The Practice of Knowing, and Reflecting, on your Thoughts. You may have heard the saying, “you are what you think”. There’s a reason it’s a saying that’s as old as the hills – we can all see that there’s some truth in there. Maybe you see it more as “you become what you think”, or the other saying that’s more goal-oriented which is, “whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.
You may have heard the saying, “you are what you think”. There’s a reason it’s a saying that’s as old as the hills – we can all see that there’s some truth in there. Maybe you see it more as “you become what you think”, or the other saying that’s more goal-oriented which is, “whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
What is Self-Talk?
When we look at the body image and thought patterns we have about our body, the first place to start is to feel safe, and nonjudgmental, in becoming aware of our thoughts. The relationship we have with that little voice in our head – we call it “Self-Talk”.
Basically, this is something that is so fundamental to your daily life, you may not even realize how much your Self-Talk affects pretty much every decision you have – your attitude, how you react or respond to certain situations, and especially, how you relate to the ideas or messages in your mind, both coming internally and from the outside world.
Feeling Safe from Diet Culture
The “Self-Talk” session in Way is meant to be the first step of a very important path, maybe the most important one in your entire relationship with food and your body – it’s the path of feeling safe from the triggers and judgments/shame of diet culture.
When you feel safe from these triggers, it makes it much easier to do the self-exploration needed to listen to your body, to know what you want, and to get closer to your Peace Point.
And don’t worry if it’s not perfect – it’s hard to become immune to the subtle and in-your-face cues from diet culture, but with each step you take, you’ll know it’s right if you feel more safe, more at ease, and less bothered or flustered or letting yourself feel shame from the outside world.
A Good Place to Start Exploring Self-Talk
The way we start this path is by asking two simple questions, that you should ask and keep asking yourself to gain more awareness of your Self-Talk.
First, have you said something in your mind that wasn’t kind? (like, “I’m such an idiot!”, or, “What’s wrong with me?”).
Then, would you say this to a spouse, friend, colleague?
We’re guessing, probably not.
So why would you say it to yourself?
This may seem simple, but it can be quite profound. The average person has over 70,000 thoughts per day and the vast majority of them – about 98% – are repeated thoughts.
You may think that having negative self-talk and thoughts that demean yourself is “normal” or “everybody” has them, but respecting how much influence these thoughts have in your decisions is super powerful.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Reflecting on Self-Talk
The basis for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – one of the most widely studied and practiced forms of making long-lasting shift in behavior – is a simple formula. It goes something like this:
1-Thoughts lead to Emotions/Feelings
2-Emotions lead to Behaviors
3-Behaviors reinforce the Thoughts
It’s one big cycle. Not rocket science on the surface, but as you uncover those thoughts, reflect on where they come from, how they affect your feelings about your body, and how all of those affect your decisions around what you choose to eat.
This process of exploring, embracing, and being gentle with yourself can be a long one. You may notice something very quickly and easily, and then another thought takes a long time before you even know it’s there.
But as you practice
But as you practice, give yourself time to reflect, give yourself grace, and give yourself the gift of writing down what comes to mind. There may be difficult thoughts underneath your day-to-day life that you hadn’t realized were there, so this space and compassion in reflection is an important tool to develop. There may be gems of memories that you’d forgotten, that you can greet as if they were a long lost friend.
Being Nonjudgmental with Self-Talk
One of the most important things when reflecting on your self-talk is that regardless of what kind of thought comes up, do your best to be non-judgmental towards it. This may sound great, or easy, or simply like you hear a lot of people saying this nowadays. It may also seem hard to grasp or difficult.
The best way to start of being nonjudgmental to catch yourself labelling something as “right” or “wrong”. For example, with eating this can be an instinct you have when ordering on a menu at a restaurant, or looking at that cookie in the aisle of a grocery store, to say, “oh, I can’t have that, it’s bad.” Or this could be even more subtle, like when you get out of the shower in the morning and look at yourself in the mirror, and say “my sides have too much fat.”
These subtle self-talk comments (maybe even you say them out loud), when did they start? What was the first time you remember saying them to yourself? Were you young, maybe in high school, middle school, or even younger? Who first taught you that a cookie or menu item was “bad”? Or, that having fat on your sides was “too much”?
By going back to the earliest memories and moments, we can all arrive at the self-evident truth – someone, somewhere, taught us how to judge. Often times, they didn’t even know where the original judgment came from, but they repeat the judgment without question.
What to Do with Judgment in Your Self-Talk:
Start to look for judgment in your Self-Talk, identify it, and not get mad for having it. Greet the judgment with curiosity. Ask yourself whether the judgment has been helpful for you, or has caused you pain, maybe even misery, in your mind. Maybe the self-judgment even has changed what you decide to eat, the clothes you wear, the types of products you buy.
In identifying where the judgment came from, you now have the choice, the freedom, to continue to do it. You may find certain judgments help you. The next step, if you choose to not repeat the judging, is to begin substituting judgment with how you want to feel. Like, instead of saying “that cookie is bad”, say, “that cookie is a cookie. I’ve had a lot of them before. They bring me joy, but I don’t feel like eating one.” Or, if you really want the cookie and your body says that feels good, get the cookie.
Either way, we’re removing some external judgment or rule that’s been given to us without question. Question everything, especially judgments that make you feel a certain way or influence what you choose.
This practice is one that’s easy to start and one that will last a lifetime. There is never really a point where any of us can honestly say, “I’m fixed, and I’ll never judge anything again.”
But, by going through the practice, you may be surprised of the amazing things you uncover. How this practice builds on itself over time – you’re a rare being, we all are, so revel in the brilliant simplicity and depth of complexity, doing so with curiosity, compassion, and a wonderment of who you are.