Imagine having a friend who was extremely critical and disparaging about almost everything you did: what you wore, the marks you were getting at university, the packet of chips and lollies you ate at lunch. Imagine having a friend who blatantly highlighted your physical imperfections every time they looked at you: the bump on your nose, the pimple on your forehead, the acne on your face or the stretch marks on your legs. Indeed, most of us – if not all – would never treat a friend in such a derogatory way, and would certainly not tolerate this behaviour from another person. Such critical remarks are hateful, heartless, and are simply not acceptable.
However, there is one person who has the ability to say such venomous remarks without even being questioned. One person who can tear into your insecurities time and time again, making you feel worthless. One person who alludes to your flaws, weaknesses, and failures day in day out. Meet yourself.
Yes, it seems ludicrous – almost unbelievable – that your worst enemy in this entire world is you.
The reason that this notion seems utterly ridiculous, is that for years we have become accustomed to the negative voice in our minds. As this voice has grown louder and louder we have ceased to try and block it out, but rather have learnt to accept it. We tolerate being told repeatedly – every single time we look in the mirror – that our legs are too short, our stomach is fat, or that we are just plain ugly. Consequently, the scathing remarks that we say to ourselves are not regarded as cruel or relentless, but rather they are a part of the normal dialogue that repeats through our minds.
I recently became acutely aware of this when having a conversation with a group of close friends. The conversation somehow led to everyone openly discussing the things they wish they could change about themselves: “my teeth”, “my legs”, “my eyes”, the list went on. Indeed, I also chirped into the conversation, revealing some of my insecurities. Later reflecting on this I realised the disparity between how I perceived my friends compared to how they perceived themselves. When I looked at my friends I certainly didn’t see the endless flaws or imperfections that they worried about, but rather I saw beautiful, intelligent and hilarious young women.
It was this small thought that made me realise how unnecessarily critical we all are on ourselves, and I was determined to take steps to change this; starting with becoming a better ‘friend’ to myself. For instance, when I looked in the mirror, instead of automatically directing my attention to something I desperately wanted to change, I consciously made an effort to say something positive. If I was having a bad skin day, I reminded myself that the pimples on my forehead would not look like the size of the moon from someone else’s perspective. If I looked bloated after a meal I told myself that this was completely normal. Surprisingly, these little changes to my mind set made quite a substantial difference to my mood and confidence.
Whilst the negative and critical voice in our mind is relatively fixed and ingrained, I believe we definitely have the capacity to challenge it. We have the power to change the hateful voice that constantly reiterates we’re not good enough by reminding ourselves of our positive attributes. Focus on your beautiful smile, contagious laugh, pretty eyes, intelligence, good sense of humour: anything that you love about yourself. Indeed, challenging such negativity may be exhausting and demanding at times. Yet the long-term benefits – of confidence, self-belief and assurance – makes it all worthwhile.
This post originally appeared on Me To You and was republished here with full permission.
You can follow Emma Bourke on Instagram @emmabourkee