I am an Enneagram 1. If you know anything about the Enneagram, you know that means that I am “the improver”. I am a dreamer that sees the way things could be better and I’m always striving to make those dreams reality. The flip side of this means that I’m really, really critical of many things – myself most of all. I am constantly criticizing what I do, what I say, and who I am – trying to make myself better. I’m certainly not proud of this part of my personality and part of my mid-life journey has been to try and turn that hyper-critical voice down a few notches.
I am not alone in my self-criticism. I hear similar sentiments from many of my patients. Rather than celebrating huge accomplishments and being proud of themselves for trying to improve their health, I too often hear things like “I don’t have what it takes” or “I can’t change” or “I’m not good enough”. Some of my patients say horrible things about themselves out loud to me – and if they are comfortable saying those things to me, I’m certain they are saying even worse things to themselves inside their heads. They too have a very loud self-critical voice.
Remember the old Tom & Jerry cartoons where Tom had a red devil on one shoulder and a white angel on the other shoulder – both trying to tell him to do something? I visualize that self-critical voice as that red devil – constantly talking negativity and defeat – loudly and importantly.
One of the exercises I’ve used to calm my ever-critical brain is writing. It helps me to organize my thoughts and give me some objective clarity. And one of the exercises I’ve done lately has been really powerful. It comes from a very inspirational woman named Rachel Hollis. I’ve referenced her before and if you haven’t read her books – or listened to them on audible, you are seriously missing out! Anyway, here’s something I picked up from her and I challenge everyone to do it at least once. (This can be applied to anything – but since we are on a blog dedicated to improving health and excess weight, we are going to apply it to this part of life…)
Instead of criticizing your body and berating yourself for not taking better care of it today, re-frame things. Write a letter to yourself, from yourself. Write about all the times in your life when your body was incredible. Did you play sports as a child? Did you carry a baby inside yourself? Did you grow another human life?
Those arms that you think are too big or untoned? How many times have those arms offered love and comfort to other people? How often have those arms helped you care for your family or do your job or create your art? How many times have those arms packed a school lunch or tied a child’s shoelaces or gripped the side of the car while you taught a teenager how to drive?
Write down all of the amazing things you have done with that body of yours. Write down all of the things you have accomplished in that body. Write down all the times you did things nobody thought you could.
Write from your tenacity, from the part of you that always shows up, from the exact opposite place of your fear. Write from your heart and your gut and the piece of you who always gets what she sets her mind to.
You may not love every part of your body and you might be expending a lot of energy trying to make it healthier but that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate the amazing things that body has done for you in the past. Use those experiences to catapult you toward more amazing things.
Once you are through, read that list out loud. After finishing all of those things, say “I don’t have what it takes to get healthy” or “I’m not good enough”. Those statements are going to sound weak and flimsy – and then you can discard them for good, throw your shoulders back and get to work.
You can do hard things
You have done hard things
You can do hard things
As always, if you need more, you know where to find me
Courtney Younglove, M.D.