“Let’s run you a nice warm bath, Little One,” the voice says after I’ve had a particularly grueling workout.
“Come on, out of bed, honey. I’ll put on the kettle and you can have a nice cup of tea while you wake up,” she coaxes, as I burrow deeper under the covers on a Monday morning.
It occurred to me recently that this might not be totally normal.
Especially when you consider that I live alone.
It’s the same voice that says, “Enough, already,” when I’m having a bad day and hiss a cruel, shallow insult at my reflection, and helps to keep my self-bullying in check.
It’s the voice that told me, “You’re all right,” when I cried in the shower after my fiance left. “Breathe, girl. You’re ok. You’re going to be just fine.”
It’s the voice that called me a super genius last week when I solved a fairly rudimentary math problem at work (maybe a stretch, but I’ll take it).
It’s my voice.
My internal monologue, to be precise. And I’ve recently realized she’s really, really nice.
I’m not sure when or how exactly I developed this habit of half-consciously soothing myself (with pet names, no less!) I wonder if it’s something I developed while living on my own or while living in the country, when my thoughts were often my only company, but, besides the concern that I could be developing multiple personalities, I think it’s kind of great!
My internal monologue says to me the kind of things that I would say to my friends and often, the things my kindest friends would say to me when I need to hear them.
While it’s no substitute for the wise counsel of people who love me, I think it definitely helps get me through rough days and keeps me smiling on good ones.
I wondered if I was alone in this, but reassuringly, my friend Sam says she too has a sweetheart of an inner voice, who frequently refers to her as “Baby Girl,” as she goes about her day.
So either this is fairly normal, or we both caught the same strain of weirdo disease.
Hopefully it’s contagious.
Do you guys ever pay attention to your internal monologue? What does it tell you?
It seems to be such a rare thing to find a woman who is comfortable in her own skin.
And with good reason, I think.
There are far too many people who stand to profit from keeping women insecure, preoccupied and dissatisfied with how they look, to extremely detrimental effect to women, girls and society overall.
So when I encounter one of these unicorn women, I am fascinated.
There are days when I am one myself, days when I live somewhere between “I am stunningly, sparklingly gorgeous!” and “Who cares? I have more important things to think about!”
But there are definitely days when I am not.
So, with the help of my beautifully confident cronies, I’ve come up with a list of body confidence-boosters in the hopes that I (and you, if you need it!) can have more of those radiantly self-assured days, unplagued by concerns about just how many dimples have taken up residence in my butt fat.
Be busy: Finding other things to focus on is a huge help for me. It’s usually when I’m bored or unemployed that I start fixating on my appearance. Volunteer! Work with kids, pet cats, anything that makes you more gorgeous on the inside.
Stay away from reflective surfaces: My friend Emma says she makes a conscious effort to not constantly check her reflection as she goes about her day. I like this idea a lot. I think it’s a really good idea to check in with how you feel in place of how you look, and to try not to get into the habit of obsessing. I say give yourself one sexy grin before you leave the house, in part to start the day on a positive, friendly-type note, and then also to check that you don’t have blueberries in your teeth and then let it go. Win-win!
Focus on what your body can do, rather than what it looks like: Emma says on days when she’s walking down the street and feeling a twinge of dissatisfaction with her appearance, she tries to switch her focus on what her body is capable of, and the fact that she’s able to walk at all.
As someone who has gone through walking being an excruciating ordeal where a walker assisted limp down a ten foot hallway left me ready to collapse, this little shift in perspective is really effective for me, especially when I’m feeling self-conscious about my compression stocking.
Exercise: There’s nothing like feeling healthy and energetic to improve your outlook on everything, including your body. While I typically face the un-mirrored wall at Barreworks, at some point the whole class faces the mirror and it’s often watching my beautiful muscles work while I do bicep curls that I feel just damned great about my body. I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that I’m all high on endorphins either.
Get thee to yoga: Not for the meditation and mindfulness, though I’m sure that is helpful too, but to be surrounded by scantily clad real-life people with a diverse range of body types not seen in our popular media. I find Bikram is especially good for this.
Bypass magazines featuring models airbrushed and photoshopped beyond belief(they exist, I swear! Check out Worn): Even if you’re extremely hip to the fact that what you’re looking at has often been drastically altered, there is still a sense that this is what you are meant to strive for.
Resist joining in group body lamentations: Remember that scene from Mean Girls where Lindsay Lohan is baffled by the rest of the girls’ tearing a strip off their own bodies and faces? It’s so easy to say “That’s crazy, you’re lovely… I know what you mean though, I hate my thighs” We do so love to commiserate, but is it really all that helpful in the long run?
Get rid of your ugly clothes: No matter how much you love that little dress on its hanger, if it makes you tug, cringe and just feel generally self-conscious, donate that thing immediately. Wear clothing that lets you feel comfortable and beautiful. Same goes for the “skinny jeans” you’ve been waiting to fit back into since you were 15. If you happen to lose some weight, just buy new jeans. Those old ones are just undermining the way you feel about your current size.
Get enough sleep: Sparkling eyes and a winning smile are so much harder to summon if you’re exhausted.
Extend the same kindness you would to others towards yourself and your appearance: Don’t be your own bully. When you look in the mirror and think “Stupid giant pores” tell that voice to go straight to hell. It would never occur to you to say that to someone else, so don’t be vicious to yourself.
If all else fails and you find yourself frowning unkindly at your reflection, exaggerate it, make your meanest face and then dance around like a lunatic. I have no idea if anyone else does this, but it always helps me lighten up when I’m about to give myself a hard time.