What Possible Sense Does It Make To Talk Ugly About Yourself?

Some days are just black and white, some are gray.

Some days are just black and white, some are gray.

I have been wobbling lately. This is tricky territory for me now, because people who’ve only known me in the last 18 months or so really only know me as this happy, positive, “overcome-anything” person. But that is not all of me or who I have always been. That self-destrucive, self-doubting saboteur still lurks within. I have been successful in maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle for over a year now, but I still have to convince myself: this is my body. These are my clothes. And since I have already proven I CAN do this, I may as well quit doubting myself and keep doing this. I have powerful new tools to deal with the negative me, but she is there nonetheless. Since I spend a lot of time talking and listening to people about their struggles, I’m pretty sure there’s a negative voice inside everyone. The trick is keeping that negative, destructive voice from becoming the only voice, from becoming your voice.

I spent a lot of years feeling badly about myself and therefore treating myself badly. It was a big, ugly cycle of awful. And since I was the administrator in charge, it was very powerful. I felt badly about my body, the things I couldn’t do with my kids, how I looked, how I compared to other women. I hated how I looked in photos, shopping for clothes, dressing up. I even felt badly about treating myself well because I didn’t deserve it. During one of these self-loathing years, I attended a taping of the Oprah show. (I wrote a letter and was invited to attend as a possible speaker. They said “speak up if you want to add something.” I sat stone silent.) There was a woman going on and on to Oprah about the hardships of her life because of her weight, and it was heart-wrenching. But it occurred to me: making bad choices is hard. Making good choices is hard, too. One leads to staying down and feeling badly; one leads to health and confidence. Choose your hard.

We have all done this, right? Found that sliver of motivation inside ourselves and set out on that journey to our better lives? Oh yes, I am the master of “The New Beginning,” and my hunch is that so are you. With fire inside of me, I have blazed through changes and started to see those amazing results! But something always happened. Something unexpected, something that threw me into a tailspin. That shiny, glittery path to happiness did not really go the way I had envisioned it, and at the first roadblock, I was ready with the label: Failure. What a sweet, seductive word “failure.” Because once I had failed, I had proven myself right, that I COULD NOT. And in failure lay the freedom to stay down and engage in any self-destructive behavior I wanted. To get cozy in my defeated world of “I told you so.” Such a comfortable, familiar place. And comfortable and familiar were acceptable substitutes for happy and healthy.

At some point I was talking to a friend who had made a lot of life changes, and things had not gone how she had planned, and she confided to me that she felt like a failure. Now I can call myself a failure all day every day, but I don’t like anyone to insult my friends and family. So this “failure” label hit me hard, especially for someone I cared about and saw as anything but a failure. So I asked her, “Are you done? Have you quit, is it over for you?” “No, of course not,” she said. I explained that I understood failure to be an assessment of an outcome, an event that is complete and had an unsuccessful ending. So, if she was continuing on her journey, and facing another day with her faith and her dreams inside of her, how was it even possible to be a failure? If you burn the cupcakes to hard, charred lumps, the cupcakes are failures. But do you curse yourself and the cupcakes as failures at every point during the preparation?  If you spill the sugar, get a piece of eggshell in the batter, and burn your finger while putting those babies in the oven, do you declare them a disastrous failure before you’ve even set the timer? Plus, I have to tell you, if they do come out burned? It’s not over, it’s not automatic failure. It’s either time to start a new batch or head to the bakery.

Cupcakes from Debbie, Melissa, Ashley, Beth and Maria!

Cupcakes from Debbie, Melissa, Ashley, Beth and Maria!

Because of my blog, my friends like to share their triumphs and struggles with me. I’m not always warm and fuzzy. I just told a friend that if she has a “bad” day, she should eat a carrot, slam some water, do 5 pushups, and smile. Don’t forget that you can do this, so believe it. But it’s not about being “skinny.”  It’s about remembering that AT ANY POINT, any day can be turned into a success. You just have to decide to do it. YOU have to DECIDE to DO it. What do you need to do today so you can go to sleep happy with yourself tonight? Do that. It might feel a little bit hard, but that’s only because you have to be conscious and mindful of what you are doing, which in itself feels very different from that mindless auto-pilot mode. But it will not be hard tonight when you feel a tiny bit proud of yourself as you fall asleep.

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