Mental Mean Girls: 15 Ways To Reframe Your Negative Self-Talk Flare-Ups

Mental Mean Girls: 15 Ways To Reframe Your Negative Self-Talk Flare-Ups

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That voice in your head is an asshole.

Don’t let your thoughts bully you around.

Inner monologue? More like inner bitch. Don’t give her the power.

“Empowerment” is trending, but somehow we’re still here telling our negative self talk it can go screw itself and F off.

Tell me again how is this supposed to be helping?

 


For what I’m guessing is some sort of evolutionary advantage, we’re programmed to interpret the world in very black and white terms. There can be no middle ground when it comes to right and wrong, and when we disagree with something, we typically villainize it rather than try to understand where it comes from (or what the real solution should be).

Good Versus Evil. Us Against Them. It’s a formula that’s easy to understand and easy to master. It’s primal.

So it’s only natural that with this sort of mentality, we’d choose sides with our self-talk and try to bully one of them into submission.

Brené Brown says to give your inner voice a name – she calls hers Gremlin. For some people, providing that separation is useful, and allows them to distance themselves from the harsh, usually-untrue things their inner voice likes to say.

 

I, however, have never been able to separate my inner voice from myself.
Because the thing is, it’s all a part of who I am.

 

Maybe my brain is playing tricks on my heart, maybe my inner voice is misguided at times, but at the end of the day – it’s all just me, telling myself what to believe.

Some people might say to snap out of it – to tell your inner critic to shut up. And hey, that might work for some people. But it NEVER works for me. Identifying my negative self-talk as someone other than myself – an ass, a bitch, a bully – only puts me on the defensive and gives me yet another thing about myself to dislike (on top of whatever it is I’m negative self-talking about). 

Empowerment, for the record, is defined as “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.” Yet I cannot see how throwing insults at insults does anything to make us feel anything but more aggressive and afraid. They’re just harsh words to combat harsh thoughts. Abuse masked as “empowerment.” Which, to me, is anything but empowering.

Instead of viewing your inner monologue as separate from your 'true' self, why not try to understand what it's actually trying to tell you? Click To Tweet

Instead of fighting against what is, why not try fighting for what could be? Instead of taking sides, why not confront the perceived enemy? Instead of viewing your inner monologue as separate from your “true” self, why not try to understand what it’s actually trying to tell you?

Calling a very real part of who you are a “bitch” just reinforces and strengthens those negative-talk muscles that have been trained over the years to come to your defense in their negative-talk way – and focuses on the problem, not the solution. Berating a part of who you are is not the answer. Tapping into a new reserve of power to retrain that voice – that voice that so longs to be helpful – IS.

Next time you’re tempted to call your inner voice a harsh name, sideline the smack-talk and reframe it as something MORE.

Here are a few ideas of what your negative self-talk really is all about. Could it be that your negative self talk is…

1) An invitation to explore?

2) An opportunity to rise?

3) A clue to an imbalance?

4) A way to practice moving forward through fear?

5) A wound to be nurtured?

6) A signal for help?

7) A cautionary tale of what it looks like to not be self-actualized?

8) A sign of neglect?

9) A cry for attention?

10) A distraction from the truth?

11) A language that’s been inherited and internalized?

12) A sign of burnout?

13) A call to action?

14) An empathetic pathway?

15) A clue as to what needs some extra love?

When I first started working on WANT, I would get pitches from people with books or websites with names like “Bitch On The Inside,” “Mental Mean Girl,” or “#StopHatingYourself Life Coaching.” We’re so aligned, they would say. We’re all about empowering women.

I respectfully declined every single one of these pitches.

Again, to each her own. I guess I can understand how some people need a metaphorical smack upside the head to catapult change into motion…

…But I don’t think that’s what makes the change LAST.

Because here’s the clincher: the quicker we are to call our inner monologue a bitch, the quicker we are to find fault outside ourselves. The quicker we are to clique up and take sides and tell our friends to “get over it” or “snap out of it” when they’re feeling down on themselves, the easier it is to do it to ourselves. Life becomes arduous and unfair. It’s a negativity loop that goes on and on and on – all in the name of self-love.


