Self talk. I always rolled my eyes when trainers, therapists or counselors would speak about the importance of self talk. If I wanted to hear warm and fuzzies, I’d call my grandmother. I’m a realist. I like to shoot straight. Well, when it comes to myself anyways. There is no need to sugar coat things.
But what I found was my realist words walked hand in hand with negativity. And that negativity would snow ball into straight up mean cruel talk. Why is it that we tiptoe around others, afraid of hurting their feelings (I mean apologize to the driver who pulls out in front of me) but we speak to ourselves like we’re the worst people alive? It’s insane.
So lately my homework from my therapist has been speaking to myself nicer, gentler if you will. I would say it’s been hard. It feels awkward like I’m speaking a foreign language. It’s a work in progress to say the least- I have my “student self talker” sticker stuck to my chest at all times.
Fast forward to today, and I was getting my butt handed to me during my workout. The rower is truly my definition of hell. I hate it. It hates me. We hate each other. But I found myself rowing for distance… multiple times. And with every circuit, my endurance was slipping. Our goal was to meet or exceed the distance of the circuit before- so far I kept up- but this last circuit I was struggling. I had tried to close my eyes and focus on using my legs. But the pain and tired muscles were taking over my mind. I was winded, not winded, I was panting like a dog on rower two. I was spent.
Our coach started yelling at us in an attempt to encourage us. She said “ Your body follows your mind. Tell yourself you can do it, you will do it and you will keep going.”
I was at my end. I thought, “Why the hell not? What do I have to lose?”
So I started talking to myself. I tried the whole you’ve got this pep talk. But that wasn’t working. So I decided to hit where I needed it.
So my conversation went as follows:
“This sucks but you are strong.”
“Molly, You are strong.”
“You want that goal? Work for it.”
“ Yes this hurts like hell but you are stronger than this.”
“ Keep going. Close your eyes, use your legs, pull hard and keep going. You can do this!”
I’m sure the lady next to me thought I had completely lost it. I know I looked like a fool. If it’s possible to limp across the finish line on a rower, that’s what I did but I finished. Not only did I finish, I hit my goal! I thought I was going to puke at one point or several points to be honest, but I didn’t care. I had proven to myself that I was indeed strong. I was stronger than I thought I was. The more I believed it, the better my form [on the rower] got.
Then we had to transition from the rower to the treadmill- it was time for the distance run. After all that rowing, I was seriously looking for a trash can just in case I spewed. But I stood on the treadmill, I looked myself in the mirror and told myself, “Molly be the badass you wish you were.” And I pushed the start button. I finished all three runs, and hit my goal with each. Don’t get my message wrong, I was panting like a fool and my heart monitoring was blinking red like it was trying to alert me that my heart is not suppose to be beating so fast… but I didn’t die. I made it. I finished. And I felt like a badass for those last sweet two minutes of stretching before I had to face the real world. Maybe there is something to this self talk after all.
Look, there is nothing more empowering than accomplishing a goal that you didn’t think you could. There is nothing more badass than realizing you are stronger than you thought you were. But what if this happened more than just in the gym?
On my drive home, I reflected on my last hour of torture. My body did follow my mind. So what if I could use this new found superpower in the real world? What if I could alter the way in which I react to stresses and situations just by adjusting how I perceive myself in them? What if I actually spoke nicer to myself and started to believe the kinder words that were said to me? Mind blown.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve still got my “student self talker” sticker present at all times. Mental strength is something that’s always been a work in progress for me. But it’s a work in progress I’m actually trying to focus on.
I have lived 23 out of my 30 years on this earth, thinking, feeling and believing that I wasn’t good enough. I am my worst critic by far. All those people who have negative things to say about me…. well honey you just keep talking because I can promise you, I have said WAY worse about myself to myself. We grow up hearing sticks and stones but the reality is words do hurt us. Words hurt me more than stones. Words bruise more than my skin. They bruise my heart, and my soul.
As I continue to work on speaking a little nicer to myself, I encourage you to reflect on the voice in your head. As mothers, we have to notice that our little ones look to us for example on how to do this- no pressure or anything.
I remember watching my mom look herself in the mirror when I was a young girl and hearing her throw every insult she could think to herself. She thought nothing of it. She was just unhappy with her body or her hair but it shaped me. I thought my mom was the most beautiful human being on this earth and if she hated how she looked, what was I ever going to think about myself? So I started copying her words. In the beginning because I felt it was cool. Then because the world began to tell me those words were true and real. My mom loved me fiercely as I grew up and she was my biggest supporter. She would have never in a million zillion years told me I was ugly, stupid, fat or not good enough. Never. But by telling herself that, she showed me how to speak to myself. And now as a mom, I cannot allow my daughter to follow in my footsteps. So it’s time to be a little kinder, more forgiving and gentler with myself. I’m only human after all. Completely imperfect and flawed. A true hot mess of a person. But I am also strong and a badass when I need to be. And I will keep telling myself that until I believe it down in my soul.