The Battle of Negative Self-Talk: how I wore my swimsuit in public and enjoyed it

Self Talk. Why do we say things to ourselves that we would never in a million years say to someone else? Look at one woman’s solution to battling your inner critic. Who knew a “game” could be so helpful?

Summer is almost over.

Can you believe it? 

How many of you read the blog posts in the beginning of the summer about embracing your body, putting your swimsuit on, and enjoying life (like this one)? 

Like many of my friends, I read those and thought “YES. THIS.”   I truly appreciate these women encouraging other women to put on our swimsuits and not let our insecurities get in the way of living life!  I know it helped remind me that making memories and getting in the picture matters more than how I look!

So, if that was you too, how is it going for you? 

If you are anything like me, you WANT to embrace your body and set a good example for your kids, regardless of what shape you are in, but the Struggle. Is. Real. 

Does reading an encouraging blog post result in discarding those old negative tapes playing in your head so that you are now suddenly feeling confident to DO all of those things without insecurities stopping you?  For some of you, yes, and that rocks!  A simple mind shift and you are ready to roll.  

For others, though, not so much.  Perhaps this summer, you had the guilt of knowing you SHOULD be out there with your kids, and you WANTED to, but those old tapes were playing in your head, stopping you in your tracks.  How can you overcome these negative thoughts to actually get out there and ENJOY your life?

I don’t have all the answers and know there is not one simple answer.  I am confident that it involves baby steps (a combination of many things) and prayer.  For qualified advice, I recommend continuing to follow Dr. Amy’s posts about nourishing your body, both physically and spiritually. 

For some possibly controversial advice that started as a drinking game of sorts, read on.  I recommend doing both.  (Spoiler alert:  it’s not really a drinking game.)

I truly feel one of the biggest things we can change is our self talk.  No matter how good a shape we are in, we unfortunately tend to find something to criticize if we don’t deal with the heart of the issue--how we see and talk to ourselves.  Does God’s love depend on what we look like in a bathing suit?  Does our children’s love depend on us being a certain size?  No way! Their love is unconditional. 

Why do we talk so harshly to ourselves when God and our children see us as we truly are: beautiful.  Imagine if WE felt that same way about ourselves!   If you haven’t read Dr. Amy’s post, The Struggle to Be Skinny, please check it out for some encouragement, and start planting the seeds to change your self talk!  

She writes, “God does not care about the size of your jeans, he cares about the size of your HEART.  Take a deep breath, dear friend, and rest in that.  Having a heart for the Lord and wanting to be more like Jesus matters to God.  We won’t ever find perfection this side of Heaven, but if we can focus on changing our hearts more than changing our weight, we can see the progress we’ve longed for.” 

I have a challenge for you and your tribe of women!  This challenge began for me as a game nine years ago on a girl’s beach trip, celebrating the upcoming nuptials of my BFF.  The premise of the game:  If you say anything negative about yourself, even self-deprecating jokes, you have to buy a round of drinks for all of your friends (soda for everyone!).

Believe me, I still struggle with insecurities and have negative thoughts, but thanks to this game, I was able to reprogram my brain, at least a little bit, to be able to enjoy summer in my bathing suit (or to be honest, my swimwear, considering I currently wear a long sleeve swim shirt for sun protection and found a board skirt that is functional, comfortable, and qualifies as a swimsuit).  I actually learned about this game before I started on my renewed health journey, before I had kids, and was probably close to my heaviest weight.  

Why does that matter?  Because, regardless of how much weight you lose or the amount of tips you will read about “how to feel confident in your swimsuit,” “improve your abs in one week,” “drop 10 pounds in 10 days,” don’t you want to truly feel more confident regardless of where you are at in your health journey so that you can LIVE your life

The game was first thrown out there on our flight to Florida. Everyone agreed to the conditions, and I assumed I would be in the clear.  Despite feeling insecure about my body, I thought I did a pretty good job of keeping my comments to myself and was overall positive.  All of the girls were genuinely kind and a lot of fun, so there was no doubt this would be a great trip (except for that whole being in a bathing suit part)! 

Day One:  Upon arrival, we were quick to suit up and head to the beach.  That’s when it started.  The pit in my stomach about having to be in a bathing suit around all those girls that I saw as being in such better shape than me (read: skinny). 

I quickly learned that I used a lot of my self-deprecating humor to try and mask my body issues.  I always used jokes, at my own expense, to call out my insecurities and break the tension in my head.  I can only fake confidence for so long in a bathing suit, so if I could just make a joke about my body, I felt like I could address the obvious and then move on.  However, this time when they kept popping into my head, I couldn’t say them because there was no way I could afford multiple rounds of beverages!  I got through the afternoon despite realizing how many negative thoughts were filling my head.  We had fun, and I didn’t add any drinks to my tab!  

Usually, going to the beach in the summer as a teenager meant sitting in the shade (you know, that’s how my sensitive skin does), and waiting until I was miserably hot before going in the ocean.  Then, before I got up, mapping out my walk to the water (this was the Jersey shore and there was a fair amount of people on the beach watching and judging, or so I assumed).  This is how day one started out, but because I couldn’t breathe life into these thoughts by saying any of them out loud, I had to push them down, fake it, and pretend I was walking confidently to the beach.  

Day Two: Ok, this is when things got CRAZY.  I realized that on day one I had fun, and no one cared about my body.  You mean I was able to ignore any flaws I felt I had and just live life!  So now back to day two. It started off like day one, but as the day went on, I felt like my brain said, “eh, there is no use thinking these negative thoughts if you can’t say them or use them to hide from these activities.”  I still had to get up, go swim in the ocean, play in pool, and walk around the beach with all the girls, despite my internal dialogue.  

Day Three:  The insecurities were fewer and farther between and my brain almost felt like thinking negatively became a waste of time. Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not like all of my negative thoughts went away, but suddenly, all of those tips about improving your self talk started clicking. 

Please hear me, this is NOT meant to be seen as an easy three day fix.  I only use this as an example since I was “forced” to practice these tips (without even realizing it) in a short period of time, so I actually noticed the change.  

By the way, I have in no way mastered this, especially since I am all about self-deprecating humor. I am still trying to figure out the difference between self-deprecating humor and negative self talk, to make sure I don’t cross the line, but I know I straddle it!  There also has to be space to talk about our insecurities with our friends, so keep in mind, the game isn’t meant to eliminate negative talk all together but rather keep it out of your everyday conversation.  

And keep in mind, the good word says in Philippians 4:8 that we are to fix our thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.     

Here’s a new thought (or rather, a reminder of some classic advice): maybe something that is obvious to you isn’t even on anyone else’s radar, nor do they even care. Most people are thinking about themselves and not paying much attention to you.  Plus, bringing up something negative about yourself brings down the mood and sets the example that talking about our flaws is accepted and encouraged.  

Think about it, if your friend was complaining about her body (“my hips are so big”), would you ever want to jump on her bandwagon and start bashing her hips, too?!?  No way.  The same should be said for how we talk about ourselves.  If you wouldn’t say it to someone else, why would you say it to yourself?  

How can we as women, within our own personal tribes, support each other so that we not only stop talking negatively about ourselves but provide a safe, loving environment for our friends?  Let’s start by making an agreement with our tribe that we will not talk badly about ourselves nor will we let others.  Let’s cling to God’s reminder in Proverbs 27:17—as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. 

When I was broke in my early twenties, the threat of spending money on a round of drinks forced me to bite my tongue.  What is something you and your friends can put on line to motivate each other to keep a lid on those negative comments?