Not Another Diet — Principle 8
Say Nice Things To Yourself
A funny thing happened after I left my husband. I was quietly organizing my new apartment, moving things from here to there, when I suddenly and painfully became aware that I was continuing our destructive dialog. The same arguments, criticisms, rage. When I dug a little deeper I found my Mother’s voice in there too.
It was a startling realization that if I couldn’t find someone to speak poorly to me, I would unconsciously manifest it. It wasn’t enough to leave my husband or for my Mom to pass away, I had to face the fact that this was how I spoke to myself.
Once I began paying attention to my inner dialog I was horrified to discover how casually cruel I was to myself. I regularly scrutinized my body and found it ‘gross’. I was a failure, not good enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough. Not enough, full stop.
It was one thing to remove people from my life who treated me this way, but, what to do about how I was treating myself? It had been happening for so long that it was a seamless part of my consciousness. Put on my shoes, examine my thighs and be disgusted. Read my email, notice a friend hadn’t gotten back to me and decide no one really cared about me. And, so it went.
I was exhausted with the constant stream of self-generated put-downs. I felt beat down, sad and defeated. It was time to challenge all this faulty thinking and rewire my brain.
Once I forced some awareness, I started having new thoughts: would I take care of another person who spoke to me this way? Would I love or fear them? What was all this self-loathing doing to my health? Was this something I can change? Did I actually hate my body?
At 197 pounds, I decided to love myself right where I stood. I made a clear distinction between wanting to lose weight for my own well-being and losing weight so that I might finally be a worthy human being. Maybe I’d heard some mean things from others, but they weren’t the keepers of the truth.
I’ve gone to therapy on and off the whole of my adult life (and intend to continue, it’s been really helpful), but in this case I wasn’t looking for a deep dive into my family history. I wanted to stop abusing myself. I wanted to undo the seamless pathways all that negative self-talk had created in my brain.
I resolved to pay attention to every mean thing I said to myself and replace it with a loving statement. The rule was I had to address every critical thought, and say it out loud. It went something like this:
Destructive thought, “Jesus, your thighs are so dimply and gross.”
Affirming statement, “My body is my friend and ally. It’s a miracle just as it is and I love it.”
I realize how simplistic this all sounds. Just replace a negative thought with a positive one and this fixes the problem? In short, yes. It was incredibly awkward in the beginning but I stuck with it. I did the thought replacement diligently and intentionally for months until one day I noticed how little I generated unkind thoughts. I started believing the affirmations. I made space in my life only for people who treated me with kindness and respect, and I became one of those people.
This technique was transformative for self-care. I began to feel like I deserved to take my health seriously. I created boundaries around my time so I could exercise. I declined social situations that no longer served me. I tried a whole variety of new things because, why not me?
Eight years later I use this same technique to handle any sort of setbacks, including seeing the scale move up unexpectedly. When self-loathing comes creeping back in, I know just how to handle it: “I am worthy, lovable, and plenty good enough as-is. Now get to work.”
Try it. It’s effective and a catalyst for all sorts of transformational change.
If you are new to this series please go back and read the introduction. It’s important to understand the basics before simply adopting the principles.