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We’re all equipped with a Through Line; something we’re wonderful at and are meant to give to the world. While some people might suggest mantras or affirmations to learn a new internal language, it’s my FIRM belief that you can’t shift your self-talk without finding your Through Line first.
Learn how to define your Through Line: an important building block when it comes to tackling your negative self-talk. Today on the WANTcast, the #1 tool we’ve got on Women Against Negative Talk:
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 fuck itself.
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 caveperson-like. 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 might be useful and allow you to distance yourself from the harsh, usually untrue things your 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 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 punch your negative self-talking self in the no-no zone, sideline the smack-talk and reframe it as something more. Here are a few ideas of what your negative self-talk really 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 warning preview of what it looks like to not be self-actualized
8) A sign of neglect
9) A cry for help
10) A distraction from the truth
11) A language that’s been learned all wrong
12) A muscle that can stop working and go recover now, thank you very much
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” 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.
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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There's so much I love about WANT. I love the community that surrounds it. I love how it's ever-changing. But most of all, I think, I love how every single essay, article, how-to, interview, tip, trick, podcast, even Instagram photo seems to inspire something beautiful in someone else.
Each week, you tell me how WANT is helping you in your own life. Maybe you just moved back in with your parents and are feeling at a standstill. Maybe you're becoming a parent yourself, and realizing there is this entirely new world you've just entered into that apparently does NOT come with a manual (like, at all). Maybe you're ending a job, a relationship, a stage of life - or maybe a new one is just beginning. Whatever it is, what I love about you and the WANT community is the way you move forward fearlessly through whatever challenge life hands you. You don't rest on the status quo - heck, you don't rest on "DON'T"s themselves. You're proactive, not reactive, and are interested in true, lasting change when it comes to actualizing the you YOU know you're meant to be.
Over the last year and a half, we've been able to dive in and dig deep together, and your emails and comments inspire ME to, as Michelle Obama so eloquently stated yesterday, "Go high when they go low." Whether "they" means other people, life in general, or the voices inside of our head, I feel so blessed to be surrounded by WANT Women (and men!) who choose to go high.
So in honor of my favorite summer pasttime - summer reading! - I'm rounding up the 7 most read WANT posts of all-time. Grab a glass of iced tea, lay out a beach towel, and soak inthese favorites:
WOMAN AGAINST NEGATIVE TALK: JESSAMYN STANLEY ON BEING WORTHY FROM TOP TO BOTTOM
The biggest yoga myth that’s out there? That yoga is just for one body type. People like Jessamyn are the solution. • READ MORE ➪
MAKING FRIENDS AS AN ADULT: IT’S NOT ABOUT THE BESTIE
In a world that’s put such importance on pairings, what does it really mean to have a "best" friend? And why are so many of us finding our playground surprisingly barren?• READ MORE ➪
AND I’M FEELING GOOD: SHIFTING A BAD BODY DAY (OR WEEK) WITHOUT KIDDING YOURSELF
In a funk? Here's how to dig deep and make lasting change. • READ MORE ➪
THE 4-LETTER WORD THAT NO ONE’S CENSORING (BUT SHOULD BE)
It’s a word that's violent and should be used sparingly. So why do we use it so much, especially about ourselves? • READ MORE ➪
THREE INCHES OF SIDEBOOB: ON THE PHANTOM GAZE, PREEMPTIVE BODY-SHAMING, AND “A LITTLE TOO MUCH”
We’re taught to body shame ourselves before we even walk out the door, because if we notice it first, then maybe, just maybe, our own censorship will prevent the judgement of others. One of my most personal stories on WANT.• READ MORE ➪
A CRASH COURSE IN CASUAL NEGATIVITY: THE NOT-SO-SILENT CONFIDENCE KILLER
If this is what our unconscious self talk sounds like, how can we ever expect to conquer the negative self-talk that’s conscious? • READ MORE ➪
It’s been two weeks in my new home across the country, and I’ve felt a shift happen. An actual, physical shift.
In my body.
It feels good.
It sounds superficial and petty, but it’s not: the way I feel is directly linked to the way I carry myself in the world. I find myself waking up earlier, winding down later, walking quicker, smiling more, and marveling at just how wonderful life seems to be.
“Life is so much better right now,” my inner voice coos.
“So don’t sabotage it.”
…Well that got hostile really fast.
That positive voice in my head isn’t an optimist – it’s an opportunist.
Sound familiar? That’s because a little over a year ago, I wrote the same exact words with a different spin in relation to my negative self-talk: when it starts to rear its headstrong head, I’ve got to fight tooth-and-usually-unmanicured nail to not let it take hold and stake its claim.
But today, we’re talking about the positive talk – part TWO of the equation. Seems crazy, right? Why on earth would I want to keep my positive talk in check? If i’m having a “good body day” – or, as we most often think of it, a day that’s NOT a “bad body day,” then shouldn’t I just ride that wave?
I almost feel guilty for loving it here in NYC as much as I do. I mean, don’t get me wrong – L.A. is my blood and lifeline. But being here reminds me how important it is to define myself for myself. L.A. has so much I associate with others – sitting there mold, their energy. Checking myself and my energy to fit to size. Living expectations I’ve set for myself based on the expectations I’ve seen around me. When in reality, I dream bigger, and live bigger, than L.A. really suits me at this point in my life. And I can feel that shift manifesting itself in my body.
My body feels so much better here in general. To be completely transparent, my clothes fit better, I’m way less inflamed, and get this: I’m actually proud of my legs! And because I’m highly sensitive to the shifts within myself, I’ve got this spring in my step that makes me oh-so-tempted to say, You’re BACK, baby.
But did I really go anywhere? I know – because, life – that it’s not like I’ve been gifted some magic solution. Yes, this body that feels amazing IS my body – but so is the body of yesterday. So is the body of Los Angeles. So is the body on her period, overtired, overworked, overtaxed. So is the body that will go up and down in weight, feel secure and insecure, poof up and slim down. My body is not a fixed object, nor will it ever be.
I’m not jumping to self-sabotage or encouraging anyone to gloss over the times we feel particularly fabulous in the skin we’re in. Far from it. But the second I give my highs the power to define me is the second I give my lows the power to do just the same. For us to develop truly long-lasting, loving relationships with our bodies, we must be willing to accept neither extreme as finite, and instead probe deeper for ways to carry our worth with us always (and subsequently remind ourselves in those moments we’re tempted to forget).
So how do we keep that positive momentum of our “good body days” going, reveling in our fabulosity without overly linking our worth to them? And moreover, how do we use those feeling to help us out when we’re feeling LESS than stellar?
Here’s how to stretch a good body day for yourself so it lasts for the long haul:
1) Notice the tangible things that have contributed to this feeling. Have you been doing anything out of the ordinary – or maybe even been doing something consistently? Maybe some of these things you just started. Maybe you’ve been doing them for a while. But the first step is to know what they are.
For me, I’ve been walking almost everywhere for the last two weeks, which means I’ve been getting more fresh air and sunlight (p.s. I knew smog was a thing in L.A, obviously…but who knew the air would seem SO much clearer here? Metaphor much?).
I’ve also been on way more of a balanced schedule than usual. I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum just in the last year: having very little time of my own and having basically the entire day to decide what I do and when I do it. In the last two weeks, I’ve been filling my schedule with the most important things first, professionally and personally, then allowing the time to figure things out in between. This city is still new to me, and I don’t want to jip myself of experiencing that newness.
2) Notice the emotional effect that all of those tangible things have had on you. How is that thing that’s making you feel good actually making you feel good? I don’t care if the scale says a number you like or your jeans fit better. Because there are many days we weigh X amount or our clothes fit better or we haven’t changed at all and we STILL feel like crap and pin it on our bodies. What is the emotional effect that whatever’s happening right now is having on you?
Back to my example: I’m walking around a lot, so maybe my legs are getting more toned…but hey, maybe I’m just noticing it for the first time (funny how we don’t always see ourselves when we’re right in front of our own eyes). What’s making me feel so good is the fact that I’m using my body – that I’m moving, period. I’m moving without my movement being tied to exercise or steps-per-day. I’m using my body as my vehicle instead of something I’m just toting around.
In regards to my schedule, I’m filling my days more intentionally. Maybe not every decision is within my preferred time frame per se, but every decision DOES serve a very distinct purpose. I’m realizing that in this city, there is no room for wishy-washiness. It will keep moving without you if you sit and stew. But hey, maybe this has been how life has been all around – I’m just letting it sink in for the very first time. I’m still not the spontaneous type, but when I’m forced to go out and make decisions because I’m beholden to simply the expectations I’ve set for myself, what do I do? That feeling of making shit happen – at least striving for it – makes me feel good from the inside out.
