If you’ve been following The Courage Collective, you know that its birth was the result of my own act of courage and the breaking of some long-standing negative beliefs about myself. It wasn’t until I understood more about my mind that I realized how much of what I was saying to myself was the cause of missed opportunity and self-sabotage. As I dissected the events in my life that created the voice in my mind, along with all of my values and beliefs, I couldn’t help but face some truths that I had been avoiding.
The majority of my negative thoughts are about my body and others’ perception of me. I struggled throughout my teenage years with confidence in my body as many young folks do. I was lanky and didn’t develop like some of my friends did. I couldn’t tame my frizzy hair and didn’t feel quite right in my own skin. This created a narrative in my mind that sounded like: I’m not like the others, I’m not pretty enough, cool enough, I should be more like, etc. Basically a lot of ‘not enough’s’ and ‘I don’t have’s’ that were bred from unhealthy comparisons mostly produced by the body image ideals I saw being valued around me. Looking back, I can admit that some of these stories were also constructed by the bullying that I experienced at a young age. I was made to feel like I wasn’t enough by other girls whom I sought approval from. The bullying was both verbal and physical and it led me to consistently question what others thought of me long after those bullies left my life.
Dance was also a constant in my life. It’s something that has brought me immense happiness, skill, discipline, and self-expression over the years. As I’ve grown more aware of my self talk, I’ve considered how dance has helped to shape it. On one hand, my inner voice of determination, the stamina I have to push through discomfort and challenge is from all my years of dancing. Tons of gruelling nights in a studio is enough to produce a voice that is patient, motivated, and determined. On the other hand, I have spent countless hours of my life in a mirror covered room wearing skin tight clothing where I was encouraged to compare myself to others and criticize my abilities. This atmosphere has definitely contributed to the negative stories I’ve told myself about my body. What I looked like and what others thought of me in that space mattered big time.
I lost some of myself in the chase for perfection and I talked to myself in ways that I would never speak to a friend or even an enemy for that matter. Developing awareness of my self talk and the root of which it is from has been really empowering for me. I’m not saying that these stories have gone away completely but what I am saying is that now I catch myself in the act and intentionally combat the thoughts with better ones — with the ones I want to have. Ones that sound like: You are beautiful, you are healthy, you are strong and you are enough. This awareness has also greatly changed my dance practice. I joined Army of Sass here in Toronto over this past winter and latched onto a mantra that I would say in my head throughout the entire class. It was “This is just for me.” It reminded me that I wasn’t there to prove anything to anyone, to be perfect, or to compare myself to the abilities of others.
But here’s what worries me most. If these were the things that fed my negative self talk — the talk that I still work everyday to dissolve — then what are the voices inside the minds of kids who are growing up with Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat going to sound like? Every moment of their lives is saturated with the opportunity to compare themselves to someone else and to try to display their lives as picture perfect. These are young people who are experiencing validation from the number of likes or followers they get. I know what it feels like, I’m a part of it too. And I know how much more deeply it would affect me if I were 10 years younger and less aware of the power of my mind.
Here’s the deal. You can take control of your self talk — it’s completely possible to do. You are not your mind. One thing I can say that helps is just writing about it. The process of writing this post left me feeling a little lighter today. Just grab a piece of paper and a pen and write stream of consciousness for as long as you want about what your self talk is saying. It doesn’t have to make sense. Just get it out instead of locking it inside — it’s not doing anything productive in there. If you’re interested in working with me one-one-one or in a group coaching setting to foster more positive self talk in your mind, I encourage you to see what The Courage Collective has to offer. I deliver accessible coaching to people who are ready for some serious personal growth.
You are beautiful and worthy! Don’t wait for me to say it, go tell it to yourself.