This is our little girl!
She loves to dance. In fact she has a habit of breaking into spontaneous dance whenever the mood takes her. She has danced in the Asda cafe, the hairdressers, in the piano lounge of a cruise ship and regularly takes centre stage at the front of our church. She is what many would call a free spirit. She is intelligent, feisty, has a cheeky sense of humour and will definitely be a force to be reckoned with in the future. When I look at her I see so much potential. She has a fire in her belly and a determination that will see her succeed at whatever she puts her mind to. As she races around the lounge my Mum and Dad often point out that it’s like going back in time. Apparently she’s my double!
If that’s the case then I really do wonder when it will happen for the first time.
When will be the first time that she looks in the mirror and notices imperfections?
When will be the first time that she starts to question her ability and her intelligence?
When will be the first time that the words of someone else will have a lasting impact and shake her confidence?
When will be the first time that she makes a mistake and just can’t forgive herself for it?
When will be the first time that she questions her worth?
You may think these are depressing thoughts to be having about your two year old daughter, but as I look around me I see lots of people struggling with thoughts like these. Many, many people believe that they are worthless.
I recently found a diary from when I was 13 years old. For those who share my eighties upbringing, it’s one of those lockable five year diaries with a generic cute cat picture on the front! Without any exaggeration, every page is filled with negative comments about my weight, my abilities, my friendships and my appearance. Luckily for me there was no social media in the late eighties. At least my thoughts have remained private and are contained in a lockable secret diary hidden away from endless followers on twitter.
The reality is that I don’t ever want my little girl to write the kind of diary entries that I used to write. I obviously don’t want my son to write things like this either but I’m very aware that I am the main female role model in my daughter’s life. It’s my make up brushes that she pinches while I’m getting ready in a morning. It’s my sparkly nail varnish that she “oohs” and “ahs” over and it’s my voice that she hears when I’m talking about myself and my appearance.
The swimming experience that I described in my first blog entry, “Taking Aim” was the catalyst for me taking stock of the way that I viewed myself compared to the way that God views me. After refusing to go swimming while with a group of friends at Center Parcs, I knew something had to change. Something snapped in my brain and I’d had enough. I identified that the one thing that was having the most damaging effect on my self worth was trash-talk. Now, trash-talking is officially something that is done to an opponent that you want to unsettle or unnerve prior to a fight or a debate. If you need any specific examples then the U.S election would be a good starting point!
My experience is that people who struggle with self worth often spend a lot of time trash-talking…themselves! I’ve already done a fair amount of work on this and it is rare that I’ll put myself down in front of you, just to “get in there first”. My problem issue is internal trash-talk. It’s the constant barrage of negative thoughts that I let have free reign in my mind. Prior to the swimming incident I had resigned myself to the fact that these thoughts were just part of who I was and that there was nothing that I could do about them. Even though they were what I truly believed about myself, I thought that if I could just find a way to work around them then I’d be okay.
Philippians 4:8-9 gave me a bit of a wake up call!
“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realised. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”
Philippians 4:8-9 (MSG)
These words created a shift in my thinking. Whether I believed the trash-talk or not was completely irrelevant. The vast majority of my thoughts did not meet the criteria set out by Paul. So, for lent this year I gave up trash-talking! Now you may argue that this is not really in the true spirit of lent but giving up chocolate was never going to happen! Instead, I put a stop on any trash-talk about my looks, weight and any comparisons to others were completely banned. Yes, there were loads of other areas where I was being negative, but I needed to start somewhere. It was only as I started to really focus on my thought patterns that I realised just how much trash-talking was going on. If I caught my reflection in a mirror I would quickly run down the things I didn’t like about myself…without even thinking. It wasn’t a self indulgent thing, it wasn’t even a conscious thing, it was just my norm! There will be some people reading this who haven’t got a clue what I’m talking about and if that’s the case then hopefully this will give you an insight into what some of your friends and family might be struggling with. There will be others who know EXACTLY what I’m talking about!
My method for tackling this was pretty straightforward. Any thought that was classified as “the worst” rather than “the best” got stopped in its tracks, simply because Paul made it clear that God just doesn’t want me to think about this stuff!
Whether you’re a Christian or not, this question remains: is your endless trash-talk making any positive difference to you?
If it isn’t, and I’d be amazed if you said it was, then I would urge you to start taking the tiny steps necessary to put an end to it. Even if it’s just for one hour a day, then set yourself the challenge to cut down the level of internal trash-talk. For me, the simple act of stopping these thoughts in their tracks helped to reduce their frequency.
So, has my lent experiment really made a difference?
The other day a clothes order arrived from Joe Browns (other online retailers are available). Due to my lack of activity recently some of the size 14 clothes I’d sent for were significantly more snug than usual. I tried the clothes on, decided which ones to keep and put ill-fitting ones in the bag ready to send back. That’s when I noticed what had happened, or more accurately what hadn’t happened. I hadn’t made any comments out loud or in my head about the fact that I couldn’t fit in those clothes. I’d acknowledged it, quietly resolved to dust off my Slimming World Membership and then carried on with my day.
The whole time I was doing this, my little girl sat on the settee watching, listening and learning and repeatedly saying, “you look beautiful Mummy.”
Paul says that I need to “put into practice” what I have learned and the effects of years of trash-talk are not going to disappear overnight. I’ve already started tackling a different issue.
Is it easy? No!
Is it worth it? Definitely!