I recently read a social media post from an acquaintance who, after having her third child, was ready to embark on a weight loss journey. As part of her motivation, she bought some new workout clothes, and hit the gym. When she arrived, however, she saw what she described as a younger, “super fit” girl wearing the exact same outfit, and her confidence and determination faltered.
“It was like looking at a before and after picture,” she described.
Her post made a big impression on me. This is an attractive, intelligent, woman who is a good wife and mother, and an active member of her community. It was troubling to me how quickly she lost sight of those things and instead just saw a “before” photo of a middle aged woman trying to lose weight.
Sadly, her story is not unique. As a fitness instructor I see women every day who constantly put themselves down. Beautiful, smart, funny, successful women who can’t see past those last 10 pounds, or stretch marks, or crow’s feet. They become so caught up in the comparison game that they fail to see their own strengths and often become their own worst enemy.
Trust me, I get it! I, too, can get caught up in the negative self-talk pretty quickly when I am having an “off” day. I encourage my clients to focus on the positive attributes they possess rather than obsessing over the things they’d like to change, but I don’t always practice what I preach. Which makes me wonder, why is it so hard to be kind to ourselves?
To me, being kind to yourself means accepting yourself exactly as you are and honoring your feelings, emotions, and needs. It means getting rid of the things that weigh you down or bring negative energy into your life. Being kind means listening to your body and giving it the food, rest, and exercise it needs to keep you healthy and feeling your best.
Cultivating kindness towards ourselves doesn’t mean that we won’t ever have a negative thought about ourselves again. It is a process. A big part of that process is learning to recognize the things that trigger our doubts and insecurities and make a conscious effort to shift our way of thinking. Here are a few of the things that work for me.
Avoid Comparisons: I know this isn’t easy—especially in the fitness world. As I told my friend who felt like a “before” photo, maybe the “fit chick” was admiring her curves. You don’t know someone else’s journey so don’t let it take you off of your own path. Focus on you.
Listen to your body and honor what it needs: There is no better way to be kind to yourself than to practice self-care. Whether that means taking a long hot bubble bath, curling up with a good book, turning off your phone for an hour, or sleeping in on the weekends. Whatever it is that lets you connect with yourself and recharge your batteries, do it.
Be kind to someone: If you are having a hard time getting out of your own head, try doing something kind for someone else. Give someone a sincere compliment. Say hi to a stranger. Tell someone what he or she means to you. Taking time to make someone else feel good can go a long way in giving you warm fuzzies too.
Be your own bestie: Think about your best friend. Would you tell her that she was too fat, too old, or too anything but fabulous? Of course not! So be your own best friend—give yourself the pep talks, pay yourself a compliment. There are plenty of people who will criticize you—don’t be one of them!