worse. It wasn’t until this meal that I realized how down on myself I had gotten. Even though I love myself and am my own cheerleader, I had also become the person in the crowd booing and heckling myself. After years of the seemingly simple “good” and “bad” connotations we use so mindlessly, that negativity had snuck up on me.
I’m riding that aha moment and changing my inner dialogue. I no longer use the words good or bad to describe my food or myself. Instead I say “I ate healthy today,” or “I did not eat in line with my goals for myself,” or “I don’t like eating X because it makes me feel jittery and sluggish.” It seems like such a silly and miniscule change, but it has been such a huge one. I hope this little trick helps you or a friend to be nicer to yourselves.