By Dalia Abott, LMSW, RD
Experts have stated that on average we have 70,000 thoughts a day — about 3,000 every hour. Further research by The National Science Foundation revealed that over 80% of those thoughts are negative and 95% are repetitive. Basically, most thoughts are unkind in nature and highly familiar because we think them over and over again. What we tell ourselves, the daily minute-to-minute mind chatter or inner voice, is one of the most dramatic factors in determining how we feel about ourselves and the decisions we make. Ultimately what we think becomes how we behave and who we are.
For instance, think back to the last time you glanced at a mirror. What were you telling yourself? Was it something nice? Were you being critical? I often ask my clients: was it something you would feel comfortable telling someone to their face about themselves? Most often, the answer is no, and one feels a considerable amount of shame when “coming clean” about what that inner voice is telling them. Many of us have an exceptionally harsh inner critic relentlessly judging every flaw and misstep, regardless of how small or unavoidable it may be. What is worse is that since it’s an internal conversation, no one steps in to silence the inner bully.
Sadly, we are a body-obsessed nation and the cultural norm has become one where we are all unhappy about our bodies. Calling yourself “fat” or “stupid” is second nature to so many. Oftentimes while in session, clients will blatantly insult themselves and not even realize it because it has become so automatic. Starting to become aware of that “mean voice” is the absolute first step in creating change. Pay attention to the thoughts running through your mind every day, your response to a compliment, and how you speak to yourself after you may have made a mistake.
Women tend to be more critical of themselves, however we have a greater capacity for compassion. We have an inner blueprint that can help us navigate the road towards self-acceptance and appreciation. Self-compassion can create the buffer we need to silence the critic and give ourselves a much needed break.
Next, we need to learn how to create a healthier more positive inner dialogue. In essence, we need to rewrite the script. By changing the words we use and the thoughts we have, we are consequently changing our feelings and our behaviors. Instead of body shaming yourself the next time you feel like comparing and despairing to others on social media, flip the script and recognize all the positives your body offers. Take time to pause and consider all the amazing things our bodies do for us, like gifting us with the ability to create another human life and giving us the strength to engage in the activities we enjoy. Focus on statements that are supportive and encouraging. Remind yourself that you are worthy of love and respect exactly the way you are.
It may seem completely foreign and uncomfortable for you to do this at first. Do it anyway and be patient. These scripts have been given to us by society, our parents, and ourselves. It will take time to change these inner messages.
Stephen Covey once said, “The mind can be one of the most powerful forces on earth; it can be your strongest ally or your worst enemy.” Make a choice. You can spend the next 20–30 years hating yourself — sadly, I have seen it. Or you can put your foot down today, take a risk, and make a choice to do differently. Visualize the who, what, when, and where of how you want your life to be. We all know how to be compassionate to others. We know how to be kind and supportive to those around us. Choose to turn it inwards and treat yourself better. The reward: priceless.
Dalia Abott is a registered dietitian and social worker with a private practice in Woodmere. She specializes in adolescent and family therapy with a focus on eating disorders, body image, and self-esteem. She can be reached at 718-490-9232 or DaliaKAbott@gmail.com.