One more thing? I’ve had more present interpersonal time. Friend dates, work meetings, and definitely within my relationship. I cannot even begin to tell you how thrilling it is to be experiencing this all alongside Jeremy. We’re both pretty mindful and introspective, but this journey is really reminding both of us how much every day can be an adventure if you open your eyes in wonder to the world around you. Sure, we’ve had some tough moments since we’ve been here – picking up and moving your entire life into a new environment will definitely trigger any pair to test each other on the basic tenants of who they are – but we’re beginning to find our own perfect balance between enjoying both the familiar/routine and the exploration (instead of making routine our default when we’ve got time to spare or forcing exploration when we’d rather curl up with a movie). We’re both still busy. But our time together doesn’t feel like in-between moments – it feels like THE moment.
3) Ask yourself what you can replicate when you feel crappy. No, not everything will be able to happen at the snap of your fingers. Maybe it’s pouring outside. Maybe you’re slammed with meetings all day. Maybe you’re stuck in a 3-hour commute. But take a look at what’s helped you feel so wonderful: what can you replicate for yourself when you’re having a bad body day?
With this one, it’s important to dig deep and be brutally honest with yourself. The easy answer for me, in this case would be to “take a walk” and “make time for my relationships.”
But I know that forcing myself to take a walk around the block does NOT work for me. It feels manufactured, like a chore, and far from anything enjoyable. But walking to run errands instead of driving or taking the subway? That I can do. Because it’s not really about the walking. It’s about feeling useful. About feeling like I’m my own vehicle.
Sometimes, as an introvert, the mere act of making more plans than I already have on tap makes me feel depleted. My go-to solution? Talk about the deep stuff. Whether that means calling one of my girlfriends for a no-holds-barred phone sesh or jamming with Jeremy over a glass of wine and the tough questions that make us think, finding the nuance and newness in the small moments always helps me feel better about everything in life.
4) Celebrate the moment like it’s the last time you’ll feel this way. What if we shifted our focus around our bodies like we do around the special events that happen to us? What if this great body day, just like our meh or even “bad” body days, was just a part of our story?
I’m not saying to negate how you’re feeling and tell yourself that this is the only time this will happen. I’m saying that the gratitude and #blesseds we use when we recognize the high highs in our lives should be applied to our bodies, too.
When we are feeling awesome, we tend to either downplay it or associate it with our “true” selves. We are back. This is who we really are.
And when we are feeling like crap about our bodies, we place blame like it’s betrayed us. We’ve strayed from the norm.
But if our bodies are always in flux, then what IS the norm? We might prefer to feel bangin’, but that doesn’t mean that that’s our default state. We have no way of knowing our default because we are constantly in transition. Even if you’re feeling awesome about your body, it doesn’t mean you’re “back to normal.” Just like with money and feeling like a broke joke when your account is low, you can’t build up your abundance if you don’t know what makes you feel abundant in the first place.
The more we practice gratitude for highs and allow them the space to shine, the better we become at bringing them back when we feel they’re lost.
Getting into slumps, funks, and ruts is a part of being human. So are successes, flying high, and feeling badass. It’s how we choose to approach these moments, the high highs and low lows, that determines the lasting effect they’ll have on us. In our bodies and in our lives. They’re the same, really.
Each day, you’re handed opportunity to navigate it all. I hope you seize it.
It’s the day after Thanksgiving and I’m working at the juice box. I’ve got a bottle of greens in my bag, Toms on my feet, and my shiftmate and I cannot move fast enough. We’ve got it down like clockwork: I’m only four days into my training at L.A’s newest healthy hotspot and I’m rattling off produce facts like a boss. I snag the juices out of the fridge, she numbers each bottle, I bag, she closes the transaction, they’re off. We’re zipping through the 20-person line like wildfire, yet spending just enough time with each customer to exchange smiles, words of wisdom, and of course, how-was-your-holiday’s.
The resounding reply makes no mention of family, gratitude, or even vacation days off.
What I hear the most is one thing: “I was so bad. I am such a pig.”
Fun fact: I worked at one of L.A’s very first juice shops, which I lovingly deemed The Juice Box, within its very first year of existence (way before green juice was a thing and there were Instagram accounts parodying the Wellness Elite). While I absolutely loved imparting fun facts about our juices’ ingredients and learning about the customers’ lives, I took the most pride in empowering them to make decisions not out of guilt or a search for a quick fix, but out of self respect and self acceptance.