Teaching yourself a new language, whether it’s Spanish or Self- Respect, is a process. Sometimes it’s as simple as going word by word. Phrase by phrase.

 

Today, pledge to stop calling your inner voice a “mean girl” or your “inner bitch.” Your mind and heart are smart, and they’re most likely just trying to protect you from disappointment, shield you from loneliness, or numb that Ghost Worry pain that’s predicting what other people might “find out” about you so that when they do “find it out” it won’t hurt as bad.

Your inner voice is just used to using this warped defense mechanism – a defense mechanism you don’t need.

It’s not You vs. Your Mind.

Not Good vs. Evil.

They’re all on the same side.

It's not You vs. Your Mind. They're all on the same side. Click To Tweet


WANT Yourself:

Think back to the times when your negative self-talk starts to act up. What is it usually trying to tell you? What does it signal? How can you reframe your most common self-critiques…without resorting to name-calling? Tell me in the comments below.

And know someone who needs this? Share it with them today to help them shift their negative self-talk.

 

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Let It Go: The Most Productive Formula For Your New Year’s Resolutions.

Let It Go: The Most Productive Formula For Your New Year’s Resolutions.

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Doesn’t it sound sexy to say what you’re “leaving behind” in the new year? To make a list of what you’re going to stop doing in 2020?

I know it does. I’ve done that before: written down the things I’m leaving behind, burned them in a fireplace, the whole dramatic deal.

But it’s not that simple. We‘re all human – living not just our high highs and low lows but a whole full spectrum of experience every day. Change is never as easy as leaving something behind and never looking back. Even amongst the most “enlightened” of us, it’s very likely we’ll inevitably be confronted with or fall back into an old pattern we thought we were done with. Best case scenario, we learn to mindfully navigate the situation and pattern differently each time around. But even so – it’s a two-steps-forward, one-step-back kind of deal. Practice makes progress, not perfect.

What’s more likely is what happens to 80% of us: we take that one step back and shame ourselves into submission. When we live in extremes, we don’t leave room for the in-betweens, the lessons learned in those tougher moments. We tell ourselves we’re “so bad,” we messed up, we’re a failure, we can’t do this, and so on and so forth blah blah blah. The moment we create ultimatums in our minds is the moment we set ourselves up for shame and self-doubt in the long run.

In my own work and life, I talk a lot about LETTING GO instead of LEAVING BEHIND. Feels more like accountability to me. Controlling what you can and only what *you* can. Recognizing that something can (and probably will) pop back into your life but you get to choose whether you pick it up or not.

When I coach people to let go of something – a thought, a feeling, a belief, a situation, a person – I always try to frame it so that they’re letting go of it in order to make space for something else SPECIFIC.

Because the thing is: the second you STOP, QUIT, or LEAVE BEHIND…what’s gonna fill that space? If you don’t know what you’re fighting for, you’re going to end up right back where you began with what you’re fighting against…at the most basic level, if only because it’s familiar.

Try this way more productive formula throughout the year, but especially now as you reflect and project in Resolution Mode:

I am letting go of ((how something affects you or why you do what you do)), so I can ((what that thing holds you back from doing)).

Examples…

    • INSTEAD OF “I will stop putting others before myself.”
    • TRY “I will let go of my need to please others, so I can make room for myself.”
    • INSTEAD OF “I am leaving behind toxic people.”
    • TRY “I am letting go of excusing bad behavior at my own expense, so I can live out MY journey exactly as it’s intended to unfold.”
    • INSTEAD OF “I will quit negative self-talk.”
    • TRY “I am letting go of my limiting beliefs, so that I can feel confident and grounded.”

