Self-judgment is one of the least effective tools we have for changing our bodies (or our lives) and yet it is often the first place our minds go when we realize our current situation is not quite how we'd like it to be.
We start blaming ourselves. The endless list of all the things we think we've done wrong starts to run like a ticker tape in our heads. "If only I wasn't so lazy," or "if I hadn't indulged in that birthday cake or drank so much with friends the other night," or "if I'd just work out more I would be better/thinner/sexier/have more dates." We let the critical voice run amok, guilting and criticizing us left and right for how clearly we've screwed up for not keeping ourselves and our bodies in check.
Oddly enough, we try to use guilt and criticism as a way to motivate ourselves into different behavior, a different body or different habits; only to find a short time later that shame-based motivation has worn out and we are back on the same roller coaster of judgment/guilt/blame. Ever wonder why 98 percent of diets fail? It's because you can't change something from a place of not liking it to begin with. Beating yourself up never changes anything in the long run.
In a culture overrun with messages of how to diet, lose weight or change your body from a place of restriction, deprivation and the belief that "something's wrong with me," how do you do it differently? How can you begin to love something you've been taught to judge your entire life?
Take it on faith if you have to, but you can love yourself into a fitter body or a smaller number on the scale. You can love yourself into feeling good in your skin. Or you can love yourself just as you are and through that love realize that nothing really has to change.
Whatever you want, it begins with accepting yourself as you are now.
Acceptance is about having choice; when we don't accept something, we don't have choices, we only have opposition. But when we accept whatever is before us, then the we are fighting against anything and the options are wide open.
Love and acceptance are the only things that ever truly move, inspire or change people in the long run.
Even when most of our cultural messages are full of criticism and ways we should be embarassed of our body, you can take it upon yourself to stop the judgment and begin to use love and acceptance as the primary motivations with your body and life.
Here are five beginning steps you can take to change the conversation from one of judgment to one of love and acceptance.
1. Start by accepting yourself as you are now. All of you -- your food choices, your habits, your physical body, your exercise routine, your mindset. This can be challenging when all you hear is the ticker tape of what you've done wrong or should be doing different. Accept your current situation. Accept that you made choices in the past that no longer serve you. Remember that everything is always changeable and acceptance is the first step to real choice about who you want to be. Anything else is just reactionary.
2. Take an inventory of where you are and what you've got right now.
- Do you exercise regularly?
- Do you drink enough water, spend time in nature, have screen free time as part of everyday?
- Do you listen to your body and make choices based on what will nourish it?
- Do you eat food that brings you pleasure and nourishes you?
- Do you do things to honor and nurture all of you, mind body and spirit?
Remember: This inventory isn't about judgment, it's simply taking stock of where you are at. Imagine if a store owner judged themselves and their sales the entire time they took inventory of their store. The point of an inventory is to take stock of what you have to work with. This isn't a place for judgment or self-criticism, so don't do it to yourself!
3. Write a desire list. Desire is difficult to feel good about when we keep beating ourselves up and thinking less of ourselves. But getting into a feeling state where you are excited, hopeful and dreaming (i.e desiring) is the best state from which inspired change happens. A few questions you could use to get started:
- How do you want your body to be?
- How do you want to take care of it?
- WHO do you want to show up as in the world?
Desires are our hopes and dreams for ourselves. No judgment or editing here. Whatever lives in your heart, write it down. No one else has to see it, this is just between you and the divine voices that listen to our dreams and desires.
Be specific. The more specific you are, the easier it will be in receiving that desire.
4. Give thanks. Before we can receive more of what we want, we have to digest what we already have. The best tool for digestion is gratitude. Include the simple to the extravagant. "I am grateful for the cool weather and changing leaves" and "I am grateful for the strength in my body and how much it allows me to accomplish everyday." Do at least 10 gratitudes, daily is best. It's amazing how it resets and focuses each day.
5. Remember that change takes time. Be patient. Be kind. Talk to yourself the way you would someone you love. Anytime you hear the judgment and critical voice creep in ask "what would I say to my friend if they were feeling this way?" And then say that to yourself.
This list of five steps may seem completely unrelated to what you've been told about weight loss or changing your body. This is merely a starting place, no list is ever going to hold all the answers for lasting change, that comes from within.
So go easy on yourself. If the judgment and criticism haven't brought you want you want, why not try something new?