I had a friend growing up who wasn’t allowed to say “shut up” in her household. Her family regarded it as a swear word. They actually had quite a few family rules about words and what was acceptable in terms of how they spoke to each other.
This was so foreign to me as a child. My older brother and I fought like crazy. He was constantly calling me names, and I was in turn, frequently telling him to shut up.
I was so fascinated by my friend and her family who had a totally different way of talking to each other and dealing with conflict. They had conflicts and disagreements of course, but they didn’t fight like we did.
I remember being in her household and just being amazed at how they interacted as a result of the language that was allowed and the behavior that was acceptable. It created this supportive atmosphere of peace and love that encouraged authentic communication.
There weren’t daggers flying everywhere and the need to be on the defensive the way I felt in my house.
The way they treated each other started with the conversations they had.
Changing painful conversations into productive ones
I have a plea for you: We have to change the way we are seeing and talking about ourselves to ourselves. My heart just can’t take it.
I hear the things my clients think about themselves, the words they are using, the conversations they are having in their heads, and it is excruciating.
I see them as these most beautiful, complex amazing humans, and they see themselves as garbage and they speak to themselves accordingly.
I can only imagine that you are out there thinking and feeling some of the same things about yourself. Let’s see if we can start to change these painful conversations in our heads to more loving and productive ones.
What is the conversation in your head?
So what’s the conversation like about you in your head? How are you talking to yourself? Do you know? If you don’t, that’s where we need to start.
Maybe it sounds something like this:
“What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I stick to anything? I knew this would happen; I knew as soon as I started this program that I would fall off the wagon big time. I do it every time. I am broken. I seriously can’t do this; I won’t ever be able to lose this weight. I have no willpower or discipline. I’m huge. I am fat and I will always be fat. I’m never going to change.”
That’s what it sounded like in my head for two decades. That continual conversation about my faults, mistakes, my negative opinions and judgments of myself, of course led to more overeating, more weight gain, and more shame.
3 steps for changing your negative self talk
If that is the kind of conversation you are having about you too, it’s time to change the conversation. We need to bring it out into the light.
For most of us, we don’t say these things aloud. The conversation about ourselves is whispered in our minds, in the dark. We wouldn’t say the things we think out loud or say them about someone else.
That’s because if we said it out loud, we would have to hear it and own it. That is a totally different experience than hiding all the poisonous words in our brains.
As Brené Brown says, shame cannot survive being spoken. It cannot survive empathy.
So how do we bring it out into the light? Before I tell you step one, I have to emphasize that these steps must be done together. You can’t do step one without the other steps. I do not recommend it.
Often doing something is better than doing nothing, but in this case doing step one and then not completing the process won’t help — and it might hurt your progress.
Step 1: Bring awareness to the conversation
Listen in and see what exactly is being said in your head about you. This will entail you sitting down and asking yourself some questions.
- How do I currently see myself?
- What is my opinion of my body? (Think about yourself and your body in different situations and notice if your opinion changes.)
- How do I feel as a result of these opinions?
Step 2: Write these thoughts down and say them out loud
It’s one thing to think about these things, it’s another thing to read them. It’s a whole other thing to hear them.
Hiding these things in your brain probably feels safe. Safe and terrible, but safe nonetheless, which is why they are still in there rattling around for years or decades.
Be gentle. Hearing them out loud is a powerful dose of reality. Feel your way through this with compassion and kindness. You can do this a bunch of different ways based on where you are and what you’re ready to take on.
You can start with just one thing, one sentence that you wrote down. Find a private space and just start by whispering it out loud to yourself. Let it sink in. Sit with it for a minute. Notice how it feels.
That’s what we want to start connecting. These sentences are seemingly benign just rattling around in your brain, but they really aren’t. What are they creating and what are you feeling as a result of believing these things?
The next level might look like going into a dim room and reading those thoughts that you wrote quietly to yourself in the semi-darkness and easing yourself into the light. Or, you can sit in your car looking in the rearview mirror where you can only see your eyes and share it aloud with yourself.
If you feel like you’re up for it, you can stand in front of the mirror and with all the care you can muster, face you and say the sentences out loud. This is not a punishment but should come from a place of yearning to love yourself. This is just an obstacle standing in the way of you being able to love you.
This isn’t meant to be a humiliation. This is meant to be you letting the light in, accepting all of you, even the hidden parts. Shame cannot survive being spoken. It cannot survive empathy, especially empathy from you for you.
Step 3: Change the self talk
Change the conversation to a complete and honest one. One where we observe not just our faults, but all of the ways we are also brave and courageous. A conversation where we are not focused only on how we are weak, but open to how we are strong as well.
What if instead of asking what’s wrong with us, we look for what’s right? We choose to see that we are humans with human brains, doing our very best with the skills and knowledge we currently have.
We can ask:
- What else is true about my body right now?
- What else is true about me?
- What else can I see?
- What else can I say?
- What else do I want to believe about me?
Here are some options for you to try on to get the ball rolling:
“I’m a human learning how to lose weight and love myself.”
“I’m a human working on allowing uncomfortable emotions.”
“I’m a human who likes the taste of Oreos.”
“I’m a human, with a human brain, that believes food can fix my feelings.”
The goal here is to find statements of truth that you can believe right now, but that are different than what you’re currently choosing to see. Allow some space for a new conversation.
We can choose to regard our bodies differently. Your body doesn’t have to change for you to love it, but choosing to love it doesn’t mean it won’t change. We can recognize that we are doing our best and that we are a human worthy of love and care.
You can choose to believe something new. It’s totally possible, and it’s time. Have the courage to change the conversation. It starts and it ends with you.
This kind of thought work is invaluable on your journey to losing weight for life. If you’re ready to get started, watch my free video on how to lose the first five pounds — and keep going.