When was the last time you said something nice to yourself? Have you ever caught yourself saying, “Wow, my hair looks fantastic today!” Or, “Gosh, I’m a nice person!” I’m not encouraging narcissism, but I am encouraging kindness to ourselves. Most often (especially if you are a woman) you say things to yourself like, “I am so fat,” or “I look terrible.” Sometimes, we cut ourselves deeper, not only attacking our appearance, but our souls. We get caught up in the swirling vortex of constant self-criticism until we start to believe all the lies we feed ourselves. Then we sink deeper and deeper into unhappiness, and become more and more obsessed with ourselves and all our failings.
Everyone knows that you don’t criticize a child who is just learning to walk. When a baby falls down, we never say, “Oh, you clumsy oaf! How many times are you going to fall down? I’ve told you again and again NOT to fall down! Don’t you know that you’ll never get anywhere doing that? When are you ever going to change?” But we often talk to ourselves that way. Guess what. This is our first try at being human. We are all, figuratively, babies trying to navigate this world. When babies fall down, we say, “Oops! Get up and try again!” There is no judgement of character. There is no dwelling on the failure. There is no soul-sucking lecture. There is just an acknowledgement of effort and encouragement to try again!
We all have faults and imperfections. Thank goodness. Otherwise, how would we ever learn to help one another and develop characteristics of charity and compassion? We need to learn to have this same charity and compassion with ourselves. It is a proven fact that people improve more with encouragement than they do with punishment.
Lindsey Stirling, famous violinist who has worked with the likes of The Piano Guys and Pentatonix, gave a wonderful interview where she talked about her battle with anorexia and how she overcame it. She said she had to train her brain to think positively, just like she had to train herself to play the violin with consistent practice. (You can see this around minute 17 of the video). One part of the interview really stuck with me. She tells a story of the day her sister got up from bed, hair askew and makeup smeared all over her face. She walked by a mirror and said, “Look at that face.” Lindsey thought she was going to say how horrible she looked. But instead, her sister said, “That’s a great face!” (You can see this around 31:45 of the video. If you watch the interview, be sure to stick around for the song at the end. It is so moving and beautiful!)
I recently challenged someone I care about to look in the mirror every day and say, “That’s a great face!” to themself. They expressed doubt that they could do this, saying that they were not in the habit of lying to themselves. In other words, they didn’t like their face and thought they would be lying if they expressed words to the opposite effect. I pointed out that they had eyes that could see, a nose that could smell, and a mouth that could eat and talk. That’s more than some people have. So yes, you have a great face! Think of Stephanie Nielsen, who was burned over 80% of her body, and whose face was irreparably damaged. She went through a dark time as she recovered, but has emerged as a shining, example of gratitude and positivity.
So here is your assignment: Pay attention to what you say to yourself, both out loud and in your head. Train your brain to change your negative statements into positive ones. The truth is, you are the pinnacle of God’s creations, and that makes you pretty wonderful.
Recommended reading: The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale
And remember, if you missed any previous installments in the Happiness series, you can find them all on my Happiness page.