I know a lot of very nice people. Some of them have never heard of Body Positivity or aesthetic diversity or even catch phrases like “different is beautiful.” Almost everyone in my life is a genuinely nice person of warmth and generosity. However, even the best of us are not “nice” to one person in particular, and that’s you.
Someone once asked me the question, “If everything you thought in your head was written on your skin, would you still be beautiful?”
Our self-talk can be malicious, demeaning and downright brutal; and our bodies are often the victims of our inner bully.
I love words and using their definitions to illuminate a situation; so let’s get down and dirty with that word bully.
Merriam-Webster defines a bully as one who is “habitually cruel to others who are weaker.” Why do they do this? Typically to “intimidate and weaken others to attain power.”
So the question is, are you a bully? Are you habitually cruel to yourself? If we are being honest, I used to be.
When your life is overwhelming and you seem to be losing control, do you fall into habits of self-depreciation and internal bullying? In the interest of full disclosure I confess that I still do.
A surprising majority of us witness this internal feud as our mind plays the role of the bully by antagonizing our Body. For the sake of clarity, let’s call them our Body and our Ego. When the going gets tough, Ego seems to scream: “Whoa buddy – this isn’t my fault. It’s Body’s fault that people don’t invite us to the… That I didn’t get that job…That she said no or he never called… etc.”
Your Body is an easy target because it can’t defend itself, so your mind constantly gets to talk shit about it with zero consequences. I can’t help but wonder what my Body would say if it were given a voice of its own. Or yours, for that matter! While Ego is blabbering on about how if only my Body would change I could be happy, Body should snap back and say: “Listen Pal, I am doing the heavy lifting here. If I have a few wrinkles, scars and a stretch mark or two to show for it, then so be it!”
But sadly, we subconsciously allow our mind to berate our Body and blame it for our every problem. We live in constant belief that in order to be happy, our Body needs to change. There are some things we can absolutely change to enhance our lifestyle such as diet, exercise, vitamins, meditation, etc. However, some things we can never hope to change: medical conditions, scars that won’t fade or lines formed with the passing of time that never stops ticking. Yet even these marks of a life well led cannot be excused from the cruel perfectionism of our minds.
So this leads me to a new idea: If we will always be able to find fault with our bodies, wouldn’t it be easier to change our minds?
The bully will not go down without a fight and it will undoubtedly seek to shift our focus elsewhere. Only through intimidation and weakening others can a bully begin to feel powerful. It is in these darker and more desperate moments that our inner bully can turn our judging eyes toward someone else.
This is where the water gets dicey; so let me start out by saying that I am not perfect. I do not believe that there is anyone in the world who could claim to be perfect in this respect. If you are reading this, there is a significantly high chance that you, too, are a very nice person. But nice is different than good.
Going back to my love of words, I want to point out the most important word in our previous definition of a bully: habitually.
Nowhere in the definition did it mention someone who is born to mistreat others or is evil to the core. It points out the truth of our situation, which is as simple as our inability to pay our electric bill on time. It is a bad habit, plain, simple and innocent. In order to break this habit and create a new habit of acceptance and kindness, we have to do some serious digging around in our Ego.
We sometimes catch ourselves reacting with shock and horror when we see in someone else, that which we fear about ourselves. The fabulous author Elizabeth Gilbert writes that we often judge others only as an extension of the way we judge ourselves. When someone complains that they do not know how to start a change, I am reminded of the quote: “Show me all the parts of you that you do not love so I know where to begin.” (anonymous)
In this respect I am also a believer. My mother, and I am sure all good mothers, told her children that if someone says something mean about you, they are really telling you how they feel about themselves. Other people’s negativity has very little to do with you, and everything to do with them and how they feel about themselves. This lesson can be difficult to fully embrace until you catch yourself doing it (giving someone the side-eye for doing something different or marching to the beat of their own drum). In reality you don’t dislike what they are doing, you simply wish you were confident enough to do it, too. I am convinced that people are spending so much of their negativity on themselves that they rarely have any left for other people. This goes for Body negativity as well.
My hypothesis is this: We convince ourselves that our Ego speaks the hidden truth about what other people are thinking about us. Really people are only ever thinking about themselves. No one is thinking that you have put on weight, got a bad haircut or wore those pants yesterday because they are too busy thinking about how much weight they have put on or their own bad hair day. Our own Ego is the only bully in town. Even when we do catch ourselves having negative thoughts about another person, it is only our own irrational fear about ourselves exemplified.
Once we embrace this we can silence our inner bully once and for all. How do we begin to break this habit? As they say, the first step is admitting that you have a problem! An exercise in self-awareness and a dedication to empathy can do the trick. I found that when I manage to stop having negative thoughts about myself, I don’t have any negative thoughts about other people. Body positivity is about more than just saying that you love your Body. It is about being nice to ourselves and good to other people.