February is the month of love, and while we are quick to show love to our spouses, partners, friends, and children, we often forget to show love to ourselves. Instead, many of us (myself included) fall into the “I’ll love myself when…” trap. I’ll love myself more when I reach my goal weight. I’ll love myself more when I can zip up my favorite jeans. I’ll love myself more when I make more money, get that promotion, when, when, when. Setting those goals is great, but what about loving yourself now and along each step toward reaching them?
Several years ago, a friend was getting back into the gym for the first time in many years. A busy mom of three, she was determined to take control of her weight and make positive lifestyle changes. To motivate herself, she bought some cute new clothes to wear to the gym, but on her first visit, she noticed a woman whom she described as a “super fit size two” wearing an identical outfit.
“We looked like a before and after picture,” she told me sadly.
Her discouragement made me reflect on how hard women are on themselves. My friend is intelligent and beautiful. She is a loving wife and mother. She is passionate about global issues and fights for the causes she believes are essential. She has thick, curly hair and a smile that radiates genuine warmth. No, she is not a size two, nor should she be. That would be unhealthy for her body type. She has curves in all the right places, and there’s a good chance that the “super fit” woman was envious of how she filled out their matching athletic wear.
But my friend couldn’t see any of that.
The bigger question here is why can’t we see all the beautiful things our friends, spouses, coworkers, and even total strangers see in us? Why are we so laser-focused on what we want to change about ourselves rather than accepting ourselves as we are now? Why can we not acknowledge another woman’s strengths without making it about our own perceived weaknesses? In short, why are we waiting to love ourselves until we feel “perfect?”
If this resonates with you and you are struggling with self-acceptance on the path toward your fitness (or any other) goals, take heart because you are not alone. The good news is that you can do some things about it. Here are some of my favorite tips and tricks I tell my clients (and myself) when the negative self-talk gets too loud.
- Choose your words wisely: How often have you tried something new and given up because it was “too hard?” Worse yet, how often have you failed to start for fear of failure? It’s time to choose some new words. Rather than tell yourself something is too hard, tell yourself it’s challenging. Then rise to the challenge! Rather than say, “I can’t,” say, “I’m not quite there yet.” Then keep going! Just because you aren’t where you want to be right now doesn’t mean you can’t get there. At Smart Barre and Pilates, we are frequently asked, “does this ever get easier?” Our answer is no, but YOU get stronger!
- Follow the three-to-one rule: Before taking on a new personal training client, I send them a questionnaire, asking them about their motivation and goals. I also ask them to list three things that they love about themselves. Additionally, if a client says something negative about herself during one of our training sessions, I make her stop what she’s doing and say something positive instead. I encourage you to try this, too. Jot down three things you love about yourself and stick them on your fridge, bathroom mirror, or anywhere you can easily see them on those days when you need a reminder. If you can’t come up with any, ask one of your favorite Smart Barre and Pilates instructors. Chances are, we see A LOT in you that you don’t see in yourself every time you show up!
- Surround yourself with positive peers: Do your friends and family members support your efforts, or do they derail them, even unintentionally? What about the accounts you follow on social media? Do they add value to your life or make you feel like you don’t measure up? Unfollow, unfriend, or limit your interaction both online and in real life with anyone who makes you feel like you aren’t enough. At Smart Barre and Pilates, we pride ourselves on our community. People enter the class as strangers and leave as workout buddies who look forward to seeing each other week after week and holding each other accountable.
- Practice an attitude of gratitude: One of the easiest ways to do this is to change your mindset from a “have to” to a “get to” way of thinking. I have to work out sounds like a chore, but I GET to work out feels like the privilege that it is. Many people cannot move their bodies. Others struggle with chronic illness. You get one body to take you through life, and it should feel like an honor to care for it properly by moving it, nourishing it, and celebrating it for what it can do at every stage of life. It’s not about being a specific size or number on a scale. It’s about feeling your best and living a healthy life. At Smart Barre and Pilates, we know that you GET to work out wherever you want, and we are truly grateful that you choose to do it with us.
Everyone struggles with negative thoughts at some point. The problem is when we let them get the best of us and make us forget to appreciate all the positive qualities we currently possess. Don’t let the quest for self-improvement interfere with self-love. Celebrate your journey and love yourself each step of the way, knowing that now, at this moment, you are enough.