You stare into the mirror.
‘God, I look so fat in this.’
‘Why do I look so hideous today?’
‘I hate my stomach. And the cellulite on my thighs. I’d hate to be seen in a bikini’
‘My skin looks like shit today.I’d die if I ever had to go out without makeup, I’m so gross without it’.
Now let’s change the scenario. You’re at home getting ready to go out with your best friend. You’ve spent ages getting ready. You turn to her and ask her how you look.
‘Hmm I’m not so sure. That dress makes you look really fat…your stomach is hanging out. And you could definitely do with some more makeup, your skin looks awful at the moment. If you want anyone to even look at you, you’d better change that dress and fix your face.’
Pretty brutal right? So, how would you respond? Would you agree? Or would you send her packing, never to see her again?
Most of us would cut this person out of our lives for good. No one needs a friend like that.
So, the real question is: why do we allow ourselves to do it?
We must hold the same standards, if not higher, to ourselves. You are the only person you will spend 100% of your time with. Therefore, your relationship with yourself is the most important of all. Every relationship takes work, if you don’t put anything in, you won’t get anything out. Relationships require you to listen, understand, help, advise, trust, accept, compromise, show compassion and offer love. You must create and allow these same qualities for yourself. You must work your hardest on your relationship with yourself. It affects every single aspect of your life from the choices you make to the quality of the relationships you have with others.
But not many of us do not do this. We seek external validation. We need other people to tell us how beautiful we are. We are deemed sexy by the amount of people that are attracted to us. We comfort our friends, but not ourselves. We pour our love into somebody else while neglecting our own needs. We will help others to no end, sacrificing and saving, but inside, have been lost for years.
As a personal trainer and nutritional therapist, many people tell me about their fitness routine, eating habits and, of course, all of their supposed flaws, failings, what they don’t like about themselves and what they would change. It always breaks my heart a little, for I have been there too. It’s so refreshing when someone comes to me and says ‘ I quite like my body. I just want to get fitter and stronger, and I eat pretty well, but I allow myself to have a treat now and again.’ Each and every one of us struggle with this to some degree. Personally, I have done so for as long as I can remember. I always felt different, I hated my unruly curly hair and my spotty skin. If I didn’t understand something straight away, I was stupid and whether it was my study, career choices, relationships, money, and/or happiness — I just never thought I was good enough or deserving of any of it.
If you take one thing from this article, know this: our words are more powerful than we know. Will my skin or hair look any better to me the more I hate it? Will I understand much more by berating myself the whole time? Will I ever have a fulfilling relationship or career if I don’t think I’m good enough? Will I ever be happy if I don’t think I deserve it?
Our beliefs about ourselves shape our realities. Whether it’s about appearance or abilities or personalities, what we think about them plays a very large role in our lives, so what are you thinking all day?
If I tell myself I can’t do something, or look a certain way, chances are I’m probably right. The more we think about something, the more energy we add to it. That can be positive or negative; the choice is ours. I can build myself up or tear myself down. Only I truly have that power. Be mindful of your words. It’s impossible to feel good about yourself if you’re thinking about how ugly, fat or stupid you are. It just doesn’t work. We are the only ones responsible for how we feel. Acknowledging and appreciating our beauty inside and out should be a priority in our lives.
I wish I could tell clients looking to change so much of themselves that the first thing they should do is accept themselves as they are now. Because that state of being, a state of self acceptance is much more powerful to work with than one that is based in self loathing and shame. Of course, I am happy to help them regardless, coaching them along the way.
So, how do we change? The first step is raising our awareness. We must bring attention and presence to our thoughts. As often as is possible, recognise the nasty thought and cut it off. Once you are conscious of it, you’ll be able to correct yourself more often, replacing it with a positive comment instead. ‘You look so ugly today’ turns into ‘no, that’s not true. I am beautiful.’ Whatever you give the most energy to, wins. What would you like it to be? Self acceptance or self loathing?
The next step is adding to your pile of positive thoughts so that it can surpass the negative ones. Keep a list of all the things you like about yourself. Write down everything you’re good at. Ask yourself: what do I most need to hear every day that will change my outlook? Think of a way you can remind yourself of what you’ve come up with. Write it on your mirror or keep a note in your wallet. My personal favorite so far has been sitting down and taking the time to look at my core beliefs ( more on this in an upcoming post). Write down what you believe about yourself (eg. ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘ I’ll never have my dream job’, ‘people don’t like me’) then you rewrite them in a positive light (eg. ‘ I am enough’, ‘I deserve to work a job that I am passionate about’, ‘ I am happily received by all’.). Take the first two or three that you resonate with the most and focus on making them your new core beliefs.
Self compassion is about treating yourself how you would expect a friend to. Allow yourself understanding and time to create a better relationship with yourself. Most importantly, watch your language. How you speak to and about yourself sets the standard for many other things in life. We all love compliments but why should they come from others? The point is that only we can truly have the power to make ourselves feel good. He “didn’t make you feel like s***” and she “didn’t hurt your feelings”. You allowed yourself to feel that way. And the reason it has affected you so much, is that it has touched one of your insecurities, often revolving around your self worth. If someone calls you stupid it is up to you whether or not you accept those words. If I’ve spent time working on my beliefs, and I absolutely believe 100% that I am not stupid, those words have no effect on me. I don’t believe them; they don’t resonate with me. I’d have the same reaction if they told me fish have four legs and love climbing trees. However, if I’ve been telling myself how stupid I am on a regular basis, then that comment will touch a major nerve and then I will be offended.
Start becoming aware of when you’re tearing yourself down. Ask yourself why, before asking where did you pick up this belief? After that you should be better equipped to start cancelling them out and correcting yourself. Finally, figure out what you need to hear the most. What would benefit you most and help to change your views on your who and what you are. Write it down and put it somewhere you can be constantly reminded of it. Repeat it to yourself throughout the day. And most importantly, believe it.
If you enjoyed this story, you may also enjoy ‘How to Survive Suffering’ and ‘How to Cultivate Courage’