How do we be as compassionate to ourselves as we are toward others? We extend so much empathy for our friends and family, yet reserve all the judgment for ourselves. This is something we witness women in particular struggle with. The truth of the matter is, it’s hard to make good health choices when we are weighed down by shame. Wouldn’t it be much easier to go to the doctor and get our health under control if we forgave ourselves for gaining those 20 pounds? For many of us, our inner voice is our own worst critic, and we must change how these internal conversations go. Don’t be your own bully.
Weight is more than just self-control
Dr. Egan started this week’s Let’s Chat out with her perspective from years of working in obesity medicine. Women are very harsh on themselves, especially when it comes to making food choices. They view their weight predicament as something that stems entirely from a lack of control, a personal flaw that they specifically possess. This has a lot to do with society’s conditioning of how we view obesity. We internalize these messages we receive and fail to acknowledge that weight is a complex system driven by a variety of hormones and organ functions.
“I’ve seen this in every relationship with women I have,” says Dr. Ashley Wildman. She continues to tell a story about her sister who blamed her potential sleep apnea on her being overweight. Our health conditions are not punishments for our extra weight. Instead of using language that places blame, use phrases that start with “I deserve.” I deserve food that will nourish my body. I deserve a body that doesn’t get tired walking upstairs.
Show Yourself Kindness
Dr. Egan recommends visualizing giving yourself a huge and acknowledging that your struggles are human. Your brain is not broken, and it is not just a “you” problem. All of humanity has dealt with something similar.
Another area we find ourselves lacking self-compassion is parenting. Mothers everywhere struggle but feel isolated in their battles. We compare our difficulties behind the scenes with the perfect image others portray to the world. We’ll let you in on a secret: nobody is showing their worst self to the world. Other people are also having screaming matches with their sons. You’re doing just fine.
Observe Your Emotions
Dr. Egan describes the process of self-compassion as sitting with all our feelings, good and bad, and never identifying with just one feeling. Rather than trying to stifle our cravings, we should lean into them, and approach them with curiosity. Where are these cravings coming from? When we receive so much judgment from ourselves, we are constantly in a fight-or-flight mode, but we cannot escape from it, because the negativity is coming from inside our own heads.
Journaling can help us exercise more thoughtfulness towards our emotions and our slip-ups. We also can integrate mindfulness and pay more attention to the tone of our inner voice. Rather than an accusatory voice saying, “You’re so awful, you don’t drink enough water,” work toward a gentle whisper that says, “Remember to have your water.”
Here to Help you Learn and Grow
We hope you learn something from the content of this Let’s Chat, and if this inspired you in any way to work toward a more compassionate relationship with yourself, we would love to see you in our office. Our resident therapist, Dr. Ashley Wildman, will work with you to develop a kinder inner voice. Remember to take it easy on yourself!