body-loathing

Make it stop: The painful truth about negative self-talk

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Last week, we sat in circle in my living room, my BodyLove Affair coaching group, our reason for gathering, the shared desire to experience more loving relationships with our bodies.

Having each spent our lives judging, loathing, struggling, battling, at odds with these bodies, we come together weekly to heal, to work, to change the story.

We sat in circle, these three brave clients and me, and I asked them to create a list of the cruel things they say to themselves, about themselves, about their bodies.

They wrote for a few minutes, scribbling furiously.

I went on to share what would happen next. It went along these lines…

You want to change this relationship? It doesn’t change until we do things differently.

We must become police, master protectors, diligent security guards, docents in our museum, stopping ourselves in our tracks when we are endangering ourselves.

Then, I threw them for a loop. “We’re going to play BodyLove Affair Theatre.”

We’d been talking for the last couple weeks about tools and tricks for stopping these thoughts in their tracks, and now we were going to practice.

I invited them to pass their lists to the woman next to them, who would play the part of her partner’s negative self-talk-voice. While armed with another list, the partner would rebut, interrupt and argue, snapping back with kinder, more loving alternate thoughts. Various snappy truths and come-backs.

Knowing that these negative thoughts we’d written were highly personal, I made this surrendering of our lists completely optional. If they so desired, they could pass their list to the woman next to them for some role-play.

This is where it got interesting… this is where the cringing began.

Of course, as one might expect, it felt uncomfortable to have another read and know the way we talk to ourselves. That shit is private. And ugly.

But even more interesting to me was the reaction of the role players, when handed the lists to read.

When R. bravely handed her list to S., S. took a moment to read quietly, and the look on her face was pure discomfort. She scanned down the list for one that she could say out loud to R., so that R., could practice her new thoughts. Tension seemed to be growing in the air. She became visibly uncomfortable.

“I can’t.” she finally shook her head.

The room hushed in a holy reverence, a shared knowing.

“I can’t say these things to her. They’re too mean.”

“Can you pick just a couple?” I urged. And she did, face cringing, body tightening, shoulders rising in discomfort.

It was awful to speak these things to anyone, out loud. We could feel this. We heard it with our own ears, and saw with our own eyes.

After S. bravely read some awful things out loud, R. bravely responded with new thoughts, arguments, rebuttals.

We applauded both women’s courage, and switched partners.

Again, and again, each of us, myself included, found it painfully difficult to say the things out loud that our Theatre partner had written. It was torturous. Miserable. Why?

Because we don’t talk to people this way.

Because words are powerful. And certain words hurt.

Because we are kind and loving people.

Yet…

Yet, this is the way we talk to ourselves, with language so unkind, it can barely be uttered by another. “I can’t do it.” S. had said. Eventually she did, but not without a pained expression and hating every moment of it.

I’ve heard it said a million times, and so have you, in so many different ways.

We would never talk to others the way we talk to ourselves.

Yet, that night, I saw it. I witnessed it in action, and it wasn’t just painful.

It was nearly impossible.

And so I urge you, my friend, start by watching, witnessing the way you speak to yourself.

Catch yourself. Notice. It must start with noticing.

This is not how you would speak to anyone else, ever.

It would hurt you to utter those words to another. It would hurt them. And yet, to the one who is closest in the world to you, your Self, this vicious criticism comes so naturally.

Make it stop.

For the love of the goddess you are, the holiness, the divinity that is you, for the love of the sweet friend within, make it stop.

Interrupt. Resist. Counter. Argue. Talk back. Mouth off. Change the subject. You are worth this diligence.

You don’t deserve to be spoken to that way. No one does.

You will never be free, if you don’t do this.

freedomI think its pretty safe to say, we all enjoy freedom. We all want to feel free. Feeling imprisoned, trapped, meh, not really our thing.

I know for me, freedom has been a number one value, for many, many years. My top Core Desired Feeling is freedom. It is my favorite feeling, top sensation. Yeah, it’s very important to me.

In fact, for many years of my life, I was so hell-bent on feeling free, that I often mistook the concern, care or requests of others (mainly, the most important relationships in my life) as control, and putting my so-called freedom in jeopardy.