Notice this formula doesn’t say you will always do or feel or be that thing you say you’ve been held back from doing/feeling/being. Just like there’s no ultimatums for the negatives, there’s no ultimatums for the positives. The point is to make space and define what you want that space to hold. Not to always make room for yourself, or live out your own journey, or feel confident and grounded, or whatever you created space for. But to state clearly: this is what I want, this is what I’m willing to fight for.

Burn your regrets in the fireplace if you want. Make a dramatic statement if it feels good. But make sure you do this, too. Just know that you’re a person in progress – and your life will be one long loop of letting things go and picking things up along the way. You might not get to choose what enters your world, but you sure as hell can choose what you do with it.


WANT Yourself: 
Now you: What are you letting go of, and what are you making space for?

 

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How To Listen To Your Body.

How To Listen To Your Body.

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Q: Katie, how do I listen to my body?

 

A:

To listen to your body, you must get INTO your body.

Like slipping on the noise-proof earbuds you got last Christmas.

From the outside it’s wires and plastic – from the inside, a cacophony. Only you can hear the music, does that make it any less real?

Slip inside your skin and drop into your heart instead of your brain. Why has it taken so long for you to try them out?

To listen to your body, you must get INTO your body. Click To Tweet

To listen to your body, to really listen, you MUST interact with it first.

Whether you run or box or bike or bridge-pose, you must feel the way your body moves, and navigate it in space, over and over and over again.

You must take a step, then another, then another, then realize you’re walking. You must twist, you must bend, you must use the range of motion biology handed you and if you’re unable to you must simply breathe.

Feel the rise and fall of your chest, over and over. See how far it can expand and how it melts when you push the air out. Feel the wonder that is the jigsaw puzzle of your Personhood.

 

To listen to your body, to TRULY listen, you must acknowledge its nuance. You must notice the way your joints glide, the way your shoulders tighten, the way you do that thing with your wrists every time you feel anxious. You must listen with your limbs, your lungs, your organs, your nails. You must listen with the things that cannot hear but can work together to decode the tiniest sighs of joy and biggest cries for help and all the other stuff in between.


So no, you can’t learn to listen to your body by THINKING about how the plate you ate made you mentally feel.
You can’t learn to listen to your body by THINKING about your perfect form or precise protocols or even by measuring the sweat pools under your gym machine of choice.

Nope – to listen to your body, you must be IN your body first. When we move our muscles, we manage our mindset. When we workout our bodies, we work out our roadblocks.

We ask how to listen. It’s no wonder we’re met with silence.

Because you can’t truly hear your body’s voice without acknowledging where that voice is coming from.

Gym Face: Skin Shame In The Fitness Industry

Gym Face: Skin Shame In The Fitness Industry

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There aren’t many more powerful places to shift people’s perceptions of their physicality than in the gym. It’s part of the reason fitness was so appealing to me when I first got started. I could give a shit about how many lunges you can do or if you can do them at all. I give lots of shits about your self-image.

As a leader in the space, it’s part of my job to model to you what’s called “good form.” Sure, this means I can show you how to do that proper lunge I don’t give a shit about. But more importantly, it also means I carry myself in a way I hope you’ll carry yourself too. With pride, empathy, and awareness – right down to the skin you’re in.

~

When I started teaching fitness classes, I was ashamed of my skin. I saw the people I admired in the industry in ads, on television, in magazines, and on social media, and I felt as if I didn’t look the part. I didn’t feel like I had the ideal body, the coolest clothes…and I most certainly did NOT have that silky-smooth skin I thought everyone else had.

And so I not only doubled down on my product use, I wore makeup to class to cover up my perceived flaws. Spoiler, wearing makeup while you sweat is a recipe for clogged pores and very unhappy skin. So obviously, it just got worse. Not to mention, I was a broke 20something to begin with, and trying to fix my insecurities just made me broker. I felt shame around my skin, I felt shame around the bank account I mismanaged in order to try and pay for the products I used to un-shame myself from my skin. There are a lot of myths around being “someone from Los Angeles”…but I can tell you the stereotype of aspirational skincare is very real. Not only could I not keep up with the facials, peels, and products I believed I needed, but I felt like a fitness industry failure for not looking like the perfect version of health.

