As a female I’ve done my share of loveless, self-criticism. I’ve stared at the parts of my body that I deemed undesirable. With the help of a mirror, I’ve sent all of my negative thoughts inward, showing no mercy. Not surprisingly, my “problem areas” have always been my problem areas no matter how much fat I lose or muscle I tone up.
For this post, I chose the image above because it’s one I don’t particularly like. When I look at it my eyes immediately fixate on what I see as flaws. In my body, my face, my hair I see things I would change. Don’t even get me started on the pose itself. My Warrior II needs some serious work to get it looking like the images I see on Instagram, and it’s not even considered an advanced pose!
This photo was taken almost a year ago. A year ago there was NO WAY I would have posted this online and dissected it publicly. That’s because a year ago when I looked at it, I was convinced that it was a bad picture. I was convinced that I looked fat, that my arms had no definition, and that my facial expression was goofy. Today, I can’t say I think it’s a flawless image (or more correctly, that I look flawless), but I can say that I don’t know what I was so concerned about.
That is the story of my life reviewing photos. The old ones are almost always better than the current, no matter what shape I’m in or how well my hair falls that day.
So what does this cycle illustrate? The content of my thoughts (or self-talk) is my reality. If right now you think your arms are flabby, your mind believes your arms are flabby. And in turn, your mind believes that everyone else thinks your arms are flabby. Likewise, if you think you can’t accomplish a goal, your whole universe will conspire against you to make this belief true. But the universe doesn’t conspire against you. Your mind does. Your thoughts do. You believe the negative assumptions you feed yourself through self-talk.
We are our own worst critics. I recently spoke with a friend who was doubting herself. She was saying things that she thought about herself out loud to me. Things that I would never had thought about her because I genuinely don’t believe any of them to be true. The things she said about herself were downright mean. It was an eye-opening experience to be a guest to someone’s inner dialogue.
It made me think about the things I say to myself and how harsh they really are. Most of the negative things I say to myself I’ve never once heard someone else say to me. We can be so mean to ourselves. We say we aren’t good enough, we don’t deserve things, we’re too this or not enough of that. But why?
We are complex beings. Nothing seems to be simple when it comes to the way our minds work and the way we evaluate ourselves. We are prone to compare ourselves to everyone around us. We tend to notice other people’s shining characteristics while focusing on our own flaws. Instead of priding ourselves on the good things, we create tunnel vision around areas where we think we need improvement.
But let’s be clear, self-criticism is not humility. It’s hurtful and debilitating.
The power of positivity can’t be underrated. Even a friendly stranger passing by can lift your spirits with the flash of a smile. Say what you will about social media posts, but I’ll take a cliche positive quote over somebody feeling the need to gripe publicly any day. I’m a firm believer that positive energy breeds positivity and likewise, negative energy breeds negativity.
Think about how good you feel when someone gives you a compliment. Even if you don’t fully believe it to be true (through that ever-present negative self-talk), you still feel good about it. You believe, at least to a very small degree, that the compliment has some truth to it. The more you get the same compliment, the more your mind begins to accept that it is indeed true.
Good news, we can do the same thing for ourselves through our own self-talk. We have the ability to self-talk our way into all sorts of positive outcomes. Even if you don’t fully believe the positive things you say to yourself, this practice can be massively helpful to your whole being. You’re not faking it. You are learning to cultivate positive energy. It’s an ongoing practice, but one that will free you from the constraints of disbelief and self-judgement.
If your mind creates your reality, create a reality where you like what you see, where you can thrive, where you are successful and beautiful in every sense of the word. You control the dialogue. Tell yourself something good.