I’ve realized recently that it really bothers me when I hear people speak negatively about themselves. It’s something that I almost always have a reaction to and I have a hard time just letting it go and biting my tongue. I want to speak up and say something (kind and gentle, of course) to people who are speaking negatively about themselves to hopefully cause them to pause and think critically about why they’re engaging in negative self-talk.
So I’ve started speaking up. And I think it’s been well-received so far. I made a post on Facebook this morning (the text of which appears below) and was encouraged by the positive reaction of my friends to expand upon my thoughts here.
I think negative self-talk is one of the most destructive habits that we’ve developed in our society. In the quest to appear more humble we’ve swung the pendulum to the point where I believe it’s more acceptable to tear yourself down than it is to take a measure of pride in something you’ve accomplished. How backwards.
Why does it matter? It matters because by being constantly critical of ourselves and speaking negatively about ourselves we end up truly believing those things we tell ourselves, regardless of what the reality may be. Negative self-talk can also change how we are perceived by others, with women who engaged in negative talk about their bodies being perceived as less likable by strangers.
Ultimately, it matters because positivity, love, and kindness are going to get us further as individuals and a society than negativity and hate will.
Does this mean that we have to stop wanting to change ourselves? Absolutely not. There’s nothing wrong with looking at your current health, fitness, or other circumstance and thinking “I’d like to improve upon this.” The trouble comes when the motivation for that change is hating where you are now, rather than aspiring to be something awesome. There’s a massive difference in how we’ll react to a goal of “stop eating crap” vs. “eat more whole, nourishing foods”. The first (negative) goal is keeping us focused backwards on the “error” or the behaviour we dislike. The second (positive) goal gives us a productive, forward-thinking action or behaviour to focus on instead.
I know first hand that negative self-talk is a damn hard habit to break. I still catch myself saying and thinking negative things about myself. But at least now I have a keen awareness of when I’m doing this and try to stop it and reverse it. It’s not a change that happens quickly, but I hope that the more we speak up with each other we will encourage our friends to not only stop tearing themselves down, but to take pride in what they accomplish. We may need to “fake it until we make it” but I hope that some day a positive body image will be the norm rather than the exception it is today.
So try this: next time you’re thinking negatively about yourself, your body, or what you can do I challenge you to stop and imagine yourself saying those things about your best friend. Would you ever think or say those same things? Would you ever tell your best friend that she was fat, weak, slow, or not good enough? And how would you react if you heard your best friend saying those things about herself?
I’m guessing you’d never consider saying those things to someone else. So why is it okay to tell ourselves these things? Only when we stop being our own worst critic can we become our own strongest supporter. Be as kind and loving to yourself as you can be to others and then watch the magic happen.