It wasn’t until I read Adina Grigore’s book, Skin Cleanse, that I realized that the perfect skin is the skin you’re in. I’d been overloading my system with SO many products over the years and had been wearing so much foundation and concealer to literally mask my insecurities, that I didn’t even know what my skin’s natural M.O. was.

The second I stopped piling on the products and stopped wearing makeup to teach is the second I really truly found my voice and stepped up my game in the fitness world. Coincidence? Maybe. But I’d like to think it had something to do with the fact that I wasn’t covering anything up anymore, literally and figuratively.

 

The perfect skin is the skin you’re in. Click To Tweet

 

I often think about the rise of body positivity in the fitness industry. Yes, it’s FAR from perfect, but it’s gotten so much better than when I started teaching over a decade ago. Body positivity is the norm not the exception, and the idea of working out for happiness, energy, and mental health is becoming way more mainstream. 

But just like anything we spend our dollars on, fitness is an industry. An industry that all too often banks on us feeling bad in order to sell us feeling good.

I wonder, with the skincare industry being as huge as it is, and apps like FaceTune and Photoshop being as accessible and easy to use as they are…will the shape of our skin be the thing the industry banks on in order to keep us coming back?

Will “Perfect Skin” become the new “Perfect Body”?

Is Skin Positivity one of the final sneaky Body Positivity frontiers out there – too subtle to be addressed but obvious enough to make us feel badly about ourselves on the regular?

I don’t have control over an entire industry, but I have control over what I do on my own platforms, literal and figurative. I no longer wear any makeup to teach my classes or to workout on my own. I’m older now, so I’ve got a few fine lines and eye circles and hyperpigmentation.

But if I’m not accepting of myself, in the skin I’m in, how can I ever expect anyone else to be? I’m not in love with my skin all of the time, but I’m too committed to modeling “good form” to let it distract me.

If you’d have told teenage-me I’d willingly get in front of hundreds of people a week with a spotlight on my naked face, I would have shuddered. If you’d have told 14 year-old me I’d be spotlighted on The Cut (bare-faced, in a VIDEO) talking about my skin, I would have straight-up laughed in your face. But I’m so grateful to know my classes and managers don’t care, and so grateful to know there are highly visible pop-culture publications just as dedicated as I am to busting open the myth that the way your skin looks is some sort of indication of how fit you are.


Skin Shame and Skincare Privilege is a real thing – but I’m here to tell you that you do NOT need to spend a ton of money or have airbrushed-flawless skin to glow from the inside out.
Take off the foundation. Let your pores breathe as deep as you breathe during a breathless push or a spinal twist. Model good form. Let’s break the skin shame together.

 

Success Beyond Your 30s, Big Little Lies, and More: August Roundup

Success Beyond Your 30s, Big Little Lies, and More: August Roundup

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I’ve been trying to find ways to use my voice to amplify others’ beyond simply a social media post – because not all of us are on social, and what’s more, social media moves so fast that it’s likely you’ll miss something.

And so this monthly roundup, combined with our new WANTcast strategy of replacing most of the sponsor spots with a do-good organization we want to highlight, is a way to do that. It’s a way to share other voices, opinions, and perspectives that can help you in some way, whether it’s questioning the status quo, opening your eyes to new viewpoints, introducing you to incredible visionaries, or becoming more proactive in your day to day life. (To get these delivered straight to your inbox, fill out the form below)

 

AUGUST ROUND-UP: THE (GOOD) WORD ON THE STREET


I don’t know about you (actually, I do, because you’ve told me!), but I lived most of life believing I needed to be a prodigy or wunderkind in order to truly make a lasting impact – or at least make anything remotely worthwhile. I even wrote about it when I turned 30. This article from Forbes about how female entrepreneurs actually get BETTER with age is so encouraging, to the past, present, and future versions of myself.

