The other day I was watching Say Yes to the Dress because it’s awesome. And for reasons that I can not explain, the struggle to purchase a wedding dress totally speaks to me. One of the brides in this episode was a gracefully tall woman from New York city. She introduced her humungous entourage. It included her mother, soon to be mother-in-law, maid of honor, favorite cousin and the always nice to have, gay male bestie who doubles as a fashion expert.
All of her entourage was excited to see her in her first wedding dress, including me. She floated out of the dressing room and stepped onto the Kleinfeld (famous wedding dress store where the show is filmed) mirror pedestal, you know the one. She looked at herself in the mirror, scowled, then placed her hand over her totally non-existent belly and stated with disgust, “This is my Problem Area.”
Friends, there are so many things wrong with her statement that I hardly know where to begin, but here goes.
Our bodies listen to every word that we say to them. This bears repeating. Our bodies are made up of trillions of cells. Every single cell in our body is constantly listening to and responding to the messages that we are sending to them about our bodies. If you continuously tell your body that it is ugly, fat, broken and damaged, it will continue to be ugly, fat, broken and damaged in your eyes.
We all know that co-worker or friend who adamantly states something about their health over and over again. They have made this ailment their truth and then continue to give it strength to grow every single time they repeat it. They say something like this, “Every single time I get on an airplane I get sick. I get the sniffles, cold or the flu, nothin’ I can do about it.” Then sure enough, every time this person travels on an airplane they get sick. Anything that you continuously repeat to yourself can become your truth.
When I was growing up in Michigan I would get the same cough every single year in September. I knew it was true, my mom knew it was true and we both stated it every single year. When the inevitable cough showed up we validated it and gave it strength by talking about it even more. “Yup, here’s the cough, the one I get every year in September.”
One year, we were so good at manifesting it that it turned to bronchitis. You guessed, it, that turned our narrative into the new, extra strength version. “Every year in September, I get bronchitis. “ Eventually, we were such experts at manifesting this yearly ailment that I finally got pneumonia in September instead of just a cough.
It wasn’t until I learned about the incredible power of my own words that I began changing how I speak to myself. You may not realize how damaging negative self-talk of any kind can be to your overall health so I am excited to share the news with you. It is my hope that together we can learn more encouraging ways to speak to ourselves.
Now, I would like you to imagine yourself as a six year old. Stay with me on this one. Imagine your six year old self standing in front of you. In case you forgot, six year olds are amazing. They can write poems, tell jokes and have sleep overs. They can run stuffed animal triage units and decorate cupcakes. A six year old can be brilliant, engaging and adorable in every way.
Come back to your six year old self standing in front of you. Now, I want you to think of the last negative thing you said to yourself today. Here are a few examples: I look fat in that dress, my god I look tired, I’m a terrible dad, mom or friend. And I want you to imagine hurling that insult to your six year old self.
It feels terrible, that’s how! It feels absolutely unimaginable that you would speak to a precious, talented and amazing six year old in such a negative and abusive way. Right, this is exactly my point. You wouldn’t speak like that to a six year old because it would be a crime against humanity. It would be bullying and horrible. This isn’t a constructive or helpful way to communicate with anyone of any age, so I would like you to stop speaking to yourself like that.
Stop telling your individual body parts how fat they are or how they have let you down. Please stop touching your hurt knees or sore hips or perfectly functioning belly and stating that they are your problem areas.
As a yoga teacher, I hear this comment about problem areas every single day. I have to remind my students that every part of their body is perfect, especially the ones that are currently hurting. Those parts of our bodies need our love and affection, not our disdain.
When my students tell me about how their knees, backs, arms or wrists are not working right, I gently ask them to reconsider how they are speaking to their bodies. When one of my clients tells me that their arms are fat or their bellies aren’t skinny enough, I ask them to reconsider how they are speaking to their bodies. Would you say those things to your six year old self? Our bodies are listening to every single word we say to them.
As a woman with autoimmune disease and ever-present pain, I have to remind myself daily to speak to my painful parts with love. I kiss my finger joints (the ones that hurt too badly to hold my tea cup) and tell them that I love them. Recently, I referred to one of my fingers as my, “bad finger” in a conversation with someone I love. They gently corrected me the way I do with my students. Touche my friend.
Your body is always listening. To refer to any part of your amazingly unique body as having problem areas is an ineffective way to feel better. It will not help you heal. It will not make you stronger or thinner. This will not help you find the best wedding dress, partner or friends.
Your body will continue to be exactly what you are calling it, broken, bad, fat and wrong. On the flip side, once you begin to focus on the positive aspects of your body and treat yourself with compassion, you will begin to see that in yourself more.
The next time you catch yourself saying something disparaging to yourself out loud or to a friend, take it back, and say something different. If you are totally inspired to change, you may even place your hand on whatever body part you were just trashing and say something kind instead. Maybe picture doing this to your six year old self to help visualize the idea. By trying this one small shift in your language, what do you have to lose? As I see it, you may lose some self loathing, limiting illnesses and emotional pain. I’m willing to say goodbye to those things and I bet you are too. Let’s try together.
Supporting you in every way,