The Power of Positivity
I’ve lost 90 pounds in two years. It sounds fairly impressive, and I so proud of myself, but it wasn’t easy. I had been trying to lose weight and failing for over 10 years prior. In fact, for those 10 years prior, I steadily gained weight despite myself. So what changed? Honestly, in hindsight it was the most obvious solution in the world. Positive reinforcement.
What does that mean? It’s a couple of buzzwords that get thrown around in self-help books here and there. It’s so easy to say, less easy to understand. For me, it meant looking in the mirror and treating myself like a whole new person. For ten plus years, I looked in the mirror and hated myself. Sure I was smart, kind, and likable, but I was also weak. Something was wrong with me, and I hated myself for not being able to fix it. I would glare at the mirror and call myself pathetic, and weak, and ugly. After all, I believed the best way to change was bullying myself into changing.
It didn’t work for me. In fact, bullying myself just kept building upon the issues that caused me to gain weight in the first place, and I found myself digging deeper and deeper into a hole that would take a long time to escape.
Then, one day, something in me clicked. I looked in the mirror and decided that the key was not hating myself. It was, in fact, loving myself. I said to mirror me “You are not weak. You have had struggles, but you are strong. Your struggles have made you even stronger, and you can grow from them.” As I write this it sounds so incredibly cheesy, but just like that I was on my way. It wasn’t easy, and honestly it still isn’t. The key was acknowledging my weaknesses and working on them, but also acknowledging my strengths and using them to combat the hard times.
So here are a few samples of the positive thinking strategies that got me through it all:
External sources are not the best motivation.
Good or bad, what you think about you is most important. I get it, likes on a particularly nice picture on Instagram or compliments from your coworkers feel good, right? There is something about external validation that feels nice, but it isn’t real and the feeling doesn’t last. It’s why people can cheat at games and still get that rush of endorphins. It’s a false, temporary high. The only thing that matters is how you feel about you. When you look in the mirror at night, the most important thing is what you think. If you are disappointed in yourself, that is your cue to work on yourself, not what other people say.
Treat yourself like you would want your best friend or favorite family member to be treated.
If you have a history of beating yourself up about things, I want you to try this. From now on, imagine everything you say to yourself as something you say to your best friend. I bet you would be a little less critical. Obviously, a best friend is somebody you are honest with, but you would never be intentionally cruel. So why be intentionally cruel to yourself? Cruel words wouldn’t make your best friend feel better, and they won’t do the same for you.
Discover what's most important to you.
The most surprising thing I found about losing weight was that it didn’t fix everything. I realized I had always had this “well if I was skinnier…” philosophy about everything. If I was skinnier, I would have less anxiety. If I was skinnier, I would be more outgoing. If I was skinnier, I would be happier. Etc. But that’s not how it worked. Being skinnier gave me a confidence boost because it was an impressive challenge to overcome, but it didn’t “fix” me, it just forced me to face my issues is a new light. If I had known this going into my weight loss, it might have taken some of the pressure off. How you look may seem important, but at the end of the day it’s how you feel about how you look that truly matters. Acknowledge your weaknesses and decide whether or not you need to work on them or accept them.
Change or no change, it’s the choice that counts.
Deciding to do something to change yourself can make you happy, but so can deciding that you are wonderful just the way you are. Your flaws do not define you, it’s your quality of life and love of yourself that defines you. If loving yourself means working to better your body or mind - awesome! If loving yourself means coming to a point where you accept yourself for who you are - awesome! There is no such thing as “typical,” or some kind of rubric for happiness that you have to fill out. I lost weight and it made me happier, but everyone has a different journey in life. The important thing is deciding to be happy and love yourself, and you are the only person in your life that can make that decision.