I used to semi-brag “If it even smells like control, I rebel.”

I spent so much time and energy rebelling against imagined control, my own rebellion became a prison.

I’ve been learning some really important things about this freedom I value so much, and how I’ve been fooling myself.

Anything that limits your capacity to experience joy, to give and receive love, is a prison.

Often, that prison is you.

And if you are in prison, you are not free.

Through lots of therapy, inner work and growth, I am much less of a ‘rebel’ (no longer acting out in dangerous, destructive or hurtful ways, in order to maintain my ‘freedom’.)

Yet, this year being the Year of Big Reveals for me… I realized, I still wasn’t free.

For there was a war waging inside of me. There was a painful battle I was fighting that I very rarely talked about, and its kept me imprisoned most of my entire life.

I was at war with my body.

This war manifested itself in many ways– the way I talked to myself…

The way I weighed myself daily, allowing the number on the scale to determine what kind of day I would have or if I would be in the mood to reward myself or abuse myself…

The way I turned to substances to feel better about myself, to feel confident and self-assured, faux freedom…

The way I constantly tried to monitor and control what I ate, in order to lose this extra weight, this extra part of me that I was so, so deeply loathsome of.

Even though I was in the business of helping women love themselves and their bodies, that luxury was not for me. That freedom was for others. I didn’t deserve that kind of freedom.

Here I was, Miss International Spokeswoman for Freedom, but I was not really free.

And the same is very likely true for you. Are you free, truly free?

Or are you in prison?

What I’m about to say might seem harsh, but I say it out of love, and first-hand experience.

If you are weighing yourself daily, you are not truly free.

If you are depriving or restricting yourself of entire food groups in effort to lose or control weight, you are not truly free.

If you are obsessively thinking about your body, your weight, your appearance, you are not truly free.

If you are withholding love from yourself until you reach that “ideal” weight, size or look, you are not free.

If you are counting calories, fat grams, tracking every calorie you burn or ingest, this, my beloved friend, is. Not. Freedom.

This is war.

You are at war with your body.

Your body wants peace. Your body wants to be loved. Your body wants you to know how much it loves you, how hard it works for you, how deeply it needs you to end the war.

Until you end the war with your body, you are not really free.

Until I ended the war, I was not free.

Truth is,  I have to end it again and again, sometimes even on a moment by moment basis. Body-loathing was so habitual, it has become more natural than body-loving. But I am on a path of freedom now. And I am willing to fight for it.

I did something really bold a couple months ago. I put the scale in the garage. I stopped weighing daily. Instead, I weigh on Monday mornings. The feeling of freedom from the tyranny of the scale has been exhilarating. But, here’s what happened last week.

Last week, I went to the gym three times. I did yoga at home. I took a couple walks. I was so proud. If you know me, this is a really big deal. I was feeling so good about myself. My body and I were crushing on each other. My confidence level was higher.

I was doing these things, taking great care of my body, for the first time, from a place of loving kindness. My body and I, buddies, lovers… it felt amazing.

Then this Monday, I got on the scale and the number was slightly higher than it was last Monday. And my mood plummeted. My great feelings about myself and my body evaporated, instantly.

I was disgusted.

There I was again, back in that cycle. Whether I am weighing daily or weekly, if I allow that number to determine my mood, my worth, my feelings about my body, I am not free.

So I went to work… I reminded myself of all the wonderful things I had done for my body the previous week.

I reminded myself of the new way I talk to myself, kindly, respectfully. I reminded myself of my new desire, real freedom. True freedom.

I reminded myself that bashing myself over the number on that blasted scale is not freedom, and I returned to love.

I reconsidered my weekly weigh-in, and began a new conversation about where I go from here. I want to feel good. I want to feel free.

So, what I am learning here: this freedom that I love so much is something I will sometimes need to fight for.

I will need to return to it, perhaps again and again, for the rest of my life. Or perhaps someday it will just be my state of being.

Either way, I’m in.

The same goes for you.

Unless you end the war with your body, you will never be free.

The freedom we long for is on the other side of body-loathing. And so is the power. Real power. True power. But I’ll save that for another blog.

Let’s fight for our freedom by deciding “no more body-loathing”, and ending the war, even if we have to do it again and again and again.