I once had a friend tell me, “Jackie, if you talked to me like you talk to yourself, we wouldn’t be friends.” She was absolutely right. My inner voice was toxic, filled with “You can’ts, not good enough’s, and ‘why can’t you be better’s?’. Her words shocked me and made me aware of how often my negative self talk made me miserable.
Berating ourselves is a learned trait. We don’t come into the world believing our butts are too big. We pick it up along the way from family, friends, society, school, boyfriends or girlfriends. It’s our choice if we take it on or let it go.
Like most middle-school girls, I read YM, Seventeen, and occasionally Cosmo. I looked at the girls in those magazines, and I wanted to be like them—thin, straight hair, perfect skin. I got up early almost every day as an 11-year-old to straighten my hair. I had no idea what I was doing, and it looked horrible. At 5’3, I towered over most of the boys in my class and was the tallest girl in the grade. I had bad acne, braces, and consistently frizzy hair. I remember hiding from mirrors, only facing them in dim light where I couldn’t see the acne and the braces, and I thought to myself, “Oh, I’m pretty now if I just lost some weight.”
Thanks to some wonderful people by high school, I’d overcome my need for straight hair and popularity. I met my best friend our freshman year, and we supported each other in our independence, intelligence, and dreams. We appreciated each other’s uniqueness and celebrated it.
Her house had a big backyard, and in the very back was a hammock. I’m not sure how it began, but we started something we called “Hammock Chats.” During those talks, we would lay down opposite to one another, and it was safe and sacred space where we could talk about anything. Most importantly, it was safe space to voice why we were proud of ourselves. We would take turns sharing our accomplishments, why we liked ourselves, and what we believed we could do with our lives. It was incredibly empowering and freeing to have a place to honor ourselves and one another.
As a society, we condone discussing what’s wrong, whether it’s with ourselves, someone else, or an institution, but it’s more difficult to find safe space to celebrate ourselves with others. I invite you to join Arianna’s “Celebrating You” Life Experiment and Martine’s month of gratitude. For 21-days Arianna is writing down 100 words each day filling in the response to “I’m a star today because…” Martine’s blog, Nourish, Preserve, & Flourish, is encouraging people to take a picture every day showing something he/she is grateful for. I’m joining both!
Arianna has a psychology background and points out that the average person has 50,000 thoughts per day. If our thoughts create our reality, what difference could positive thinking make? Being ambitious, dreaming big, even having high expectations for yourself is all wonderful, but perhaps it’s time to change the inner dialogue.
After many years of ‘motivating’ myself by withholding praise until I accomplished a goal, I’ve switched to cheering myself on, appreciating each step towards achieving my dreams. As Walt Whitman said, “If you done it, it ain’t bragging.”