I recently wrote a blog about loving myself. I mentioned several things that loving myself has done for me including increasing my capacity for joy and fun. Another thing I have noticed is that how I treat myself has dramatically changed. Not only in my thoughts and how I talk to myself but in how I treat my physical body as well.
I used to be very self critical and my head was constantly full of negative thoughts that put myself down. I’m fat. I’m ugly. I’m slow. I’m stupid. I’m lazy. The list goes on and on. If it is negative, I have likely said it to myself sometime over the last 40 plus years. Someone once asked me if that is how I would talk to a dear friend and of course the answer was no. Or, would you remain friends with someone who constantly talked to you that way? Also probably no. I know personally If I had a friend that was always telling me I’m fat and stupid I would probably stop hanging out with that person. But yet for a long time I allowed myself to talk to me like that. Over the last year or so I have come to understand the wisdom in that analysis and as I have evolved into a self loving creature, I find the negative thoughts have decreased and I now talk to myself in a more endearing way – one in which I might talk to a good friend. After all, we are all our own best friends right? I try to think nurturing and kind thoughts. If I do something that might not be the best decision, I allow myself space for mistakes and tell myself I’m human and doing the best I can rather than “I’m stupid” or “I have no discipline”, etc. It really makes a difference in how I feel on a daily basis. In the spirit of total honesty, I have numerous moments still in which those negative thoughts creep in – in fact I have a name for the altar ego. More than one name actually. But now, as I become more aware of these thoughts I am able to recognize when that altar ego is trying to emerge and I am better able to tell her to sit down and shut up. Sometimes I’m not as successful as others, and it’s a work in progress – but every time I hear that voice it gets a little easier to ignore it.
On a physical level, as I evolve into someone who genuinely cares for her own self, I find myself much more interested in doing things that promote my physical health (and avoiding things that are detrimental). It’s much easier than it used to be to avoid junk food, alcohol, etc. When you don’t love yourself the tendency is to abuse yourself. Mentally AND physically. Overeating, alcohol, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, poor sleep, etc. For me, it was eating too much of the wrong foods, drinking too much alcohol and not moving. I just didn’t care about my health because why care about something you don’t like? Now that I love myself I find myself eating better, exercising and even making sure I get enough sleep. I treat my body like a precious commodity. Do I have moments where I give in to cravings or imbibe a bit? Yep. Absolutely I do. But there is a difference between those indulgences now versus in the past. Previously I did it mindlessly – it was automatic and habit. It was a subconscious way of keeping myself in a space that “deserved” the negative thoughts. Now, those indulgences are mindful and intentional deviations for the purpose of an occasional pleasure. It’s also only an occasional event as opposed to a full time occupation and it’s done with self love in mind as opposed to self sabotage. After all – having a piece of cake or a social drink on occasion is pleasurable when done from the right place and allowing pleasure is a way of expressing self love. The work I have done over the last year has allowed me to get to a place where I can recognize the difference and before indulging I stop to think just a bit about the intent. Yes, there are times when I sense the intent is not for pleasure. But those are getting much less frequent as I travel this path. And when I do have those moments, I go back to allowing myself space for mistakes. As I allow myself that space, I find that I make far fewer of them. Another distinction in my relationship with food is that in the past I was able to diet and eat well but the intent behind it was “dieting” because I needed to lose weight in an attempt to get that “I’m fat” voice out of my head. It was a form of punishment for being less than perfect. However, eating now is for the purpose of being good to my body and being healthy. It’s not a punishment, it’s a desire to treat my body with respect and to live healthy. I am also much more physically active again. There is a difference in mentality there too. In the past, the exercise was again, a punishment of some sort for not being good enough – a necessary evil for needed weight loss. Now, it’s an activity I enjoy because my body likes moving and being active and it likes to be in shape for things I find pleasurable, like hiking mountains and doing triathlons. I also find myself grateful for the opportunity and ability to participate rather than resentful that I HAVE to do it.
These changes would not be nearly as easy – or even possible really – without a look inside and a shift in mindset from self abuse to self love. I now have a mindset that I am absolutely worth the effort it takes to treat my mind and my body in a loving caring way and take the steps necessary to maintain my health – mentally and physically. And as a result, I am much more amazed at what I am actually capable of than I have ever been before. In closing, I look at the picture of me as a child below and I grieve slightly at how poorly I had treated her for so long. Not anymore.