Fitness is a way to get us comfortable with the uncomfortable – and process our emotions. If you’ve watched Big Little Lies and noticed the running motif, you’ll love this analysis by Voxh/t to Natalia Petrzela for this one

I LOVE this article on the International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics blog about sports, the female form, Magan Rapinoe, and finding the joy in the bodies we have.

Legends interviewing legends! The luminous Ashley C. Ford interviews Missy Elliott in Marie Claire about her newest album, and it’s a masterpiece.

Bethany C. Meyers shares about their non-binary journey on Shape. This was one of my favorite personal essays of the summer. Bravo, Bethany.

Speaking of my favorites…I was STANDING UP AND CHEERING as I read this article by Shauna Harrison asking people to stop asking their fitness instructors for nutrition advice (and explaining why). 

Want a long but worthwhile read? This piece on “athleisure, barre, and kale” on The Guardian is it. It might make you feel some uncomfortable reactions, but it’s a think-piece that will, well, get you thinking about how we as women get “trapped at the intersection of capitalism and patriarchy,” and the makings of the “ideal woman” on social media – namely, Instagram.

I’ve been catching up on Red Table Talk – have you been watching? Jada Pinkett Smith sits down with her mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris and daughter Willow Smith, and together they discuss (many times with the help of guests) some of the toughest topics: infidelity, interracial adoption, porn, polyamory, motherhood, and so much more. This episode unpacking white privilege and prejudice is a MUST-watch.



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Breaking Out Of Negative Cueing

Breaking Out Of Negative Cueing

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I’VE BEEN teaching group fitness classes for over a decade – way before it was trendy and cool, and definitely way before “fitpros” were the new It celebrities they are right now. This was back when  people thought “spinning” classes meant twirling around in circles for 45 minutes, and when that one old friend of mine so casually commented, “You’re not planning on becoming the ‘exercise girl’ for the rest of your life, are you?”

The industry has changed a lot since I began, but the thing that’s remained at the core of fitness is that it’s rarely ever truly about the fitness part alone. What we do in the gym is practice for what we do out in the world – and fitness advice is life advice disguised in sweat and squat-jumps.

Fitness advice is life advice disguised in sweat and squat-jumps. Click To Tweet

WHENEVER WE’RE working out, we’re shifted into a vulnerable state. Whether we’re doing vinyasas or vying for a new running PR, our breath deepens, our heart starts beating faster, and we’re thrust (or eased gently from a seated cross-legged position) into a state of self-imposed stress. And let me clarify: not all stress is ultimately BAD. It’s what we do within those moments of stress that stick with us. It’s the stress that gets us vulnerable, and the vulnerability that allows us to be open to shifting for better or worse in the long run.

And so if fitness advice is really life advice, then what we say (and how we say it) as leaders in that space matters. A lot.

Because what you hear is what you will internalize, and what you internalize will be the language you use out in the world to speak to others and yourself, way after you’ve gone on with your day.

NEGATIVE CUEING is a term used in fitness that generally describes any sort of phrasing that uses what you don’t want to happen as the main motivator. Think, “don’t arch your back.”

Negative cueing isn’t just saying “Don’t do X,” though. Negative cueing is anything that makes the person listening feel like who and how they are isn’t enough.

~
Negative cueing can look like…

  • It’ll be over soon (implying the current experience is worth skipping over)
  • I know you hate me right now (they probably don’t, but you just planted the seed that maybe they should)
  • Burn off that happy hour! (equates what you eat to how much you need to exercise, and that exercise should be food-motivated)
  • Ladies grab X weight, Men grab X weight (not everyone identifies as a “lady” or “man” and therefore you run the risk of people feeling left out – also this reinforces sexist assumptions; I know many women who can out-lift men ANY day)
  • You can do better than that! (um. maybe that IS their best??)
  • That’s not good enough, give more! (along the same lines; this might be their best work – but also shames the work they’re doing)
  • I know you want to fit into those new jeans / get that summer six-pack/ etc (implies everyone who works out is dissatisfied with how they look – and, moreover, probably should be)
  • Don’t give up (implies the person was going to give up at some point)
  • You know you can SMILE (omg please don’t force me to smile – give me something to smile about and I will)
  • I know you want to quit, but… (no, I actually did not, please don’t underestimate me) 

    i did this shoot, in this shirt i owned, within the first five years of teaching. while i still think the photos turned out badassedly, i don’t believe that “work harder” (printed here in reverse so you can read it in the mirror – cool concept for sure) is the best way to motivate someone to work harder.

