Do a thought experiment with me. Think about the last time you intended to do something new or out of your comfort zone, and you decided NOT to do it. Maybe you pulled out of skydiving last minute, or you were all signed up for an exercise class you weren’t sure about and decided not to go. Maybe you thought you would make a career change but didn’t quit your job. Or maybe it was smaller – you thought you would wear your sexy new dress to your anniversary date night and changed right before you left.
What stopped you? When we run into situations like this, it often feels like an invisible force is pressing against us, telling us no. If we listen a little harder, we can hear exactly what that voice saying.
This voice is your inner mean girl, or your inner critic. It pops up a lot when we’re about to do something new. I came into contact with my inner critic while I was a fitness instructor (ironically trying to boost my clients’ self-esteem), and have made great strides in stopping her mid-sentence whenever she pops up to say something belittling to me. Today I want to talk about how you can tap into what she’s saying and what to do about her.
What does the inner critic say?
It’s different for everyone. I’m going to focus on body image in this post because it’s my area of speciality when it comes to breaking my clients free from this kind of thinking. Examples I’ve heard from my clients are “Please fix me. I’m so gross. My muffin top is disgusting, look at it. Look at these chicken wings. I have plans to go to Hawaii and I need to get rid of this flub. I can’t wear a swim suit looking like this. Why am I even bothering trying?”
My own biggest example that still impacts me now and then are my thighs. I would look at myself in the mirror, and at first, I would only feel bad about myself for some reason. Then the mean girl voice became clear. “My thighs are disgusting,” I thought, “I’m never going to get this figured out.” First, bringing awareness to this voice gave me some ammunition against her. After all, it’s better to know where your enemy than have them invisible! Once you allow yourself to get clear on what the mean girl is saying, you get to shut her up!
How to silence the mean girl
There are a few tactics, but I find that the one that works well in any moment is what I call the “Cancel Cancel Cancel” tactic. You may have noticed that once a negative thought is swirling around upstairs, it can easily grow and manifest into this huge ugly thing where you end up down the rabbit hole of all the mean thoughts you have ever thought about yourself.
The Cancel Cancel Cancel technique stops this cycle. Once you know what the mean girl says, you can recognize what’s happening and shut her down. When my mind went to my thighs in a negative way, I would stop my thought halfway through a sentence and say “Cancel Cancel Cancel!”. Saying it three times gives you time to think of an empowering counter-thought.
My counter thoughts sound a lot like this: “My thighs are so strong, and they are in the process of becoming even stronger.” Pick something you can genuinely hold onto and begin to believe.
This is not an overnight fix. However, I stuck to it, and after a few months, the negative thoughts ceased about my thighs. They’re always going to be muscly instead of willowy, but now I love them that way. I love their strength and power, and I love wear multi-coloured tights to show them off. I honestly never thought I would get here. You can too!
A Note on Negative Motivation
You’ll sometimes hear people say “You need to be unhappy with your body in order to work towards change. If you say you love something you hate, you’re being fake and idealistic.” I disagree with this. We need to advocate for ourselves… in fact, we need to be the biggest advocates of ourselves in the whole world because no one else is going to be. Sending energy out to the universe and hoping to transform into a swimsuit model is probably not going to work, but focusing our attention on where we are going and all of the good things, instead of how mad we are about where we are now, drives powerful positive change.
And for the record, you don’t need to dislike what you see in the mirror to change. It is possible – and in fact absolutely imperative – to both love yourself and want to change. But that’s for another blog 😉
In the meantime, try this out! Just choose one mean thought, bring awareness to it, and try out that Cancel technique.