Not too long ago I was attending a social event and was introduced to two lovely women who arrived together. We struck up a conversation about (what else!) fashion, and at one point one of the women turned to her friend and said, “I wish I had your body.” Without missing a beat, the other woman rolled her eyes and replied, “Oh, please!” and then launched into a litany of why no one else would ever want her body. Meanwhile, I’m standing there thinking how attractive and bright both of these women are.
Does this scenario sound familiar? Have you witnessed it or been an active part of it many times over the years? We are often unaware of the damage these statements or experiences have on our psyche, our self-esteem, and our ability to create a wardrobe we love. It seems that throughout our lifetime we are trained to quietly (and often using humor to offset the sadness and meanspiritedness (although rarely is this purposeful)) belittle ourselves, and, as a result, women have cornered the market on self-deprecating remarks.
This is not a good thing. As Louise Hay will tell you, language is a powerful thing. “Self-approval and self-acceptance in the now are the main keys to positive changes in every area of our lives.” Think about it…
Have you ever had someone compliment you on your hair and say, “Oh, wow…it’s driving me crazy today. It never seems to do what I want it to and the humidity just makes it …” Or, someone admires your sweater and you say, “Thanks. I wish I didn’t have to wear it. I’m so hot but my arms are so flabby that I don’t feel comfortable exposing them.”
How about instead that you just say, “Thank you! You made my day!” Then, inwardly take a deep breath and maybe take it one step further. You don’t have to say anything else out loud. Instead think to yourself, “Wow, how fabulous that my hair looks good on such a day. That’s great news since my hair appointment is still a week away.” Find a way to make it feel good. You don’t have to lie and say to yourself (or anyone else) that you are lucky to have the most amazing hair in the world (unless you honestly believe that and then that’s awesome). Otherwise, as my mother frequently says, “If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all.”
What are you saying to yourself about your body that keeps you stuck in a rut? Be careful about shrugging it off as good-natured kidding or insignificant conversation. These comments are much more damaging to your psyche than you might know.
Here’s a little exercise to do today: Watch your language.
- When someone compliments you, do you explain that it’s a fluke or look at them like they are nutty?
- Do you regularly commiserate with other women about self-perceived body flaws?
- Do you look in the mirror and focus immediately on the parts of your body you are unhappy with?
The good news is that this is a habit you can change immediately. While you will probably slip from time to time the more you notice what you say the easier it is to change it:
- Awareness is the first step to positive change. The next time you receive a compliment (no matter how misdirected you might think it is), say thank you and smile (and pretend, if you have to, to yourself like you knew it all along). Not only that but you’ll be modeling healthy behavior to other women. What a gift!
- No more gripe sessions with your friends. Tell them you are on a new path to self-acceptance and invite them to come along. Challenge them to say something lovely about themselves – get them started by offering them a genuine compliment. They will love doing the same for you.
- Become more aware of the body parts, features and personal traits about yourself that you truly appreciate. When you find yourself hyperfocusing on something you don’t like, allow your mind to float over to something you do like or some other characteristic of that body part, feature or personal trait that you do like.
For instance, I have thin lips. I was born that way and they seem to be getting thinner as I get older. Certainly not my first choice in lip shape but hey, it’s what I’ve got and I’m not planning on injecting anything. So, instead of focusing on the fact that they are thin, whenever that comes up or I notice it, I shift my thinking to the fact that they are smooth (rarely chapped), and I think I have a really nice smile. It always makes me feel better and I know it’s helpful to my body chemistry to have good feeling thoughts flowing through rather than negative, stressful ones. Try it for yourself and see.
As I mentioned above, does this mean you have to go around saying happy things outloud to everyone you meet about the parts of your body you aren’t in love with? No. Absolutely not. It just means don’t say negative things about them either.
This is a very big topic. What I’m offering here is the tip of the iceberg. Your words have power – both negative and positive. Why not let yours lean more towards the positive. You might be surprised at the results.
Remember, like everything else, this is just the beginning. Take little steps. Don’t try to do too much at once and certainly don’t berate yourself or you’ll feel overwhelmed and give up. If you need help, check out Louise Hay’s CD, “The Power of Your Spoken Word.”
Make it a game and practice it regularly. If you are like most of us you’ll have plenty of opportunity to perfect it. With practice it will become second nature, and the personal benefits are worth it.