Isn’t it so crazy that we can find grace for others, and yet, talk so maliciously to ourselves when we’ve messed up? We may know that making mistakes is part of the learning process, but what is the first thing we say to ourselves when we make one? If you are like me, it might be “Ugh, I’m so stupid!” Lately, I’ve been more attuned to this and I’m trying to change the way I think and talk about myself.
A huge reason I am more aware of my self-talk is because I’ve learned that when I cheer myself on at the gym, I can go farther and burn more calories. I push myself and meet goals. This is no small thing as just the thought of going to the gym used to bring up only fear and self-doubt. One day when I was jogging (after committing to a monthly goal of going to my local gym) on the treadmill, I started telling myself that I was proud of getting over my fear, that I was proud that I was making a real, life change, and I was proud of myself for deciding to put in the work. That was the first day exercise felt enjoyable, and it kept me going back. Deciding to be kind to myself has also helped me to love myself for exactly who I am in this moment. There was an epiphany that if I couldn’t love myself as a plus-size woman that even if I ever reached a goal of being a smaller size, I wouldn’t know how to love myself and I’d never be satisfied with how I looked or felt.
Another reason for positive, self-talk is the message I’m sending and teaching my kids. They are soaking up everything I do and say. When I hear them say they are stupid, after getting something wrong, I know exactly where they learned that. Teaching them to appreciate the mistakes they make along the journey is one thing, but when they see me being a hypocrite, they pick up on that more than anything I’ve said. It was easier teaching others’ children to have positive, self-talk because my students didn’t see me like my own kids do. As their mother, it hurts me when my kids say ugly things to themselves. When I look at each of them, I see beautiful beings with so much potential. I want them to see that too, so it’s time to make a change. And…it’s working. Last week, my son described why he was proud of himself. He used the word proud and asked me if I understood that he wasn’t bragging, but he felt good for his accomplishment. I told him I knew exactly what he meant and I was proud of him, too.
A couple of months ago, I mentioned this to a friend and she invited me to a group she created on Facebook that is about being kind to ourselves. Not only have I made new friends and have a support system, but I’m learning so much from them. We discuss healthy boundaries, things we are grateful for, and celebrate our growth. When we are finding it hard to be kind to ourselves, we reach out and are lifted up. It’s absolutely amazing and has helped me tremendously in my self-care journey.
Why do we find it so hard to love ourselves? Why do we go overboard to help others and put ourselves last? Why can we see beauty in others and not ourselves? If you ever ask yourself any of these questions, I encourage you to look in the mirror and try and see what others see. Stop zeroing in on your acne. Stop looking at your stretch-marks or any curves you find disgusting. In fact, remove some of those ugly words like disgusting, right now. I knew something amazing was happening inside when I first saw myself as beautiful and told my reflection so. I saw a woman who birthed five, wonderful humans. Those stretch-marks are beautiful in their meaning. I don’t want a flat belly. I’ll work for a healthier body, but I don’t want to erase who I am to reach some image of beauty that was never meant for me.
Our paths look differently. It’s not always about body shape or physical health, but many times, taking care of ourselves is offering ourselves the olive branch we naturally extend to others. We’ve done some stupid things, made errors in judgement, and if you are like me there is a list of things you truly would go back and do over with the knowledge you have now (but thank goodness we can’t). One way to show love to ourselves is to talk kindly to that person in the mirror. Speaking ugly about her doesn’t encourage her to reach for anything but instead find another way to avoid taking care of herself. But finding one thing to love about her will definitely fuel your desire to find another good thing and another…until your inner dialogue has been transformed.
You’re worth the kindness. You are worth the love. You may even find that your love for others grows more deeply and that when you stop judging yourself so harshly, it’s even more natural to accept others, too. It’s a pretty awesome cycle, don’t you think? It’s free, but it’s costly if we never make that decision. The way we show kindness to ourselves can help our mental, physical, and spiritual states. The opposite is also true and can exacerbate illness and stress levels.
You are worth the self-kindness, my friend. And honestly, your whole self is ready for this change, too. Best wishes in learning to love yourself and it starts with how you talk to yourself.