A few years ago, I was walking out of our then-house to meet Brian for his birthday dinner. I was distracted and looking down at my feet, walking toward my car. Suddenly, I saw a thick, long multicolored snake in the grass.
Anyone who knows me knows that I have a palpable fear of snakes. I can’t even look at their pictures. (Seriously.)
I stopped, and started walking, slowly, back toward the door. But I kept stopping and hesitating.
I remember trying to will myself to step to the side of the snake. I remember berating myself for being so silly. You’re scared of everything! It’s just a snake! The car is so close! Only you would react this way!
Years ago I assumed that the critical way I talked to myself was simply me being realistic, and accurate and candid. I was simply a truth teller, who could see myself — my faults, flaws — clearly.
And yet I didn’t talk to others in this way. I wouldn’t dream of it.
But for some reason I thought I deserved this tough love approach, barren of compassion. Mistakes were the end of the world. My body was grounds for constant bashing.
Some of us might not even realize the terrible way in which we talk to ourselves. It’s so automatic, so common. It might feel like another part of your daily routine. Like waking up. Like brushing your teeth. Like walking.
Or we think we deserve the harsh words. We’re too big, after all. We made a huge mistake, after all. We tend to overeat, after all. We can’t stay on a diet to save our lives, after all. We’re lazy, after all.
I just finished writing an article on strategies for staying curious and why curiosity is so vital to our lives. (I featured tips and insights from Ian Leslie’s fascinating new book Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It. Stay tuned for the piece on Psych Central next month.)
So I have curiosity on the brain. And, naturally, this curiosity pertains to our bodies and ourselves.
Many of us are hesitant to accept our bodies because they’re “flawed.” We have stretch marks, cellulite, too-big thighs, too-small breasts, too-round bellies.
We assume all these traits are terrible imperfections which preclude us from appreciating and loving our bodies.
How can I accept something that is flawed? How can I be positive when there is negative surrounding me, part of me?
In Heart to Heart, my eBook with Anna Guest-Jelley, we focus on cultivating kindness, because we don’t heal ourselves with insults, judgement and body bashing. We heal ourselves — our bruised body image, our sinking self-worth — with compassion.
I like Sharon Salzberg’s definition of kindness in her book The Kindness Handbook: “Kindness can manifest as compassion, as generosity, as paying attention.”
Most of us have a mean — maybe even cruel — inner voice that says everything from “You’re too big to wear that!” to “You’re so stupid!” Understandably, we may grow to dislike — maybe even despise — this inner voice.
We might dislike it because it sounds like someone who used to bully us. Because it sounds like a parent, past partner or so-called friend. Maybe it sounds like the younger you, who regularly received hurtful remarks about your appearance in school.
I like the approach in the book Mindful Compassion, written by researcher Paul Gilbert, Ph.D, and former Tibetan Buddhist monk Choden.
This week Anna Guest-Jelley — a close friend and founder of the ever powerful Curvy Yoga — and I introduced you to our eBook Heart to Heart: 20 Poems, Meditations + Affirmations to Embrace Your Body & Cultivate Kindness.
(You can learn more here. Plus, until Tuesday, the 19th, enter the code “HEART” to save $5.)
Today, I wanted to share a new poem with you about being worthy. Because it’s so easy to internalize the message that we must earn our self-worth with accolades, accomplishments and changes in appearance.
When you feel this way, when you second-guess your self-worth, if it resonates with you, return to this reminder.
As I’m reading through The Power of No: Because One Little Word Can Bring Health, Abundance and Happiness by James Altucher and Claudia Azula Altucher, I’ve been thinking about all the things we can say no to. (I’ve already mentioned their book in this post.)
Because saying no helps us make room for the important yeses in our lives — the yeses that nourish and serve us.
Because saying no leaves us with more time, energy and even health. It’s how we can listen to ourselves, stand up for ourselves and practice compassionate self-care.
Honest, open communication is key for healthy relationships. Talking to your loved ones about your concerns, needs, conflicts — and truly listening to their concerns, needs and conflicts — strengthens your bond.
The same is true for your relationship with yourself. It’s important to regularly ask ourselves about our needs, concerns and preferences. And, like all effective communication, it’s important for us to listen to what we hear.
Doing so creates a solid, strong connection to our inner selves (our real selves). It provides important insights to help us make good decisions, to create lives that honor and nourish us.
Today is my 32nd birthday. Every year, for my b-day, I’ve been republishing a version of the below post. It’s become sort of a tradition around here.
In it, I share what I’ve learned about body image, well-being and life in my years on this earth thus far. Why 35? Extra lessons for good measure and good luck!
1. Be you.
In all your amazing and unique glory. Trying to be like others or pretending you like something you actually don’t doesn’t work. Trust me, I’ve tried. It feels awkward and itchy. And then there’s the matter of life being too short.
Find out who you are. Explore your likes and dislikes. Explore what makes you happy. Explore what feeds you, what gets you up in the early hours of the day. Spend time by yourself. Take yourself out on dates.