Of course, sometimes it isn’t our fitness level that gets in the way of achieving our goals. How we talk to ourselves can play a big role. That’s why we are going to dive more into self-compassion and positive self-talk. How many of you have ever experienced negative thoughts about yourself? Have you ever thought about how these negative thoughts might impact your healthy goals? What if you spoke more kindly to yourself? What would happen if you accepted yourself as you are now? Let’s try it. Your challenge for Week 2 is to write down 2-3 common negative thoughts you have about yourself and then create a more positive replacement you could say instead. Do this on 2 days this week and make sure 1 of those days is a work day.
Sometimes these negative thoughts are about how your body looks. Body dissatisfaction, or poor body image, is often the initial motivation for joining a wellness program. For this reason, we are going to discuss body image further in this week’s topic and encourage you to change the way you talk to yourself about your body. If you’ve got a more positive body image, the strategy we discuss still works for other types of negative thoughts about yourself.
Why is this a challenge?
We live in a world that tells us we are not good enough if we don’t look a certain way. These messages may come from the media, marketing, the diet industry, etc. Sometimes we allow these external messages to shape our own thoughts. Have you experienced this?
If so, learning to speak more kindly about your body begins with body acceptance and this can be a difficult concept to grasp, especially in our society. With photo editing, diet plans, and the diet industry as a powerful force, it can be challenging to feel like you are enough just the way you are. It helps to shift your view from external characteristics like how your body LOOKS to what your body can DO. It also helps to remember that you are MORE THAN A BODY. That’s a challenging thing to do in our society so your healthy habit challenge is in place to encourage you to think differently and start practicing more positive self-talk.
What’s wrong with talking to myself this way? Won’t it push me to work harder?
According to research, negative self-talk doesn’t improve motivation or lead to better health outcomes. Instead, it has the opposite effect. Negative self-talk and poor body image may put you at a higher risk of:
- Eating disorders or disordered eating
- Stress around food
- Lower metabolism
- Digestive issues
- Disconnection from the body and ability to trust your body
- Increased cravings
- Anxiety in social settings
Have you ever experienced any of these symptoms or conditions? Think about how negative body image affects you. You might not want to go to the gym or might not have the energy to play with your kids once that little bully in your head starts saying mean things. Think about how often that voice impacts your goals. When you take those negative thoughts seriously, does it motivate you?
Practicing healthy self-talk and body image
Take some time to reflect on how body image seeps into other areas of your life. Now think about how the situations may have been different if you were at peace with your current body. You may be less stressed, happier, more energized, or have less anxiety around food. These are all positive outcomes of body acceptance. This week, aim to accept your body where it is and give less power to the negative thoughts and energy.
It takes practice, but you’ll get the hang of it. When negative thoughts creep into your space, note what you are thinking. Use the handout for this week to capture the negative thoughts. Challenge the thought. What triggered this thought? Is this really true? Will taking this thought seriously make you feel good or motivated?
Pay attention to what you are feeling when negative thoughts arise. Where is this emotion coming from? This information can be helpful too as you understand what triggers the negative thoughts.
Now, breathe deeply and tell yourself something positive. Many people find it helpful to think of a personal mantra. A personal mantra is defined as a positive phrase or affirmative statement that you say to yourself for the purpose of motivation or encouragement. This is whatever speaks most to you. Think about what phrases or characteristics motivate you.
Use this week’s handout to create a personal mantra. After you create a mantra, practice repeating it to yourself. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but over time it will become more natural. How does it feel to speak positively to yourself? Practice this whenever the bully in your head appears.
Self acceptance comes from a place of self compassion. We are so often too hard on ourselves. Be kind! Talk to yourself like you would a friend or family member that you truly care about. You may find as you speak more kindly to yourself, you are more likely to care for your body - to nourish it and move it in a way that feels good.
For more great journal exercises and audio meditations around self-compassion and talking more kindly to yourself, check out the great resources from Dr. Kristin Neff at self-compassion.org.