I’m a list aficionado. I have many lists spread across multiple notebooks and technology devices. Typically these lists include things I want to do or have done, things I need to remember, etc. But a few weeks ago, I decided to make a different kind of list. I wrote down all of the stories I tell myself. These ranged from “my math skills are average” and “I’m a creative” to “I am resilient and will overcome barriers” and “empathy doesn’t come easy for me”.
Some of the words I saw on the paper cut deep. On the bright side, there was a healthy mix of positive, neutral, and negative language. However, the negative self-talk is unnecessary toxicity in my life that I’d like to kick out of my life. And the statement I wrote that I grappled with the most after I wrote my list was: “if my body is not perfect, I am not capable of being loved.”
This parallels a few others I wrote, such as “I will never have the body I want”. Despite making progress in how I view myself, these negative stories still manage to creep in through the crevices and make their presence known.
Becoming aware of the fact that I tell myself stories that ultimately become self-fulfilling prophecies was the first step. Writing and acknowledging my stories out in the open, on paper, was step two. What was interesting about step two is that I realized there was a common denominator among all of my negative statements: I am not enough.
The idea of being not enough is not new. Brene Brown touches on it in her writing, noting that this is shame manifesting itself, and is a universal feeling. Shame, as she writes, is the "intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging." The story that I wrote is shame, by its definition. She also writes than in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen. Thinking introspectively, this adds up; vulnerability has never been a strength of mine and something I continue to work on.
Now, onto step three: rewriting my stories. I wish this was the easy step, but I think this will be a long process. Each time I find myself saying “you won’t ever look like [insert body standard here] ” or “your arms are so fat” I call myself out on it. Then, I try to re-write the story into something more positive: “you are stronger than ever before; you are able to do headstands and pushups and hikes and all of those wonderful things”. Post-it notes of affirmation are scattered around my apartment with quotes of self-love and important reminders. One says that my body is healthy, my mind is brilliant, and my soul is well. Another says that I am loved and worthy of love. A third says that I am beautiful and confident, inside and out. But the bottom line of all my new stories, and what I reinforce to myself, is that I am enough. I’m faking it until I make it so one day when I tell myself I am enough I’ll accept it without question. Ultimately, this will make me kinder and gentler to myself and then extend beyond to the world around me.
Hilary is a twenty-something consultant who uses writing as an outlet to mitigate her days spent staring at spreadsheets. She’s an wannabe yogi, avid reader, and outdoor enthusiast. Her musings of being in her twenties are detailed on her blog, [www.htothesecond.com] . Find her on Instagram @adultingwithhilary.