Last week I talked about how we’re so used to paying attention to ourselves in a negative way that we don’t even realize how much energy we spend on doing that.
Being kind to yourself takes the same amount of energy and feels way better.
However, to convert your brain, that is going to take some extra energy at first.
Criticizing yourself feels easy because that’s what you’ve trained your brain to do. The words come out naturally and don’t take a lot of thought.
Some of the most common “mean mantras” I hear women say to themselves are:
“I’m so fat.”
“I have no willpower.”
“I’m such a loser.”
You will need to consciously spend some effort to catch your mean words and decide in the moment to switch them to a kinder soundtrack. Think of it like changing the station on the radio.
When you hear a mean mantra in your head or fly out of your mouth, immediately swap channels to station K-IND—“All Love, All Day.”
What’s the kindest, most loving thing you could say to yourself that still feels true?
Instead of “I’m so fat,” try switching to “The current shape of my body is only temporary.”
Instead of “I have no willpower,” try “My brain is currently set on this old set of habits, but I’m in the process of changing that.”
Instead of “I’m such a loser,” say “My habits are driven by my brain, not by my character. I’m a great person with a faulty set of programs in my brain, and I can install new programming that serves me better.”
Notice how I didn’t swap from “I’m so fat” to “I’m so thin.” Your brain is not going to buy that. In fact, it will say, “No you’re not!” which only reinforces the original thought of “I’m so fat.” This is why certain affirmations don’t work. If it’s not believable to you, then your brain will not accept it.
The thought “The current shape of my body is only temporary” is more neutral. Your brain can accept it as truth—plus it feels way better.
When in doubt, think about how you would talk to a friend. You would never talk to her the way you talk to yourself, right? You’d be kind and supportive. I invite you to use that same voice when talking to yourself. It may feel awkward at first, but that’s only because your brain is not used to it.
Just like anything else, adopting a kinder soundtrack is going to be a practice.
Once your brain converts to kind self-talk as the norm, any random mean thoughts that pop up will feel out of place. It’s pretty cool when that happens!
I invite you to do an exercise here to come up with your own K-IND Thoughts. Get a pen and a piece of paper and jot down the top three mean things you say to yourself on a regular basis. Don’t judge yourself for thinking this way; just allow yourself to become aware of your current inner dialogue.
Now, next to each mean mantra, come up with the kinder thought you want to think instead as you choose to switch the radio station channel in your mind. Once you have your new set of kinder thoughts, write them on a note card, a Post-it, or set it as the screen saver on your phone so that you can be reminded to choose the kinder thoughts whenever you hear the mean ones pop up.
As you’ve learned on the Practice Project, repetition is key. The more you repeat your desired thoughts and actions, the more your brain learns to set them as the new autopilot setting. This change can take weeks, so keep up with your practice—even if you fumble. No big deal, just pick up right where you are and keep moving forward.
You can do this. I believe in you.