There’s a moment when suddenly you’re getting dressed in daylight again that signals spring is on its way. No more fumbling in the dark and accidentally wearing the blue top instead of the black! The days hold the hint of warmer times and you remember that you won’t always be bundled in so many layers. But there’s a potential problem with that.
My mirror moment
This was me last week: I pulled my sports leggings up over my calf’s, then my knees and finally I wriggled them over my thighs. There was a brief moment of catching my breath before the last heave up to my waist. Hmm. It didn’t used to be this hard to pull these on. Perhaps they’d been in the tumble dryer? Then I noticed that they were digging in a LOT more than they used to. It left a bulging overhang that I smothered over with my top. As I glanced in the mirror I briefly heard the voice of my mean girl. That voice that used to plague me no matter how slim I was or how much I'd exercised or eaten well.
You know the voice
It wants to tell you that you’ve let yourself go. It wants to tell you that you’ll never lose the lockdown bulges. It wants to tell you that other people have managed to improve their fitness while yours has taken a nose dive. It wants to tell you all the ways you’re not measuring up to some invisible ideal.
What’s with the mean voice?
It wants to say those harsh so-called "truths" because somehow it believes that it will keep you safer. Its job is to keep you judging yourself. Why? Because in our evolutionarily history, that self judgement was critical to our survival. If you didn’t fit in with the tribe then you were outcast which made you easy prey for predators. So measuring up, making sure you stay accepted and acceptable was a matter of life or death.
Why haven’t we moved on?
These days our social group is VAST (thanks internet). Plus we are connecting and connected more than ever before. The global pandemic has highlighted just how interconnected we are. It’s deadly grip has extended to every corner of the planet. So our ability to have respite from the self judgement has all but disappeared. Add in social media and comparison culture. Then it’s just a quick hop and a jump to deciding that you don’t measure up.
Finding the mute button
My relationship with my body has changed dramatically over the years. I’ve always been slim but my frame means that many clothes just don’t look right on me (as for us all!). I spent many years despising parts of my body: wishing some parts were bigger, other parts were smaller. Feeling like my worth was somehow tangled up with how I looked. But one day, I learnt to turn the volume down on my inner critic. Suddenly she didn’t have the power anymore.
What was the secret?
Like with most things, there’s no magic bullet to getting rid of the nasty stuff ways we undermine our own confidence but for me there were 3 key steps along the road: 1. Realising that it was not ME after all One of the fundamental changes that meditation brings is that it changes how you experience your thoughts. My mind used to be bombarded with thoughts constantly. It was like a runaway train with no brake. I had to rely on the thoughts running out of steam before I could slow things down. But when you practice meditation regularly, something miraculous happens. You create space between you and your thoughts so it’s not "I look so disgusting in these clothes, I’m hideous", it’s "ok I’m having the thought that I look gross". That might not sound like much but trust me, that space that opens up is the catalyst for a HUGE change in your life. Suddenly the thoughts and judgements aren’t just true by default. They’re just an opinion. And as I began to make friends with that nasty voice, it just didn’t have the same power over me. ACTION STEP: Next time you catch yourself saying something like "I’m so *insert your insult of choice" inside your mind, press pause and change the language. See how it feels when you add the simple phrase "I’m having the thought that I’m so..." 2. Making peace with the voice So step one was noticing the voice, and step two was accepting her and finding some friendliness. Imagine you have a friend who is really critical and you know she doesn’t really mean it. She just says things, thinking it’s helpful. (We’ve all had a friend or family member like that, right?). Whilst it can be tempting to feel angry/sad/frustrated, try and make peace instead. That doesn’t mean condoning the "bad behaviour", it’s simply a way of recognising that this is how it is right now. ‘ ACTION STEP: Try giving that inner critic a name. A friend of mine calls her Doris! it can really help with that separating it from "truth" to accept it. 3. Finding gratitude for your body, exactly as it is Once we’ve cultivated some friendliness towards and space around this inner critic, it can really help to remember she’s doing her best. Trying to keep you safe. You can then change your focus to notice the things you are grateful to your body for. ACTION STEP: A meditation of gratitude Try this 20 minute meditation that I did with my membership community this week. We allowed ourselves to move out of judgement and into a full appreciation of all that our amazing bodies have done for us this year!
How do you feel about your body?
Can you be amazed at the wonderful ways it’s helped you get through this year? I love to hear from you so do email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) Take care
Remember, you have been criticising yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.
LOUISE L. HAY