We would never let someone talk to us the way we sometimes talk to ourselves.
Self-talk is so crucial and so important to our overall mood and psyche... yet sometimes we say damaging, disparaging things to ourselves in the mirror.
We have all heard the saying that you are your own harshest critic. This is so so true. In a world of constant feedback and criticism at work, in our personal lives, and in a society that molds what our perception of healthy is so drastically, we should all be a whole of a hell lot nicer to ourselves.
So why aren't we?
Part of the reason is science. Our brains are hard-wired to find flaws in our anatomy and lifestyles through a combination of evolution and social and cultural upbringings. Survival of the fittest is in our DNA, and in order to become the fittest we need to attack our weaknesses. But if you take a step back and think of the huge differences between our lives now and the lives of our paleo-era ancestors, the self-talk that we need now is just so vastly different than where we were before. That's why our self-talk needs to change. We have grown from just scraping by for survival and relying solely on our instincts, to living in a society where survival isn't even something we think about anymore. Most of us have plenty of food to eat, clothes to keep us warm, and a place to sleep. Our needs now are so much more emotional and psychological that we should be changing our inner dialogue to meet those needs instead.
So how do we do it? What does inner-dialogue mean and how do we change it?
Years ago when I first began a heath journey and was really learning what it meant to take care of myself on all levels, I learned about a concept called "The Friendly Mirror,"
The Friendly Mirror is an exercise rooted deeply in the idea that you are the one who is going to determine your feelings of worth the most. No matter your work, your social activities, or your relationships, the conversations you have with yourself on a daily basis are what really is going to dictate your feelings and interpretations of self-worth, being loved, sense of achievement and satisfaction with your life. Until you start to utilize the healthy alternatives to beating yourself up for being fat or out of shape, you are going to find it virtually impossible to lose weight or measure up to your standards (which are probably unrealistically high). If you see self-loathing for what it is, you lessen its power over you and make it possible to address it directly instead of attempting to eat your feelings or wreak havoc on your metabolism through starvation combined with too rigorous of exercise.
Here is what it looks like to break yourself down when you look into the mirror: "God I am getting so fat, look at my freaking stomach. My thighs are disgusting, get it together girl."
Here's how to utilize the friendly mirror: It's a two-pronged approach.
First, when you find yourself thinking these thoughts when you look in the mirror, catch yourself immediately and stop. An easy thing to do is to look at yourself in the eyes for a second (do not look at your body) and give yourself a compliment. Whether it is a sincere compliment you have thought of about yourself, or something a friend or family member has said to you it doesn't matter as long as it was sincere and you really believe it. Continue to do this until all your negative thoughts go away. After awhile, you will have re-programmed your mind to love your body and when you look at yourself in the mirror you won't think those harsh, nasty thoughts anymore.
The second way to use "The Friendly Mirror" is my favorite because it teaches you to love the body you have and not lust after one that is not yours. The reality of the situation is that no matter how in shape you get or how much weight you lose the body that will remain is yours and it is the same one you had before, it is just functioning a little better now so you better learn to love it.
So here's the second exercise:
1. Stop for a moment, close your eyes, and pretend you are watching a movie of yourself in the future. The movie you are watching is a happy, confident you in your ideal body, in your new daily life. It is important that this you is really you, again no celebrities or anything unrealistic--it is the ideal you in everyday life.
2. Pay attention to the ideal you as they go about their day. What are they doing? What and how are they eating? How do you move? How confidently do you carry yourself? How does your voice sound? Are you smiling and happy?
3. If the movie you are seeing is not exactly what you want it to be then concentrate as hard as you can and make adjustments to your movie to make it ideal.
4. When you are seeing the ideal you, now is the time to really step into it. Think about going about your normal day tomorrow as your ideal you and think through this perspective and things you would like to achieve. Think about your new energy levels and your new lifestyle. How much better are things now?
The goal of "The Friendly Mirror" is that you are essentially programming your mind to move your body. Your mind is like a computer and your thoughts require maintenance in order for you to achieve what you want to achieve. Remember, repetition will be your key to success so do this exercise daily or as often as you feel you need it! The more you do it, the more quickly your mind will start reprogramming itself to move you towards your ideal lifestyle.