Most of us have an enemy living inside our heads. We are extremely cruel to ourselves.
(Reflect on this for a minute. The fact that we spend the majority of our day with someone who is being mean to us — not believing in us — is heartbreaking. No wonder so many of us overeat, drink too much and under-exercise!)
Internally, we use a belittling tone of voice and rude language that we would never use on the barista at Starbucks — let alone a loved one!
Don't believe me? Try listening to your inner chatter for the next day or so. Even better, write some of it down. Note how often your inner critic — your gremlin — makes appearances! You might be surprised by how evil you are to yourself.
The "golden rule" has to go both ways; yes, do unto others as you would want others to do unto you, BUT also do unto yourself as you would do unto others. Learn to have empathy and compassion for yourself.
(I am lecturing myself here ... my inner voice is not always kind. I am working on her, but it is a process.)
Your internal dialogue should be accurate, honest and well-intentioned.
Don't misunderstand me, though. "Self-compassion" is not a synonym for self-indulgence! Compassion has its roots in caring; care enough about yourself to make healthy choices.
Think enough of yourself to expect yourself to try. Hold yourself to high standards because you love yourself. Don't justify skipping the gym or eating cake with, "Well, Kathleen told me to be compassionate."
(Skipping the gym or eating crap is NOT compassion. Going to the gym and eating well are two key ways to show your body "love.")
So, if I am not advocating negative self-talk or self-indulgent self-talk, what am I am advocating? Compassionate, productive, growth-oriented self-talk.
Your internal dialogue should be accurate, honest and well-intentioned — based on helping yourself not hurting or belittling yourself.
Your tone should be firm and passionate — just not belittling or harsh.
Your thoughts and words should be beneficial, useful, and timely. Anxiety (future-thinking phantom thoughts) and loops of the past are not timely or useful.
Harness what you can do in the current moment to benefit your situation and mood. Let go of thoughts that feed feelings of anger, self-doubt, and resentment.
Let's say you skip your workout to sit and watch TV.
Negative self-talk: "I am so lazy. Why do I even try? Might as well have some ice cream. I am a loser."
Self-indulgent self-talk: "Who needs a workout? Kathleen told me to be nice to myself. C'est la vie. Life is worth living."
Compassionate self-talk: "I don't love that I missed the workout, but life happens. I would not mind if I had planned to miss a workout for something fun, but just to watch TV seems like a 'waste' of a skip. The question is, why did I miss it? Why did I not have energy? Why did I want to watch TV? Did I not get enough sleep last night? Did I not eat well through the day? Am I sad? How can I learn from this experience? I don't respect that I missed the workout, but I am only human."
Establish a goal to be on your own side.
Embrace that health — like life — is a process. Become aware of your choices — the tone of your self-talk being a choice — and learn and grow through your experiences. Always rigorously analyze any ACT (missed workout, negative self-talk, food binge, etc.), but do not connect the ACT to your worth as a human being.
Always address the incident rather than attacking your character. If you fall off your health horse (you're mean to yourself, you shame yourself, you over-indulge), walk yourself firmly — yet kindly and with compassion — through the experience. Note your emotions and figure out why the situation triggered you.
Reverting back is not a failure; it is an opportunity to figure out WHY, in that moment, you could not be your own best friend.