photo thanks to jess ewald
A few days ago I got a comment in my post about Rejection inviting me to open up more about something I said in one of my slides that day. In a list of things I “reject,” I mentioned “body bashing” and said that I refused to take part in the ritualistic self-degradation that makes up so much of our conversation patterns as women. I read a great article about that this year and it really turned on a lightbulb for me–it was a total “aha” moment. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t noticed what a pervasive habit my negative-self talk had become, especially socially. (I tried to find the article to link here but I couldn’t.)
“I inherited a thin frame from my mom and have felt uncomfortable in the past removing myself from body bashing sessions – I’ve been accused of “not having body issues” when I don’t participate… hypothetically because I am thin. Obviously, this is not even close to true (everyone has things they’d like to change about themselves) but I still don’t want to be a part of it, or encourage others to think of themselves in such a negative way.”
-Rachel, commenting in Radvent Day 11: Rejection
When we hear a fellow woman put herself down or say something like “Ugh, I could never wear that dress with my stomach” or “My diet is starting tomorrow,” or “I shouldn’t even be eating this,” it’s almost socially mandatory that we join in on the negativity and add our own critical self-impressions. It’s practically a bonding device used by women and to excuse yourself from the negativity by refusing to contribute can make other women feel like you’re in opposition to them personally. Remember this clip from the movie Mean Girls?
I remember the ritual beginning in junior high–”I’m so fat.” “You’re not fat, I’m fat!” repeated over and over and over in a perpetual cycle, burying us deeper in the hole of body shame. I feel so sad about that being such a normal rite of passage for young girls and if we don’t become aware of it, we’re never able to stop it and realize what a destructive habit it is. For me, this behavior really just represents feeling down. Feeling guilty about something, feeling unworthy of love, feeling like I didn’t meet my own expectations, feeling like I’m not as good as I wish I was. It doesn’t usually even have to do with my body.
View negative self-talk as a habit to conquer.
Like I said, I’ve been bonding with women about hating my body for over a decade, and at this point jumping in with the “me too”s is almost a reflex. Just start to think about how often you verbally put yourself down in front of others. Realize how pervasive of a habit it is for you in your life–maybe it’s a big problem, maybe you hardly do it at all. Take personal inventory of your self-talk habits and resolve to speak more positively about yourself. If you need support, don’t fish for a compliment by asking another woman to join you in your totally unwarranted self-shaming. Just ask for a compliment! I do it all the time because I have an average amount of insecurity! Try saying to someone you love, “Hey, I’m feeling kinda bummed. I just need some kind words.” I love giving out kind words. Most people do. And when you need extra sometimes, just ask.
When you hear someone trash-talk themselves, break the cycle.
When we speak negatively about ourselves, it’s often because we’re upset about something else. Don’t join in on the body bashing by voicing your own personal insecurities. Instead, say something like “You don’t have to say that. You’re beautiful. We’re both super-beautiful.” Sometimes I add something like “It’s just a rough day,” or “Eh, it’s about the journey, we all go up and down.” It’s a disservice to ourselves and others to deliberately look for our flaws and point them out, and there are so many ways to create emotional connections with our fellow women.
Remember, it’s not polite to put yourself down just because someone else did it to herself. Attacks like these have a significant effect on self-image, so start creating a new habit by making positive comments not only about your looks, but your accomplishments, what you’ve learned about, what you plan to do. Bestow the same grace upon other women and start to fill the hole of body shame that we’ve all dug for ourselves and give yourself some space to just be!
Ah Radvent. A.K.A. my yearly attempt to publicly manage my seemingly insurmountable self-doubt. I love these topics because the devil in me creates them to remove the facade of professionalism and consistency and materialism from my writing. I see it as a mental detox period, letting my guard down, a time to play, a time to say what I think. Eventually the outfit posts come back, the Alice letters come back, the “look what’s for sale in the store now” posts come back, the DIYs and tutorials. That’s all what I do cause I wanna make money and this method works for me right now. But December is an important and difficult mental climb for me with this project. A lot of you comment and say that you’re sorry you are behind, or you’re sorry that you’re just now catching up–stop! It’s okay! If you want to respond to these ideas, do it on your own time. Don’t force it. Don’t even do them in order, or just do one. Write it on your blog for all to see or just pen it into your bedside diary. Write in list form. Write in prose or poetry. Or just consider a response in your mind as a small, private honor to your inward consciousness. I love doing this and I love the community it creates of women (and men, I know you’re there, for example my friend Andrew and most of my male relatives). Okay enough of that.
If you have any thoughts on this post or want to share your own blog response, by all means go for freedom in the comments section below!