So I’m sitting here at home, suffering from a very rare disease that is known medically as ‘hangover extraordinaire’ and wishing I had more self-control. I’m always wishing I had something I don’t, or was something I’m not. And I’m thinking about how many hours, days, years I have wasted wishing to be someone that I am just not. How many of you can relate? I spoke about how we judge ourselves in a previous blog entry, and I want to expand on that. Because I feel like low self-esteem and self-criticism are the two most major afflictions we humans deal with. And no, not just women - all of us. Negative self-image has been the biggest roadblock I’ve faced in the past on any journey towards betterment, and it’s time for me to give it up. I hope you’ll read what I have to say here and take it to heart. This is quite honestly the biggest “tip” I can give you for being a healthier person.
A couple of months ago I made a promise to myself – to be as positive with myself as I could possibly be. This has proven so far to be a very interesting experience. In doing this, I have really started to realize how horrible we are to ourselves and how mean and spiteful we can be. We say and think things about ourselves that we would never dream of saying to others. We judge ourselves more harshly than anyone else. And when we do judge others, it’s usually for something that really bothers us about ourselves. Do you ever notice that? The next time you become really angry or irritated with someone for something they have done, ask yourself why it really upsets you so much. You might discover that your judging them is just a way for you to take the heat off yourself. And who could blame us for wanting a bit of a break from our constant, angry self-analysis? We spend so much time being down on ourselves, it only makes sense that we might want to stop for a minute and get angry with someone else for once.
Well, I don’t want to be angry anymore, and neither should you. My entire life, I have been incredibly negative when it comes to the way I talk to myself. I’ve always seen the worst things about me so clearly and ignored the majority of the good things. This is especially true when it comes to body image – I spent all of my teenage years whining and complaining about how fat I thought I was, when in reality I wasn’t fat at all. I wish I could have those years back! It’s so depressing to realize you threw away your best years when you could have just relaxed and enjoyed them. Well, actually – these past few years have been my best years. And anyway – getting upset about my past and judging myself is exactly what I’m trying NOT to do anymore, so I’ll let that lie.
Since I’ve started this health journey, I’ve been noticing something about us humans. So many of the people I talk to are TERRIBLE to themselves, especially women when it comes to body image. They talk about how much weight they’ve gained since high school, how they’re desperately trying to get rid of their “gross” stomach, or their “gross” love handles, how lazy they are, how they can’t commit to a workout, how disgusting they are for whatever junk food they ate the other night, etc etc. I could go on and on. Sometimes these remarks are disguised with humour, like how I do it. Laugh at yourself before anyone else can laugh at you and you’ve got the upper hand, right? That’s how I used to think. But these comments we make in passing about ourselves are incredibly damaging, whether we’re laughing when we say them or not. Every time we say these things we lose a little more respect for ourselves. And the constant judgement only serves to continue the cycle of unhealthiness – it is impossible to stick to a plan or better yourself when every time you make the tiniest mistake, you yell at yourself for it.
So I decided to stop doing that. The results have been amazing. Instead of judging myself for whatever I didn’t do that I was supposed to, I cheer myself on for whatever I DID do. For instance, I went to Toronto last weekend and ate like absolute shit. Instead of hating myself for it, I congratulated myself for all the walking that I did. I’ve been trying to quit coffee, but that hasn’t really been going so well. “Oh well! It’s not the end of the world, Marita – you’ve quit smoking cigarettes and you run four times a week. You’ve made leaps and bounds in the journey to be a more healthy person, why beat yourself up for the one thing you haven’t managed to do yet? You’ll get there, don’t worry.” When I finish my run, I pump my fist in the air and talk about how much I rock. If I make a mistake and eat something I don’t really want to eat anymore, I just tell myself it’s no big deal and not to worry about it, just to try and not let it happen again anytime soon. As a result, my energy is almost always very positive, which makes it SO MUCH EASIER to keep going. If every time we make a mistake, we cry and feel horrible, it becomes incredibly easy to just… stop trying, give up and continue feeling awful. Feeling terrible about yourself can be addictive. But guess what? So can feeling AWESOME! Yup, I said it.
Let’s not focus on all the things we hate about ourselves. Let’s think and talk about all the things we like about ourselves instead. And when we make a mistake, let’s take from it what we can and move on, not wallow in a puddle of self-pity. Everyone makes mistakes. No one is perfect. Everyone wants to be someone they are not. Everyone has things about themselves they don’t like. But the reality is, those things are just as much a part of your personality and sense of self as all the good things. That doesn’t mean you can’t try and change, but do it for your own personal happiness, not to try and fit into some ridiculous mould that, let’s face it, is usually impossible. Get to know yourself. Begin to really like yourself. It’s so liberating! And, unfortunately, it’s something that a lot of us don’t know the first thing about. But think about it this way: you’ve got the rest of your life to improve the things about yourself you don’t like. That’s a pretty long time. Why the rush? Why not take some time to really get to know the person you’re going to be spending every second with until you die – yourself. Learn to love all the stupid things you do. Try and find them endearing. Because if you don’t like yourself, you’re basically sentenced to a lifetime of hours, days, months, years with someone you hate.
Stop with the negative talk! You’re fine the way you are – stomach and love handles and bad temper and all. You are you, and you’re the only person who can decide what that means. If you want to change something, go change it! But don’t get mad at yourself if it takes some time to get there – life is too short to spend your time beating yourself up. Just try and enjoy the ride.