Re-posted from Secure Woman... it's so good not to share...
It's 7:30 a.m. and Annaliese has just woken up to get ready for school. She is 8.
Looking in the mirror, she takes in her hair, her wide set eyes, her chin before concentrating on the rest of her reflection, wishing and hoping it would miraculously change. She equates everything she sees in her skewd mirror with her self-worth. It starts with the physical and then moves onward to her personality, her flaws. Aggravated and upset, she starts to berate herself in the mirror. "You're so ugly and stupid and fat and know one likes you," she cries at the mirror, clenching her fists and blinking away her tears. She's so engrossed in her tirade that she doesn't see the wrong in what she's saying. The fists come next, laying punches in the stomach she thinks is too big, the thighs she wishes were thinner and her head where these thoughts rage day-by-day, minute-by-minute.
It may sound extreme but it's not a new scenario although it's quite alarming when an 8-year-old utters the phrases that many women tell themselves daily. We look at our faults as a long list of should haves. We should have stayed two hours at the gym instead of one, we should have not had that donut at the morning meeting, we should have gone to another college, taken another course, or should have stayed longer or worked harder at the office today. The list is exhausting and customized for each woman, but what remains consistent is the length of that list and the fact that we look on it and add to it over and over again. At 8, at 18, 28, 38, 48 and so on until we break the cycle.
But where does this cycle of negative self-talk come from? It's not ingrained in our DNA, nor are we fed it while in the womb. We learn it from our environment, whether we listen to our parents talk negatively about themselves or they direct it at us. We learn it from society and its opinions on what is beautiful and worthy and what is not. And, often it's easier to look at what we think is missing in us than to list the attributes that make us unique individuals. And, it's exactly this practice of listing our pros that will break the cycle.
While many corporations still feed into our inner guilt, there are a few that step out of the box and into a way to inspire rather than tromple our psyche. It's an extreme example, but just look to the Maxwell House Optimism is Catching campaign, and in particular the commercial that shows a little girl standing in the mirror being her own cheerleader and telling everyone (and herself) exactly what she loves about herself and her life. Yes, it is extreme, but the message is dead on. Instead of berating yourself with all of the should haves and a supposed lists of negatives, be your own cheerleader and list daily the things you do like about yourself. It could be physical, but it also extends to the things you excel at - sports, school, music, art - whatever it is, celebrate it and celebrate you.
And even our faults are not as dire as you may think, and it may be what someone else thinks is endearing. That person should be you. Every foible, every asset adds up and makes us the unique individual, and that is definitely worth celebrating.
The process is hard - it's like a cult deprogramming. It takes time, practice, repetition, and sometimes you may slip. After all, you've been doing it for years. But when you do and you feel your fists clench and your teeth grind at something you don't like about yourself, remember that little girl and ask yourself if you would say the same thing to her as you would to your own mirror reflection. It's extremely easy to be a cheerleader for someone else. We can boost anyone up whose having a bad day and a barrage of bad thoughts. It's another thing to do the same for ourselves. It's about time we start.