Friday, January 29, 2010

Be Nice to Yourself

I've come to the conclusion, through listening to people and reading blogs, that often, we are quite unkind to ourselves. We treat ourselves in a way we would never *dream* of treating another person... a stranger, much less a friend. The mental putdowns when we look in the mirror or shop for clothes or get on the scale do not do us any good. Really. Why not be kind and compassionate to ourselves?

Angela walked into Walmart one day to buy some clothes and food. She was in the Plus-Sized section trying to find size 24 jeans when an older lady... a grandma type... strayed off the aisle and over to Angela. "You are much too pretty to be so fat," she said. "Honey, you really need to lose some weight. You are killing yourself, not taking care of yourself." Angela stood, frozen in time, her mouth open in disbelief, one hand on her cart and the other poised holding the jeans she was about to try on. The old lady reached over to the cart and patted her hand. "Stop eating fried food and candy, take a little walk once in awhile. Try having some salad for lunch, you'll be surprised how much better you'll look in no time! Life is too short to stay fat, honey." And she walked off.

Was she kind? Was she nice?

Not really. Angela was a stranger. While the granny couched her words in concern and helpfulness, she was really telling Angela that a) her weight and looks were unacceptable, and b)she was lazy and overindulgent. I don't recall Angela asking to be assaulted with advice, either.

Angela put the jeans back on the rack. A tear slid down her face as she hung her head, turned, and walked away. She had been so proud, so excited to buy those size 24 jeans. She had never fit into anything under a 26 before and had worked so hard to lose 40 pounds. When she walked into the store, she'd felt slim and confident. But the reality, as so cruelly and bluntly pointed out by the elderly stranger, was that she was still a big, fat, failure.

Do you see how words and thoughts can deeply affect a person's perception of ones' self?

Yes, we should be kind to others. Absolutely, we should not make assumptions about ANYONE we see. And if we do, we should keep our mouths shut. Compassion doesn't cost anything. It is FREE.

But shouldn't this extend to our self-talk, too? Why is it ok for us to look in the mirror and say, "I'm so FAT! I hate how I look!" or to look at the scale, stuck on a plateau, and say to ourselves, "I am SUCH a failure! I can't do anything right." Isn't compassion even *more* necessary when dealing with the person we are closest to: ourselves?

There is a fine line between enabling and encouraging. If we look at ourselves and say "oh, it's ok if I don't lose weight. I will do it next week, I am not THAT fat" and use that as an excuse to keep on eating junk and doing nothing to reach the goals we set regarding our weight and health, THAT is enabling. It is putting our heads in the sand so we can eat burgers and milkshakes and still pretend we are happy with ourselves and everything is okay. But if we look at our behavior and say, "Okay, I am proud of what I have done so far but I do need to work harder," that is encouraging. It is a tough thing to learn: loving ones' self without accepting and settling for the things we truly do want to change.

We can change our bodies and our lives without flogging ourselves emotionally. Do push yourself, but don't insult yourself. Do try to do better, but don't discount the efforts you've made already. Look for change while loving the You that you are *right now.*

34 comments:

Tammy said...

I still haven't learned this lesson. Maybe one day...but I'm definitely not there yet. :(

Leslie said...

Reminds me of that saying, "Change your thinking, change your life". We become what we think, and we speak to ourselves from what we think. This is really a strategy that requires practice, because it just doesn't come easily when we're frustrated with ourselves. Great post, Lyn.

Jenn said...

I've been treating myself very unkindly lately and it has to stop. I deserve better than that. Thank you, I needed this.

Wishing on a star said...

Something simular happened to me last summer. I had been working hard at loosing weight. I was dieting and excercising I had lost 15 pounds and proud of myself. I was dropping my daughter off at a volleyball event. As I was walking out I heard one cheerleader say to the others, " I have that same tshirt...only in a smaller size", Ha ha ha (the all laughed). I felt horrible. That is the type of thing that usually busts my diets. I felt terrible for days. I didn't tell anyone about that because I was so hurt and embarrassed. I chose to be strong this time and not cave to the urge to eat something. Now, 34 pounds later, I am the one laughing. It's a struggle everyday and it will continue to be so forever. I hope that skinny little thing never has weight issues....