Negative cueing can also look like self-deprecation in order to “connect.” Stuff like sharing with your clients/students/members how much you hate your thighs or how much you ate last night and need to “burn off.” Might feel cute or “down-to-earth” in the moment, but it’s reinforcing a dangerous epidemic we already fall prey to of bonding over negativity.

It doesn’t matter how “inspiring” you are or what cute tweetables you’ve got lined up to sprinkle throughout your class. If you’re not modeling self-acceptance, self-love, and what the journey TOWARD that actually looks like, your words are just words.

 

IF YOU’RE STILL reading this, are not a fitness professional, and wonder how or why this applies to you…think of all the times we cue negatively in our own lives. We do it to ourselves, and we do it to each other. We think we’re offering advice, being helpful, or inspiring someone else – but the hard truth is, it doesn’t matter how good your intentions are if your impact is creating a shame loop in someone else.

It doesn't matter how good your intentions are if your impact is creating a shame loop in someone else. Click To Tweet

Anyone can study the objective facts. Anyone can teach a class or train a client. Literally. Anyone. You can buy the course online. But the way you talk, act, and live is what actually makes a difference in someone’s life in the long run. For better or worse.

 


Here are some alternatives for the negative cueing above:

Instead of: It’ll be over soon!
Try: Can you give your all to this moment? (implying the current experience is one worth having)

Instead of: I know you hate me right now…
Try: I’m your biggest fan right now (lets them know you’re their ally)

Instead of: Burn off that happy hour!
Try: Literally just not talking about food. Just…don’t do it.

Instead of: Ladies grab X weight, Men grab X weight.
Try: Grab a weight that feels (insert a feeling or a number of reps you’d like them to perform with said weight, so they can gage what they need for themselves). If you don’t know what that is, call me over and I can help you figure it out.

Instead of: You can do better than that!
Try: If you were to give your all, what would that look like? (ask a question and have them come up with the answer themselves!)

Instead of: That’s not good enough, give more!
Try: Can you maintain your work…or even surprise yourself by giving just a little more? (emphasizes the work they’re in as good enough, while giving an option to go farther if they can)

Instead of: I know you want to fit into those new jeans / get that summer six-pack/ etc.
Try: How do you want to feel after this workout is over? (redirects focus to a feeling instead of a look)

Instead of: Don’t give up.
Try: Keep going, you’ve got this.

Instead of: You know you can SMILE… 
Try: Not telling people how to react or emote – everyone processes their emotions differently.

Instead of: I know you want to quit, but… 
Try: You’re doing so great. (simple as that!)

~

NOT SURE if your cueing is negative or not? Find a mentor. Ask them to come take your class and keep their ears open for anything that could be improved upon. Not a fitness professional but want to monitor the negative cueing in your own life? Dedicate a week to hyper self-awareness. Maybe even tell a close friend, coworker, roommate, or partner that you want their help in calling out your language.

What we do in the gym is just practice for what we do in life - and I want all the practice I can get. Click To Tweet

Oh…and as for that friend who asked if I was going to be “the exercise girl” for the rest of my life? That comment that made me doubt my path, my abilities, and my legitimacy as a professional adult trying to find her way in the world?

I sure hope so.

I sure hope that, in some capacity, I am up on that podium, all mic’d up, with my words out there in the open for everyone to hear. And if not, I hope I’m going to classes, keeping sweat dates with myself, or lacing up my shoes for a long run. Because what we do in the gym is just practice for what we do in life – and I want all the practice I can get.

 

all photos by jesse deyoung