It all starts with a casual remark.
Something like, “I could never look good in yoga pants,” “My arms are too flabby,” or “My hair is so dull and boring.”
Maybe your friend chimes in, “Well, my butt is too big, and my lips are too thin!” And back and forth you go, highlighting all the ways you wish you were different.
The next thing you know, you’re down in the dumps with a self-deprecation hangover. Or worse, you already feel so crummy about yourself that you don’t even notice the difference.
This is the insidious effect of Unlovable Blues Radio (UBR FM).
You’re on the air
When we openly criticize ourselves (even in jest), we broadcast to the world that it’s not okay to be x, y, or z.
It doesn’t matter if you’re the one talking or listening. These messages sneak into your subconscious and reinforce the belief that you’re not good enough, just the way you are.
I noticed this the other day when talking with my mom (who is one of the kindest, most loving people on the planet and who would never intentionally make anyone feel bad). She told me about a time she was very thin and how she “didn’t look good.” She described what she didn’t like about her body, which happened to be things that I saw in myself.
I reminded her that I’m also very thin (something I’ve struggled with for years), so what I was hearing was that I didn’t look good either—but she continued to express her dissatisfaction, reassuring me that she was only talking about herself.
At that moment, it hit me like never before. When we judge and label our appearance (or anything for that matter), we’re not just talking about ourselves. We’re talking about anyone who’s listening.
Now, I know you’d never tell your friend that her belly is too fat or that she’s got too many wrinkles. I wouldn’t either. But when we say things like that about ourselves, these messages travel through the airwaves directly to those who feel the same way. It’s a classic example of resonance or like-attracts-like.
So how do you know if UBR FM is on the air?
Tune into your body
Our hearts will usually tell us when we’re not feeling good about ourselves.
Maybe it’s a queasy stomach, a tight jaw, a lump in your throat, or even a vague sense of sadness without any clear trigger. While these feelings may not be comfortable, they can teach us valuable lessons and make us more mindful of our thoughts and words.
For example, when Mom expressed her self-judgment, my gut tightened and a heaviness washed over me. I could’ve easily brushed it off, but I decided to listen to what the sensations were telling me. I realized Mom’s self-criticism had bumped up against my own insecurities about not being big enough, strong enough, womanly enough, or just plain good enough.
Mom didn’t do anything wrong. She just shared her own beliefs about herself as most of us do every day—but something in her words hit home for me, like looking in the mirror. I suddenly realized just how much impact our beliefs and words have on each other. From that place, I had no desire to be self-critical. I just couldn’t do it.
It’s not easy. It’s tempting to ignore the discomfort and keep feeding the idea that you’re not good enough the way you are. But if you pay attention to your body and heart, you may find yourself believing (and saying) very different things.
Changing the station
The beautiful thing about resonance is that we can also empower each other—just by being kind to ourselves.
For example, say your friend is knocking her muffin top or the way one boob points too far to the left. Instead of reassuring, ignoring, or jumping on the self-deprecation train, find that place in you that knows what it’s like to be hard on yourself. The part of you that wishes you were thinner, stronger, healthier, happier, richer, more productive, or [fill-in-the-blank].
Pay attention to the sensations that come up, and share them—without blame or judgment. Connecting with how you feel takes you out of your head (where that old self-berating tape recorder lives) and back into your heart. From there, you can both explore deeper questions like, “Whose voice is this?” and “Is it really true?”
And if you really want to blow limiting beliefs out of the water, try sharing something you DO love about yourself! I can feel you cringing from here, but I assure you, there’s healing power in verbally acknowledging your goodness.
Even if your friend gives you a funny look or doesn’t want to play along, you still have the power to shift the conversation (at least how it affects you). Start by sending yourself an extra-strength dose of self-love. Breathe it in, letting it enter all of the nooks and crannies in your body—especially the parts you have trouble loving. Imagine your self-love is like a force field, interfering with the reception of UBR FM while broadcasting your own station of compassion and self-acceptance.
Will it feel weird at first? Maybe. But don’t be afraid to risk awkwardness in the name of health.
It might be exactly what you both need to feel better.
I’d love to hear from you. What did you take away from this post? And what’s something you love about yourself?
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I’m an acupuncturist and Eastern medicine practitioner, specializing in digestive health. When I’m not teaching or writing, I’m most likely growing vegetables, plunking my banjo, or making an impressive mess in the kitchen. Learn more…