Ex Yo-Yo Dieter Debbie said...

Great post. I have said things to myself that I would never say to anyone else. I have fed oh, so many things to myself over and over that I would never dream of feeding to my husband and kids.

But I'm learning to change, and little by little, I'm getting rid of a lot of negative self-talk. I am learning to feel that I deserve better for myself.

Every day is not perfect, but then again, that is okay too!

Pubsgal said...

Awesome post, Lyn!

Jenny said...

Great post! Thanks, Lyn!

The Chubby Girl Diaries said...

Well said. Well said. Thank you for this post! :)

~Kellie

Jen said...

Thank you for posting this. I have hated myself and spent most of my life that way. I have been feeling ugly lately.

It is a real battle sometimes. When I blog tonight, I will link to your post.

NewMe said...

This is something I've written about frequently myself. Great post.

singingforasmallerme said...

I know that I don't say the nicest things about myself. I regularly make flippant comments about my monumental this or huge that. While they may seem funny at the time, if anyone else were to say them to me I'd have to stop myself from punching them.

What a great post. It's definitely given me something to ponder.

Liz said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this!!! Its such an important lesson. I once read in a yoga book we need to find a balance between appreciating and loving ourselves while striving to become a better person. It is challenging to put into action but so so necessary.

Last weekend a man passing me and two friends on the street made a comment about taking home the big girl. (He was absolutely referring to me as my friends are both size 4 and 2 while I am 14). The next day I let myself wallow in that for a few hours but than I cried, talked to friends, and realized that I am so much more than a "big girl." I was reminded to love and be kind to myself even if others are not.

Great post.

100in28 said...

That story just breaks my heart.
Is it true?
I almost cried at the end.

I haven't really been verbally assaulted like that by a stranger, although, I always percieve it with their eyes. But maybe that is just self talk.

Since I reached the 40lb mark myself, for some reason, I walk into places prepared to be insulted, with a quick, "well I have lost 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90lbs already. How much weight have you lost" response. I'm guessing that would shut anyone right up.

I had that armed when I joined the gym. I reminded myself of that when I felt self-conscious. But you know what, I actually didn't. I kept that in the front of my mind, and it encouraged me too. :)

Anyway, thanks for sharing.

seth said...

nice post.

lindalou said...

Right On , Lyn,
Thanks for ANOTHER great post!

karen@fitnessjourney said...

Wonderful post and a good reminder to all of us to not only be mindful of what we say to others, but also what we say to ourselves.

Kyle Gershman said...

You really can write a post! Thanks for bringing the A game on the mental side of getting fit. It really is the way to win at getting fit.

Genevieve and Aunt Sue said...

This is such a wise post. I think it's absolutely true that you have to accept yourself as a good, multi-faceted person - the person you truly are - before change is possible. We get so much negative feedback that it's hard not to let it soak in and affect how you see yourself. It's good to be reminded that this isn't how we have to live. - Sue

SeattleRunnerGirl said...

Well said, Lyn. I often comment that we are nicer to strangers than we are to our own family. The same is true of how we treat ourselves. Thank you for the reminder to be kind - to EVERYONE.

midlife_swimmer said...

very powerful stuff!

Joy said...

Thankyou Lyn. Another wonderful lesson. I wanted to let you know I have nominated you for beautiful blogger. http://tinyurl.com/ylo2qcr

Jennifer said...

I agree, Lyn, and I often say this myself...that if you keep talking badly about yourself, you're going to start to believe it. When you're tempted to talk negatively about yourself, bite your tongue, and replace it with kind words instead. It is a huge part of weight-loss...you have to love yourself, you have to be kind to yourself if you expect anyone else to be kind to you. You attract what you think you deserve for the most part. Good job, Lyn. You're a beautiful person, with a beautiful heart. :)

notofthisworld said...

This is a hard habit to break.

Chibi Jeebs said...

And THAT is what we call "assvice." I can't *imagine* saying something like that to a stranger! NO ONE has any business saying anything to a stranger about her weight/size/health.

I wrote about this not long ago, too. Putting it into practice is another thing entirely, though.

M said...

We should love ourselves a little bit more.

screwdestiny said...

