Why Your Brain Tells You You’re Awful + How to Change It

Years ago, in the midst of total body detachment, four awful words colored my brain pretty much all of the time.

I hate my body.

Followed by another four words:

I am so fat.

And yet another four words:

I am so gross.

The next four words alternated between “I need to exercise” and “Give me more food”. That just depended on what part of the never-ending cycle of my eating disorder I was in.

Wait a moment. Just hold on. Were those really the messages that I was feeding myself? Was that really the soundtrack by which I lived my life? Yes, and yes. Sadly and unbelievingly, those were actually the landscape of my thoughts for a while.

My fault?

But it really wasn’t my fault that I was thinking this way. Was it?

I mean, the world was and is messed up…is it not? Wasn’t everything that I was thinking everything that female-kind has been thinking forever? So wasn’t I just absorbing my behaviors unconsciously from the world around me?

Well, yes and no. I’m most certainly not putting all of the blame for my behavior on me. I was starving, young, stifled, stressed, lonely, and disconnected. How else might my deprived brain feel under these conditions?

Yet, neither can I completely take myself out of the equation. On the other side of my ED behavior, I see now the role that I played in growing my body disconnection and dissatisfaction. By continuing to give energy to the same body-hating thoughts over and over and over again, I fed the disease.

When we stop to think about how we think, there is no wonder why we get so caught in the grasp of body dissatisfaction. It’s so difficult to escape from its grip.

The problem of the media

The messages that we receive from the world most definitely play a massive role in the shaping of our own body stories.

Messages that we receive are often not healthy or helpful to our own developing body relationships. How often, though, do we stop and think about the messages that we are feeding ourselves? How often do we take responsibility for our own thoughts?

When we live with a mantra of “I hate my body”, the only probable outcome is body dissatisfaction. When that’s all that we’re thinking, chances are that’s all that we’re being. If we constantly berate our “lived body experiences” – however stormy or messy, they may be – we take ourselves outside of our reality. Essentially, we give our power away.

We make our own selves the “other” – body vs. self — and become disconnected from who we are as living, breathing human beings.

Who has the power?

On the days when I woke up with pangs of hunger and the incessant thought that “all I can eat today is X ”, I was definitely giving my own personal power away.

To whom? To what? Where did it go?

We are told we are “too much” .  All these thoughts of “too much”need to leave our brain space. We can’t give energy to them anymore. Because, truly, we are enough.

We are worthy. And precious. We are brilliant. We are so much more than our negative, disempowering thoughts.

What is truth?

It is important to remember that our thoughts are not truths. Our thoughts are versions of a truth that we’ve somehow crafted, pieced together by experiences, messages, and influences of all sorts.

But they are not the full and total truth.

And because they are not carved in stone, our thoughts can be changed at any time.

Yet starving or imbalanced brains may not be able to understand the changeability of thoughts. That’s why it is so hard to think differently while struggling with ED experiences. We learn to believe that what we hear in the confines of our brain is the real deal, the only truth, not just a scattered or starving version of it.

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Regain the power

When we are able to understand that many of the messages that we believe as truths are in actuality just remnants of distorted thinking, we are able to begin to regain our power.

 It’s for this reason that affirmation work does wonders for recovery of all types. Affirmations give a means by which we can reconstruct our thinking. and redevelop the neural networks in our brains through which our thoughts travel.

In starting to feed our brains the idea that “I am enough as is”, we have the power to make that our new mantra.

It’s then that we can begin to live by it. We can then start making choices that support this new vision of ourselves.

As such, our old mantras, the ones we may have relied on during our turbulent ED experiences, slowly lose their steam.

Be patient

Of course it is not as easy as I’m making it sound. Saying new, empowering thoughts will not replace the years of toxicity sitting there in our brains.

Just as with any recovery, it takes time to come out the other side. The other side may feel very, very far away. But trust that it will emerge from the messiness with time and focused intention.

It takes effort, energy, and committed choice. We need to say, feel, do, and be our empowering new thoughts, repeatedly. We need to make our own new reality by choosing thoughts that activate us and honor who we are in our fullness and totality, and bring us into the next version of ourselves.

It gets better

And so the four words that I now choose, on the other side of recovery, are much more grounded and accepting: Be gentle with yourself.

I say this to myself on those days when my brain gets foggy; I say this to my clients when they beat themselves up; I say this to my friends who look in the mirror and frown.

Be gentle with yourself. You are doing the best you can. Warrior, you are a work in progress. You are evolving. And you are so wonderful and so needed and so precious and so everything.

You just need to be softer and more forgiving with yourself.

That’s what we’re going for here. Softness. Gentleness. Love. Kindness.

Not just to others, but to ourselves and our own body experiences. When you start to think in gentler tones, you begin to allow, which is a much different energy than what we are used to.

How can you be gentle with yourself today?

Image: @alesmo

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