Did you know that 91% of us are dissatisfied with our bodies? That 97% of women have at least one “I hate my body thought” every day?
In my online course Herbal Medicine for Women we take a deep dive into our own behaviors so we can help our clients/patients, and ourselves treat ourselves with more understanding and compassion. The value of practicing radical self-acceptance to improve health is vastly undervalued in conventional medicine and in how most of us were raised. More likely, we were raised to be hard on ourselves and to feel we’re never doing enough or doing it “quite right.”
Just yesterday, Dianna, one of my Herbal Medicine for Women students, shared the following in the process of understanding her own self-judgment:
I’m in the process of becoming a certified yoga teacher. As one of the older class members, a pregnant mom of two toddlers, I’m easily fatigued in class. I’m not as strong and flexible as some of my classmates. I find myself repeatedly frustrated – even angry – at the end of a difficult class. I tell myself that I should already be able to do certain poses or I shouldn’t have to rest. I realize that I often harshly criticize myself – I judge myself as a mom, parent, and wife. I actually feel constant pressure to be better/stronger/more…more…more.
You might not be training to be a yoga teacher and you might not be pregnant or have toddlers, but I bet you can relate to being too hard on yourself!
Dianna is not alone. Nor are you. I get literally hundreds of such homework responses from my students pouring out their own version of how they beat themselves up for not being enough in their lives. My patients tell me they experience this inner pressure too. Sometimes almost constantly. It comes out in a million ways, from the “I hate my body” thoughts they have each day to binging on chips, cookies, or other sweet, fatty, or salty foods that momentarily give them a feeling of relief from the overwhelming, fatiguing, striving to always be better at something – their diet, their work, their exercise plan, as a mom, wife, you name it.
I’ve discovered that if there’s anything we women have in common other than vaginas, it’s self-blame, self-criticism, and sometimes, even self-loathing. The self-health movement, pushing us to always be more spiritual, healthier, cleaner, and thinner, and the attachment momma movement that makes some mommas feel that any time away from baby is a crime, just adds to the problem for so many women.
Many women feel a constant pressure to BE BETTER, LOOK BETTER, and DO MORE. It’s exhausting them. So is the negative self-talk. Not only is it exhausting, it’s harmful. It keeps us in overdrive and overwhelm – stuck in the on position. We feel we’re never able to do enough, do it all, or take downtime, yet we say yes to doing more, we exercise harder, stay up later to get more done, all in compensation for feeling we’re not enough just with who we are and where we are and what we’re doing right now.
Being in a constant self-push can drive you right into adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal fatigue is dangerous. It can disrupt your sleep, hormones, weight, immunity, and memory and concentration. It causes us to have cravings for fat, sugar, and salt. It makes us insulin resistant, and gives us weight around our bellies that causes inflammation and is really hard to take off. It makes us irritable, moody, anxious, and depressed.
Enough is Enough
I’m calling it. Enough is enough.
You’re enough, I’m enough. And enough to all of the messages that tell us we’re not enough – the media, the too skinny models, the self-help gurus and weight loss celebrity doctors always pushing the next diet or cleanse – and to our own inner voice that hammers us with that message.
It’s time to become our own best friends. That doesn’t mean we can’t try to lose weight if we need to, get our yoga teacher certifications, or set goals for high achievement. Our goals just have to start from a place of self respect and inner validation. We’re doing it because we want to, not because we’re not good enough without it.
Be Your Own Best Friend
None of us would ever talk to or push our best friends the way we push and judge ourselves. No, we’d bathe them with love and we’d tell them they are enough! Being your own best friend is a comforting and encouraging way to be in the world. It’s also powerful. It’s about talking to ourselves and treating ourselves they way we would someone we really love. It can also spare your adrenals from being in overdrive and help you to resolve many adrenal-fatigue related symptoms as a side effect!
1. Interrupt and talk back to yourself
When you hear the chatter (or full on holler!) of negative self-talk telling you you’re not enough, that you’ve got to do or be more, talk back – do battle with the negative inner dialogue! You have permission to interrupt with a new message, because …
- You are so worth taking amazing care of.
- You are gorgeous, delicious, and lovable.
- You, lady, have arrived and have everything you need.
- You, honey, are enough. And then some!
- You belong.
- You deserve to feel the way you want to feel.
2. Send yourself love letters
I write letters to myself in my journal as if I’m writing to a dear friend. I remind myself to be kind to myself; I give myself advice and solutions to my problems. I tell myself I’m awesome when I need to hear it. I’ve taught my students to do this in the women’s herbal medicine course. They LOVE it. It has transformed some of their lives.
