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Setting Boundaries Around Negative Self-Talk

Body Positivity and Self-Acceptance

Shannon Odenthal 

I had this amazing experience recently, where I was able to catch a glimpse of myself through someone else's eyes for the very first time. And it's a strange thing, because I didn't see me at first. 

Let me explain.  I have been deep in the transformation stages of body positivity and self love. But I am a newcomer and an infant with fresh eyes taking in all new information and relearning how to process and frame my external universe. I've thrust myself into this world that allows me to see beauty in all shapes, sizes, colors, religions, genders, races, etc and damn it! It feels good! But I'm still trying to find beauty in myself. I'm still trying to force myself to look in the mirror at my big purple stretch marks and tell myself they are a physical manifestation of my power as a strong and capable female with a body that changes to fit it's needs. I'm still trying to force myself to look at pictures of myself without cringing and to tell myself that my body is a whole delicious pie, not a single slice of a messed up smile or a shitty slice of pale blotchy skin, or a gross slice of a chunky stomach.  It's a WHOLE delicious pie that comes as one big package of pure joy, beauty, and just plain yummy goodness, if I'm being honest. 

That being said, with these new eyes, I've begun see and hear the way we talk about ourselves. My friends, family, me included! 

I recently went to a holiday party with some friends of mine that I don't know too well. While I initially have some social anxiety about going to these kinds of events, my extroversion usually wins over my anxiety. Even though I am still getting to know this new group of friends, I enjoy hanging out with them. We all come from different backgrounds, ethnicities and each of us has a different story to tell. One of my friends in particular struck me from the moment I met her, partially, I'll admit because I perceived her body to be a similar shape and size as mine. I felt I identified with her. I began to notice she was putting herself down and constantly doubting herself throughout the night. She hated her dress, she was embarrassed to dance in front of anyone, she went to the bathroom to fix her hair because it had gone flat on top. But what she didn't see was how everyone in the room thought she was hilarious, bubbly, empathetic, and easy to get along with. We all loved her style and wished we could rock those curves the way she did. But she didn't see it. 

Every time I heard her say something about herself I had a flash of myself. I was like, "Oooooh, this is how people see me! And I still have a hard time loving myself? Wooow." I wanted to give her a big hug and tell her that she wasn't alone and that she didn't have to feel this way forever. There was an alternative to these deprecating and debilitating thoughts. But I was scared and shied away. I hardly knew this girl! I just knew that my demons were looking awfully similar to her's. 

Throughout the night, I noticed that multiple times one or more of us would say something nasty about their body or about bodies in general. Something like, "This dress is awful. When I take my jacket off all you see is my boobs. Ugh." We got together to take a group picture and three out of the five girls had something horrible to say about their self image. 

"I look angry." 

"My face looks like a witch." 

"I'm either fat, giving you the evil eye, or blinking." 

"Let's take another one, just one more." 

I started to wonder, is this normal? Do certain environments breed this kind of negative talk? What are the ingredients that are needed to create this kind of negativity?

Shannon Odenthal 

I started to wonder, is this normal? Do certain environments breed this kind of negative talk? What are the ingredients that are needed to create this kind of negativity? Were we thinking those things before we were all put together in a room? Are each of us truly all harboring ill will and fighting an internal battle of beauty and hatred with ourselves? Does being in a room with other women that are experiencing the same self doubt and negative self talk just bring it out and exacerbate it? Where did this hatred begin?

I don't ask these questions lightheartedly and without intention. I ask them because I think that we as a people often gravitate toward a common goal, idea or purpose. And if one person puts forth an idea of self hate or negative self talk, generally speaking, others will gravitate toward the same idea. So I propose that with this thought, we begin to put forth an idea of self love, gratitude, understanding and self acceptance so that others may find comfort in a common goal that has forward motion.

So I had a choice in front of that Christmas tree with this group of girls all trying to get the perfect angle for the perfect selfie and the ideal image. I could invest in this groupthink like a lemming and let the negative self talk wash over me and sink into my very pores. Or I could set a boundary.

So very calmly but firmly I said, "Girls, girls! We do NOT say nasty things about our bodies!"

Let me be clear. By setting a boundary, I do not have a hoped outcome that everyone in the world that hears me will say, "Oh wow, you know, you're right! I've spent so much time talking negatively about myself, I need to stop that right now in order to start loving myself and helping others love themselves!" But, I do hope it stops people in their tracks and allows them to hear the words that are coming out of their mouth. When those words are spoken, they are energy that you've brought into this world, thus that energy forms into this reality, becoming real. I personally don't want my reality to be "I've always got a stink eye in every picture," or "I just don't photograph well," or "all anyone sees when they look at me are my breasts." 

I want my reality to be that my beauty can't be captured in an image the way that it can in person and that's more than ok, that's beautiful!

Shannon Odenthal 

I want my reality to be that my beauty can't be captured in an image the way that it can in person and that's more than ok, that's beautiful!

My initial reaction was one of shock when they responded with silence and then a scoff with, "Well maybe you don't!" But I have to remember that everyone's journey is their own and the important thing about setting boundaries is not to change other people's external and internal realities, but to change your own. And by setting boundaries, not only do our realities begin to reframe and gravitate toward that self love, but we open the door to allow for others to have that same opportunity to join on their own journey of self discovery and self acceptance. 

I'm light years away from having any of this nailed down, and sometimes I feel like I'm preaching to the choir, but I try to make a daily conscious choice to listen and see the things that are doing more harm than good, and although I am still in the throws of my infancy in this long journey of self love, self discovery and body positivity, I refuse to listen with deaf ears anymore. I get to choose what enters my reality. I am empowered to make a change in the woman I am and the woman I am becoming. 

Paige Sanz
Paige Sanz

I have full conversations with my cat. I like to catch water in my mouth and spit it out like a reverse water fountain in the shower. I can't help but love horrible 90's shows. I believe in ghosts and I have an irrational fear of whales. 

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