The hidden power of what we say about ourselves

The long run was going to be, well, long. There was no need to worry about pace for this particular 14 miles because it wasn’t going to be anything to write home (or blog) about really. Not from a speed standpoint anyway. After a month of trying to just maintain my fitness last week was what my coach referred to as a “resumption week” — getting back into regular training. And so I tried not to worry about pace, lest I injure myself physically or emotionally. I got better at not concerning myself with pace as the week and the training went on. And I was in a pretty good frame of mind by Saturday when it was long run day.

I ran with a group of friends which always helps. Parts were hard. Really hard. Like that stupid hill in Mile 8. By 15K the run was starting to feel long. At Mile 11 I was starting to get hungry. But I plodded along. Somedays it’s about showing up and getting the miles in. And I wasn’t just happy with my long run. I was ecstatic.  It was about being out there, challenging myself, and letting my strength and wisdom reveal itself. It was about taking action out of passion rather than out of fear. The process, you see, takes care of the result.

Speaking of passion, I’m realizing that I’m becoming less and less tolerate of listening to women (including myself) put themselves down. A friend of mind did her “old bag” speech this weekend, downplaying what she looks like. I love her dearly, but desperately wanted to smack her. We’ve all heard women do this. We’ve all done it ourselves. (Well, likely most of us, to some degree.) We judge ourselves harshly. We don’t like the shape of our facial features or our skin tone or wrinkles or the color of our hair. We criticize our bodies for not looking a certain way, being too flat or too curvy, too heavy or too untoned. We say these things to ourselves every day. We say these things out loud to other women.

My grandmother had a PhD in self deprecation

It matters greatly what you tell yourself. And it matters greatly what you say about yourself in front of others. As I get excited about spending Easter with my niece, I’m particularly reminded of this. Because I remember what it was like to grow up around my grandmother.

As a child, I adored my grandmother. She was, well, a grandmother, who gave me candy and hugs and kisses. She sang songs with me and played games. She was totally fun. (And not at all like woman that my mother remembers growing up with, but such is the nature of grandparenting.) But Gram always talked down about herself. She called herself a “dunce” and often made comments about being “fat.” I couldn’t really understand as a kid. I mean, she seemed pretty smart to me. And at 6 years old, I didn’t think of Gram as fat. I thought of her as big and loving and warm. If this woman whom I loved and adored called herself dumb and fat, well, what did that mean about me? Maybe women were supposed to put themselves down. Maybe women were supposed to be critical of their body, their looks, their life. Maybe I wasn’t as awesome as I thought I was. Maybe being an adult woman meant finding all the ways you were not awesome.

I pledge to never say anything negative about myself in front of my niece.

Along with all the wonderful things I learned from Gram, I also learned that I should judge myself harshly and criticize myself severely. That negative lesson came merely from overhearing bits and pieces of her self-judgement slip out from time to time. It wasn’t until years later as an adult, as I started to work through my own negative thought process, that I realized what an impact her attitude about herself made on me.

For years, women activists have criticized media portrayals of women and rightly so. But perhaps we overlook the importance of the way in which we portray ourselves. It impacts not just how we individually view the world, but has a profound impact on others.

I still work daily on my negative self talk. The negative thoughts don’t go away, but it’s my choice whether I follow them or let them quietly leave my mind so that something more productive can come into vision. The less I criticize and judge myself, the more awesome stuff starts to happen around me. That’s what I want my 1-year old niece to experience. That’s the example I want to set. And I do that by speaking kindly to myself and about myself. What kind of world would we have if we all were just a little kinder to ourselves?

0 Comments on “The hidden power of what we say about ourselves

  1. It starts so young. When my daughter was 9, she came home and asked if she was fat (she is not fat by a long shot). Seems her then-gym teacher had said she needed to “get off the couch and get in shape this summer.” I nearly had kittens. You do NOT say those things to a 9-year old girl. It’s so easy for them to fall into thinking that way.

  2. As the mother of an 11 year old girl, I’ve been very conscious since day one to never talk negative about myself or my body in front of her as I struggled with those things during high school and college. Unfortunately she’s hearing these messages loud and clear outside of our home, and it kills me. OUR THOUGHTS BECOME OUR REALITY and we need to be very careful about how we think and talk about ourselves. Other women and girls watch and hear us – everything we do and don’t say – it’s so important to train our inner and outer voices to make ourselves stronger, not smaller. Thanks for a great post Amy!

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