I can clearly remember the day I gave power to a voice in my head that once allowed to speak, grew louder and more critical as the years passed. I was around 12 years old and had just spent the day at the local swimming pool with a friend. At this point in my life I was a competitive swimmer and while I weighed 70kgs, I was lean and muscular. We were in the change rooms getting dressed and my friend made an admiring comment about my abs and then quickly followed that up with a demoralizing comment about her “fat belly” and how disgusting and ugly she thought she was. I was shocked! Of course her body was fine. We were 12! Up until that point in my life I had never looked at my body and made any kind of assessment about it. I had never really thought about how it looked or what I thought about it and never thought I had any need to.
It was in listening to my friend’s negative comment that I had 2 thoughts. Firstly, “wow, I don’t know what I should say right now because she looks fine to me” and secondly, “maybe I should say the same about my belly because this must be something us girls are saying these days”. I then made some similarly inaccurate and false comment about my body, in order to not alienate myself from her, and gave a voice to a part of my mind that had not existed for me before. So began the negative self talk and once it got going, it gained some serious momentum and began playing havoc with my self love and body image for many years to come.
So what can we do to silence that voice and practice more self love? Here are 3 things that I have found to be truly effective in stopping negative self-talk:
1. Catch the thought, release it and change it to something positive.
One of the most powerful things I have ever done is when I would hear the negative voice start talking I would stop it in its tracks. I’d consciously recognize the thought and then see this thought in my mind. I would imagine this thought was written on a piece of paper. I would visualise screwing the paper into a ball and throwing it away. Then, and most importantly, I would replace that thought with something positive, the opposite of the negative thought. I would usually hear “you are so fat and ugly. Why would anyone like you?” and I would changed it to “You are unique and beautiful. Anyone would love to have you as a friend”. While it was hard for me to convince myself of the positive thought at first, the more I did it the easier it was and the quicker I could make myself feel better. Even better, day by day, the negative voice and negative thoughts became less and less and I started to feel so relieved and so much more free.
2. Fake it until you make it.
Another thing I did at a time in my life when my negative self-talk was the only voice in my head was that I started to rephrase the negative things I was saying to people about myself. I started changing the reply I gave when people asked me how I was. Instead of giving my miserable reply, I started saying, “I’m FANTASTIC!” or “I’m INCREDIBLE!” with as much enthusiasm as I could muster. At first people were quite taken back by such a positive reply, and so was I, but I soon noticed a small spark inside me start to come alive. It was faint at first but the more I basically lied about how amazing I felt, the more amazing I actually did feel! There is so much evidence out there that positive self talk and positive mindset have a huge impact on how we feel and the more positivity we spread the more positive our lives can be. I can't really begin to explain how easy this step is and yet how big the shift was that I felt in my everyday life.
3. Would you say this to a child/best friend
While we think it is OK to say horrible things to ourselves, would you say something as equally mean to a child or your best friend? For me the answer is no way. We need to give ourselves the love and respect that we give to other people. You are beautiful, you are unique and best of all you are YOU. It took me a long time to realise this. We are all truly special and deserving of our own love. Invest in that love with yourself. Be kind. You deserve it.
I really hope that you find these ideas helpful.