Another great post, Lyn. I guess I figure there's nothing wrong with putting myself down 'cause it's not someone else I'm hurting. Plus, a lot of the stuff I put myself down for is stuff I can't change, so I can't do the "you've come a long way, made these changes," talk that you suggested.

Anonymous said...

You are right - we shouldn't make assumptions about others. I am sure the older lady thought she was being kind...and hopefully although the girl was mortified, perhaps those words gave her food for thought? It was cruel and uncalled for..but it wasn't entirely negative. I bet most have us have heard that we have 'such a pretty face.." and our inner voice adds... "Yes, if only my body was lovely too"

I feel fat wherever I go, and that's the truth.

Right now, I am working with the 'pretty face'. It's about all I have going for me...and a kind heart too I guess. I have many good attributes, but physically my face is my best feature...and I know that.

We mustn't be too hard on ourselves, you are so right, but I do beat myself up over getting so fat in the first place. I have eaten well all day so far...and had ten minutes on my bike but right now I'd kill for a bath full of indulgent food goodies that I could gorge and gorge and gorge...and all my positive self-talk has vanished.

Sometimes it is very hard to remain positive, so I agree, we don't need people bringing us down. However, I think in the past I have had a "I can eat this and I don't care. I am worth it" attitude. I have been too self-indulgent.

Yesterday I had a wake up call. I had a hospital appointment and the consultant was very thorough but told me in no uncertain terms that it was imperative that I lost weight. He saw an overweight woman. He reminded me that I had a full set of auto-immune complaints and I didn't want a heart attack or stroke on top of it all.
That was the kick up the rear I needed. Those word frightened me...and today, even though I want so much to eat something gooey and calorific I'll have a couple of dried apricots instead and go for a walk.

Happy medium, eh?

Previously Plump... in progress said...

I'm hard on myself. I know I shouldn't be, but I am.

I'm trying to be more positive this year. It's working (kind of).

On another note - I tried you strawberry salad - IT WAS DELISH!!! Thansk for the recipe :)

Anonymous said...

And anonymous said:

"Yesterday I had a wake up call. I had a hospital appointment and the consultant was very thorough but told me in no uncertain terms that it was imperative that I lost weight. He saw an overweight woman. He reminded me that I had a full set of auto-immune complaints and I didn't want a heart attack or stroke on top of it all.
That was the kick up the rear I needed. Those word frightened me...and today, even though I want so much to eat something gooey and calorific I'll have a couple of dried apricots instead and go for a walk."

This is true, you can be offended by someone's motivation to simply try to help in a kind way, or you can be told pretty harshly by a medical professional, when some condition presents itself or flares up. Hurt by the truth? Sure. Does it make the truth less truthfull? No.

redballoon said...

Although I would agree that comments that are meant to help such as the old lady's are often actually hurting, I think the people on the receiving end of them have to learn to see the good intention in them and not be knocked down by them.
I think the old woman's comments were truly well meant and I hope she continues to reach out to people. If someone has been working hard and losing weight then she should say so, thank the woman for her concern and let her know she's proud of where she's come from and assure the woman she's on her way to even better things.

As for the cheerleader, that is just an allright out snide remark and has no redeeming factor. And of course it hurts, or could, but one should just come back (in your head) with something, like, yeah, "smaller like your obvious brain capacity!"

Though this post ended with about being nice to yourself, I consider being nice to yourself involves learning to be strong and adamant about what we have accomplished or what we are setting out to do. Yes, intentions and knowledge-gathering is just as much progress and often a bigger step than the actual weight loss. People should take pride in that. What's the sense of being hurt if you ARE doing something to change the things that obviously one feels so bad about.

REALLY discipline yourself to love yourself, not just when the world makes it easy. The world is not going to change so you have to.

MsMagnetism said...

Great post Lyn. So true, so true.

Fat Girl said...

What a poignant story! We so often forget that one person's success might be another person's failure. I have friends who would cry if they weighed 200 lbs. I am just scrambling to get back there.

I hope you don't mind, I added you to my blogroll. If you would like me to remove it, please let me know.

Salted with Shadows said...

This is so true. I always say I can make everyone feel good about themselves but me. Something I will work at forever, I am sure. Good post.

All Women Stalker said...

Indeed, if we can't be kind to ourselves, why would everyone else be? I love how you say things as they are. Thanks for this.

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