If you don’t keep a journal, leave yourself love notes and reminders on stickie notes, write in eyeliner on your bathroom mirror, pop a note onto your dashboard, or write one special reminder word right on the palm of your hand for the day! If you can’t think of something good to say about yourself at first, do a trade with a girlfriend and write out love notes to each other to use and trade.
3. Set SMART goals for yourself
A SMART goal is one that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Emphasis on the realistic, because it’s often super high achieving women who are most likely to be the hardest on ourselves. We take on too much, end up feeling overwhelmed, and then the self-flagellation starts. Pare back on what you’re taking on at any one time by sitting down and asking yourself 3 questions:
- What do I really HAVE to do right now? (i.e., taxes may fall into this category)
- What do I really WANT to do/take on right now?
- What can I realistically get done in a set amount of time?
For items that must get done, knock them off first, especially if they’re things that you don’t really want to do (like taxes) but must – or see if you can hire out some or all of the job. When you decide what you really want to do, then decide how much time it will realistically take you – then add 30% more time to that, because as humans we have a trait that makes all of us underestimate the time it takes to complete tasks and projects. Then prioritize all of the things you really want to do. Pick 1-3 that you can realistically get done in a reasonable amount of time, i.e., a day, week, month, or 3 months. Put the rest aside and take on only those when your top priorities are done. By the way, when you are reflecting on what you really want to do – ask yourself why. If your reasons for doing it are internally motivated, then that’s a great project, but if you’re doing it to impress others, because you feel inadequate without this or that degree, or some other less than clear reason, consider whether that’s a healthy project, or whether it’s part of the “beating yourself up for not being enough” pattern.
4. Count your daily wins and give yourself a regular pat on the back
As women, we tend to be hardwired to think of all the things we didn’t get done, rather than giving ourselves credit for the things we have accomplished – small or big. Make it a practice each evening before dinner or before you go to bed to recount at least one thing you did that day that made you feel really good about yourself – whether that was holding a door open for an elderly person at a grocery store, saying something kind to someone, or checking some things off of your to-do list that have been nagging at you. Get used to giving yourself a pat on the back for jobs well done. We all deserve praise, and who better to get it from than our own best friend!
5. Treat yourself to some self-care and give yourself Permission to Pause™
Have you ever gotten a massage and during it cried because it had been so long since you fully relaxed or did anything nurturing for yourself? If so, then you are in need or more self-care! Take yourself out for a regular spa date, a yoga class, a luxurious slow afternoon with a book at a cafe sipping tea, take yourself to a movie – or at least create a special bath time with bubbles and oils and candles. Loving your beautiful self from head to toe regularly is a surefire way to tell that nasty self-talk gremlin that she’s not welcome! Also, there’s nothing like a regular dose of self-love to keep you on your game. High-performance athletes and business people know this and make time for recharging and rejuvenating, getting massages, hitting the spa, or getting outdoors to unwind, clear their heads, and decompress.
6. Get toxic people out of your life
I once had a “friend” who would always say things like, “You look so much better than when I ran into you last,” or “It’s amazing how much you can get done with little kids at home; I would never be a working mom.” Though I’d have been feeling great when I’d run into her, I always walked away with self-doubt. “Do I look tired?” “Am I not a good enough mom?” Eventually I realized that though she was pushing my self-doubt buttons, the negativity was her stuff, and I didn’t enjoy being around her and I had no reason that I had to. Sometimes releasing a toxic relationship helps you to clear out the negativity clutter in your own thoughts.
7. Cut yourself some slack – practice radical self-compassion
There are a million little things that come up in life that can make us judge ourselves. We fail at something new we try, we hurt someone’s feelings, we fall off the wagon on a diet or exercise plan we really wanted to stick to, we aren’t where we wanted to be at this time in our lives, we see someone achieving something we want and feel incapable of…
Radical self-compassion means that we talk to ourselves with kindness, encouragement, care, love, softness, gentleness, acceptance, and forgiveness. It’s how we’d talk to a best friend who was going through a setback.
While loving yourself may seem to have little to do with achieving your goals, whatever they are, interestingly, practicing radical self-compassion has been shown to be the quickest way to get back on track with our plans and goals whereas beating ourselves up only perpetuates falling deeper into a rut, and off the path we really want to be on. So have at it. You deserve it!
Want to learn more about adrenal fatigue, self-care, and natural medicine? Stay tuned for the Herbal Medicine for Women Summer Sale, starting June 20th!
More information to come in your email inbox next week.