Still, it broke my heart when a beautiful young woman would insist on the most extreme cleanse possible the day after a holiday or vacation because she was “so bad” and “ate like a cow.” It wasn’t about refueling her body with liquid medicine; it was about punishing herself for what she viewed as failure. I am a big fan of mindful, proactive juice cleansing, but here’s another fun fact: the effects of cleansing only last in the long run when you cleanse from a place of self love, not self loathing.You’ve got to know you’re fabulous no matter what.
Food guilt lasts way beyond the holidays. It’s become almost expected day-to-day commentary, especially around the holidays. While all we speak of during the holiday season are the things we’re blessed to have – the trees we’re down to deck, the family and friends we get to go visit – it makes me sad that those positive sentiments get replaced by jabs at our self image not even 24 hours after our moments of gratitude have ended.
Growing up, the conversational topic of good and bad food was almost as prominent in my family’s gatherings as questions about detailed life updates. We’d starve ourselves the day of Thanksgiving to “save up” for the main event, exercise twice on Christmas Eve (because Christmas Day was just too packed), and while we’d enjoy the pies and cookies and stuffing and wine in moderation, they would all ultimately lead to complaints and comparisons afterward in the kitchen.
For some, it’s almost a way of bonding with one another; to talk about how uncomfortable they are and how guilty they feel. It becomes almost like a game of casual negativity to see who can out-guilt the other (insert Amy Schumer sketch here). And for others, it hits on a deeper level, a feeling of “ruining” days, weeks, months of healthy living and good eating.
Those feelings can stem from a place of truth, however – let’s not pretend that sometimes, especially if late nights and uncommon dishes are involved (yes, I totally count a bowl of Peppermint Bark as a “dish”), there’s not an actual morning-after effect that happens that can be super uncomfortable to experience. But instead of seeing this as our body trying to recalibrate, we instead grasp at the easier and more dramatic response: I was so bad, I’m so gross, and, yes, the vilification of the F-word. Whether we’re actually uncomfortable or just feel like we SHOULD be, the reaction is the same. When food guilt sets in, we’ve got this tendency to go to the extreme.
Even the teeniest bit of food guilt is more than likely to arise at one point or another, especially during the holidays. To fight against food guilt and fight for the body that deserves to be loved, put these three tips to use year-round:
Actively choose not to define decisions as good or bad. Click To Tweet Actively choose not to define decisions as good or bad. This black-and-white mentality leaves no room for the bigger picture. Every choice is just that: a choice. Just like one single day of veggies and probiotics will not clean a toxin-filled slate, one single day of out-of-the-ordinary grub won’t negate every health-conscious decision you’ve ever made. The more we can detach from the emotional hold the seemingly bad decisions have on us, the quicker we can bounce back and the less they affect us, physically and psychologically.
Exercise and eat out of love, not punishment. Click To Tweet Exercise and eat out of love, not punishment. Gone are the days I would take hours of fitness classes to try and burn off any “bad” decisions I had made. Gone is the jumping from one extreme to the next. I find that when I make my decisions out of self-loathing, even if momentary, I always walk out of the gym or away from the table unfulfilled, anxiety-ridden and empty. Why did it not go away, I wonder furiously. Because I was bringing my negative baggage into my seemingly positive decision.
Not feeling a workout? Don’t force it! Take a walk and call a friend to catch up. Drink water because it revives dehydrated cells, sip on a green juice because it gives you energy. Maybe catch up on sleep. Maybe start to plan a cleanse during December if that sounds like something that will get you excited about taking care of your body and soul. Even if you’re feeling down, whatever you do, do it out of nurturing love.
Remind yourself that you have felt this way before and come out okay on the other side. Click To Tweet Remind yourself that you have felt this way before and come out okay on the other side. Remind yourself over and over again that it’s fleeting. Chant this in your mind. Brand it onto your heart. You have most likely felt this way before. You have been through highs and lows – stretches of glorious body confidence and punctured (or prolonged) instances of your skin just not feeling like your own. As clean as your diet may be, as active and self-loving your lifestyle, these moments will always ebb and flow…and I promise you will come out okay on the other side. No shame, no guilt, no name calling or bad mouthing.
I don’t know when food became something to shame instead of savour. I don’t know when it became us against our plate, our bodies against our kitchens. But I do know this: as long as you’re making decisions out of self-love and not self-loathing, it’s pretty hard to “be bad.” You are fabulous – no matter what.
In the comments, I’d love to hear about your experiences with food guilt. Do you ever struggle with it? Are you able to let it go? What do you do, which one of the points listed is the most useful to you already…or, which one sparked an a-ha! moment you’ll carry with you from now on? Never miss a post. Ever. Sign up + join the WANT movement: