It is a shame that we speak so negatively about ourselves. In the supermarket, on the telephone, at a party, in the workplace – anywhere you go, at least one person, men and women alike, will nonchalantly state:
“I am so fat.”, “I hate my _____.”, “I can’t do that.”, “My idea is stupid.” And so on…
What we do not realize is that the way we talk rubs off on others, making it seem commonplace and even acceptable to speak with such negativity. Both adults and impressionable young ones alike hear casual yet degrading comments made by those around them and unconsciously bring this kind of vocabulary into their own day-to-day life. We are breeding a society of Less-Thans who are consistently feeling inadequate.
This is a very real virus I call Casual Negativity.
We use it – and hear it being used – all the time. Don’t get me wrong, we all have bad days. We all have those days where we just don’t like the way our jeans fit or skin looks, or see roadblocks everywhere and want to give up. However, too many of us bring up these instances without even thinking. Without finding a solution. Without recognizing that the emotion is not the situation itself. We’ll nonchalantly fling around that we look “huge” or “hate” our bodies, with the flippancy we would use to comment on the sky’s color. I have been in rooms where the women seem to almost compete to see who is more flawed. Who can win the self-loathing battle? Who has the most problems?
We allow our moments of excellence to be obscured by our moments of darkness and this permeates our lives. Need proof? Go visit any website that calls upon public opinion. When it’s good, it’s good. Meh. Whatever. Crickets. But when it’s even a hint of bad? The sirens are blaring.
Why on earth are we so mean to ourselves?
For as long as I can remember, I had a pretty D-rated self image. Self confidence, yes – but aesthetically speaking? Horrid. The struggle sucked. I’d hang onto my highs for dear life, in fear of the lows that could be lurking just around the corner. And the lousy part is, so much of it had been (and continues to be) self-induced due to the influence of all I “learned” from those around me. I don’t fault any specific person, but rather the surroundings in which I was raised. How often is it that we hear others trash-talking themselves with no emotion even attached, as if they were commenting on the stock market? (Side note: I actually think I’ve heard more verve in remarks about Wall Street than in remarks about our bodies.)
Casual negativity has become our vernacular. It is disrespectful and damaging, and the disrespect and damage is not exclusive. Every time you put yourself down, you are turning your nose up at your parents, your siblings, your extended family, your friends, your lovers, your coworkers, your bosses, your role models, your mentors, your teachers – every single person who has ever entered into your life. Those are the people who have shaped who you are in this very moment. We are all interconnected. We are a team. We are a pack.
I remember hearing the adult women in my life comment on certain parts of their bodies as if they were ugly appendages. I remember being called “perfect” in middle school just as people were called “four-eyes” or “metal-mouth”. I remember jokes being made by friends at my expense, under the understanding that “we love you, we are just so close to you that we are ALLOWED to tease you.” I’d laugh along, but they always made me feel below others. It’s no wonder I grew up to be self conscious, self critical and extremely sensitive to anyone, thinking that if I walked with confidence, I was “vain”.
There is nothing wrong with looking at yourself and thinking you are completely, 100% amazing and smokin’ hot. That is healthy. That is power. That is confidence. And confidence is not synonymous with narcissism or vanity.
Once you learn to recognize it, the omnipresence of casual negativity is jarring. It is everywhere, and unintentionally so. It is like we are all supporting each other’s downward spirals into self loathing. Who hates themselves the most? Who has more flaws?
In many cases of disordered tendencies, Casual Negativity plants the seeds for much bigger struggles. One comment or remark might not be the catalyst, but it lays the grounds and readies the opponent. It only takes one blow to send the already bruised mind – and body – down.
There are days it literally hurts my head and my heart and my soul to put on my curve-hugging workout gear. More days than I’d like to admit, actually. But if I cannot recognize it and be honest about it, then there’s no way I can ever overcome those feelings. I need to recognize these moments for what they are: moments. I’m all for acceptance, not avoidance. They are not permanent and they are not to simply become stitched into my speech pattern.
When you find yourself using Casual Negativity, ask yourself: “Why am I really saying this? Where does this stem from? What can I do to change this Negative into a Positive?”
Display pictures of yourself in which you see yourself at your happiest and most comfortable. See the beauty in these moments. Take offense when others use Casual Negativity. By putting themselves down in front of others, they add to the problem. Kindly (or even with a touch of humor) ask them to stop berating themselves, then point out their positive characteristics.
Never use Casual Negativity around children or young adults. Monkey see, Monkey do. And along those lines… teach the younger generations in your life by example: eat nourishing foods, exercise for the joy of movement, see nothing as unattainable and always be proactive.
If you find yourself in the midst of a negativityfest, redirect the conversation – and fast. Ask for advice or input, share a fun or interesting story, or ask about something great someone else recently accomplished.
Realize that our bodies are all different and unique. This is due to biological science. No one can choose their DNA polymers.
Eliminate the word “perfect” from your vocabulary. It is nonexistent. Or give it a mental addendum: “Good and Bad included. Perfect in this moment.”
We are all allowed to have days during which we feel self-conscious. Heck, that is part of being human. Yet when the “bad” days become the “good” days — when casual negativity runs rampant — that is when we need to stop and think about what we are really doing and saying, and what we are promoting. Expectations are high and negativity is abound. Mindful acceptance and confidence is the medicine to defeat this virus, whether the epidemic is manifested via others or via that negative voice of your own that comes out unprecedented.
There WAS a time, even if it was way back in ancient history, that your self-image was untainted.
Remember that? Those days you needed permission to eat dessert? Those days you needed permission to play outside?
You officially have permission to love yourself once again.
This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, which runs from February 26 through March 3. For more information about NEDA, visit their home on the web at www.nationaleatingdisorders.org
Just because it’s the Now doesn’t mean it has to be the Forever. Be proactive, not reactive, and know that whether it be Casual Negativity that is depressing you or a full blown Eating Disorder that has you in its evil grip, you are stronger than any of these forces. You can and will exit this tunnel and enter back into the sunshine. Here are a few favorite blogs, books, and organizations to remind you, or someone you love, that none of us alone. There is no shame in the journey you are on – highs and lows included.
Eat The Damn Cake – A blog about body image, beauty, individuality, and (of course) dessert. Kate writes with quick wit and refreshing honesty about everything we’re usually thinking but can’t quite put into words.
Operation Beautiful – The concept is simple: use a post-it note to leave anonymous empowering messages wherever you go. The result is day and sometimes life changing.
Thick Dumpling Skin – A fantastic blog by actress Lynn Chen and writer Lisa Lee; “a place for Asian Americans to share and discuss their unhealthy quest, past and present, for the ‘perfect’ body.” A wonderful resource, no matter your cultural upbringing.
Manifestation Station – LA-based yogi and “professional manifester” Jennifer Pastiloff’s blog entries define the mantra of “Be Proactive, Not Reactive.” Jen opens up about her own struggles and invites you to share yours – and then gives you tools and inspiration to “Manifest your best life right now.”
Being Perfect by Anna Quindlen
The Last Cookie Club by Gary Mahoney
Running on Empty by Ellen Sue Stern
Operation Beatutiful by Caitlin Boyle
Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink, MD
The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf