The low self-esteem trap
Think about what it felt like the last time you received a compliment. Perhaps someone told you how beautiful your smile was or how kind you are...it felt pretty good right? Now take a moment and think about how you talk to yourself on a daily basis. Are you telling yourself “you are too fat, not attractive enough...your thighs are too chunky, you don’t spend enough time with your kids, you are rubbish at your job”...etc...all day long? Many people talk to themselves in this harsh way - often being more unkind to themselves than they would ever even consider being to a friend, stranger or even enemy! Yet if you think how good just one compliment makes you feel - now think about just how BAD all of the negative self-talk can make you feel.
A lot of the people that I work with feel awful about themselves and their bodies. In fact a lot of people I encounter in life generally tell me that they are not happy with their body, appearance - or don’t feel great about themselves. This is because they are criticising themselves all of the time - this is because their thoughts are focused on their flaws - and this leaves them feeling awful a lot of the time. When it comes to weight however - these negative thoughts can turn into a vicious trap ...because when you feel bad about yourself, what do you often turn to in order to feel better??...yep you guessed it - more food!
If you want to achieve your health and fitness goals - it is key that you are being kind to yourself and not criticising yourself all of the time. It is key for you to stop all of the negative self-talk.
How can you do this?
When it comes to improving your self-talk, the first step is self-awareness. I always recommend that my clients keep a journal of their mood and their thoughts throughout the day. Only around 10% of the population is naturally aware of their thinking - so for most of us, we actually have to stop and start paying attention to how we are talking to ourselves daily. Journaling is a great way to start noticing how you are talking to yourself. Once you have an awareness of your negative self-talk, you can then start to make a conscious effort to try and find that “compassionate inner voice” - the one that is kinder and more forgiving. Every time the negative inner-voice comes up - the compassionate inner voice can respond back, directing thoughts to more positive ones. So when you are focusing on how much you hate your body - you can turn your thoughts instead to how wonderful your body is for allowing you to carry your children, for example. When the compassionate inner-voice is consciously given more attention - slowly this will become your default way of thinking.
Another step you can take to improve self-esteem is to make a list of the things that you like about yourself - it often helps if you try to view yourself through the eyes of someone that really loves and appreciates you - noticing what good things that person values about you (both physically and when it comes to your character/personality).
Another handy tip to change your negative self-talk is, every time you notice a negative comment coming up, asking yourself whether you would say this aloud to a daughter/sister/close friend - if you would not talk to someone you care about this way, why are you talking to yourself this way? Your experience of life is not defined by external circumstances but by how your inner-voice processes those circumstances. So if you are always speaking to yourself negatively you are just going to negatively affect your own enjoyment of life.
I tend to find that the more someone thinks about or worries about their body and appearance, the more this negatively affects their self-esteem. Often this comes from some form of perfectionism - where an individual has very high standards for themselves but would never except their friends/family members to live up to the same standards. These high expectations also often come from the images of the perfect body portrayed by the media. It is important to realise that we all have very different body shapes and we are all naturally different sizes. The more people strive to look like those people portrayed by the media, the more they are fighting against their own bodies (and their natural shape) and the more body-dissatisfaction they are likely to experience. One of the biggest dangers of focusing on our appearance/body is the making of comparisons against other people. If we are only focusing on our bodies to marvel at how much they enable us to do, how wonderful they are, then that is great - but if it is to tear ourselves to pieces or to criticise ourselves, then this is not so useful.
Another tool that can be used to improve negative body-talk is for someone to ask themselves what they most want for their future - would they like, in 10 years time, to look back and say that they felt awful for 10 years worrying about their negative traits, their thighs and their bingo wings - or would they rather focus on enjoying time with family/friends and pursing their hobbies. Very often this simple exercise puts things in perspective. Another question they can ask themselves is - if their daughter/sister/best friend told them that they were spending most of their time worrying about their body and feeling sad - what advice would they give them? Very often, when we are thinking about what we want for our loved ones - we realise that life is too short to be doing anything but living life and having fun!
“If you celebrate your differentness, the world will, too. It believes exactly what you tell it—through the words you use to describe yourself, the actions you take to care for yourself, and the choices you make to express yourself. Tell the world you are one-of-a-kind creation who came here to experience wonder and spread joy. Expect to be accommodated.” ― Victoria Moran, Lit From Within: Tending Your Soul For Lifelong Beauty