I spend many of my evenings reading posts, messages and notes from ladies (and men) and they often make for difficult reading, such as..
‘I weigh 110kg and I hate myself. I don’t feel like being here and I’m disgusting’
‘I’ve spent the last four days binge eating and I feel so ashamed of myself. I’m useless’
Highly emotive, powerful and distressing language is used and although reading the words often leaves me in shock, I can totally relate, because it’s how I spoke about myself for many years.
We are most definitely our own worst critics. In my new book, Enough, I talk about my inner critic ‘Miss Meddler’ who is without doubt the cruellest and most despicable person I know. I often feel sad she is part of me because I don’t want to be associated with such negativity. We all have a Miss Meddler attempting to influence how we think about ourselves and the extent to which s/he casts a shadow over our wellbeing largely depends on how much work we put in to help the sun shine.
It is noted by psychologists that ‘I hate you’ is one of the phrases our inner critic loves, and in my case Miss Meddler said it often. When I stopped to consider this thoughtfully, I had something of an ‘A Ha’ moment. I remembered how it felt to hear those words from the mouths of others. A school friend during a quarrel or a boyfriend during a break-up. Hearing the words ‘I hate you’ coming from somebody I cared about was like being punched in the gut and it felt unjust. So why didn’t it have that impact when my own inner-voice said it? Well that was largely because I believed every word Miss Meddler uttered, from the ‘go on have a binge session’ & the ‘who do you think you are’ messages to the ‘you are fat and lazy’ & ‘I hate you’ ones.
With time, increased self-awareness and a whole heap of self-help, I have learned to respect Miss Meddler’s opinion choosing to discount it, rather than spend time battling with her, or worse, accepting what she has to say. To get to this point has taken great effort and I know, even now, how easy it is to succumb to her allure which can be as attractive on a tough day as the Siren song is to the sailor.
Through my learning, I’ve come to the realisation that I perceived a negative approach and indulging in self-loathing as the easy option. It meant less expectation was placed upon me from others (and myself), there wasn’t a pedestal to fall from and it took much less energy to wallow than to step up and SHINE.
The trouble with the negative approach is that even when the loathing was purely internal, it leaked from me and infiltrated everything I did, meaning life became more difficult, particularly as I had to be an actress to disguise it. The path that was meant to be easier, suddenly contained lots of bumps and the negativity spiralled.
It’s a bit like having the bright idea to take a train rather than drive because it should in theory be easier. The reality can be that you are faced with 3 changes, no seats, a very hot underground platform, a hefty train ticket charge and long delays for connections. What felt like the easier option isn’t really that great after all. Although driving demands your own effort, you are in the driving seat and therefore in charge of your own journey.
So, what would you rather be known for? Being a ‘Negative Nel’ or being your Best, Shiny, Positive Self? Letting other’s determine the direction of your life, or taking the driving seat? I know which one I choose, I know it takes effort and I know it pays off.
I spend a lot of my time working in partnership with my Self-Love Ninja who helps me to reframe the words I hear from Miss Meddler. I use the STARS technique I developed and shared in Enough. I form affirmations, practice self-compassion and find time to find joy in the little things.
The key thing I have learned is to make sure I speak to (and about) myself in a way I would speak to my daughter, mum or best friend, i.e. with compassion, thoughtfulness and love. I also make sure that I don’t turn the things I might believe about myself into absolute truths. So if I believe I can’t climb a mountain due to my fitness levels or fear of messing it up, this doesn’t mean I won’t attempt it, instead I’ll start climbing and tell myself every step of the way that I can do it. This has been particularly useful after a life-time believing I can’t put my face in water, and now after 5 swimming lessons, I am swimming under water. I ignored my belief, ignored Miss Meddler and I did it.
Daily effort and focus is required to shine positivity, even now after 2.5 years of mind-set muscle flexing. If I don’t put the work in, I soon find that Miss Meddler is taking centre stage again, ready and willing to perform her solo.
Interestingly, a lady contacted me this week, writing that she was hoping my book would contain a magic potion to help her dramatically transform her self-loathing. She had realised that although a lot of the answers are in the book, it’s not the overnight mind-set transformation she had envisaged and she was disappointed she would need to put effort in.
There is no magic potion, of course there isn’t, or we wouldn’t have a problem to solve.
Nothing worth having comes without work, and in my view, if it does, we don’t value it. We have to work at self-love every single day, and gradually it develops, grows and becomes everything we want it to be and we hold it dear. From seed to sunflower, from inner I hate yous to inner I love yous. We can get there with effort, persistence and practice and it’s worth it because it helps us SHINE as if we are lit from within.
You can order my book here:ENOUGH