Hey! Talk nice to yourself!

“Most of us are totally unaware that our inner conversations are the causes of the circumstances of our lives.” – Neville

What are you saying to yourself? If you truly knew the power of your thoughts, I am certain your inner dialogue would be much different. Positive thinkers expect things to work out the way they want them to, because they have seen it happen time and time again. For some people, optimism just comes naturally. For a lot of us (yes, I said us), it is a daily struggle.

I was at a mountain bike race last weekend with my little family at Sundance Mountain Resort. My husband owns a local bike shop and sponsors a team of incredible kids who are destined to be great. I love having these kids around my 4-year-old son for the positive influence they provide. Watching them prepare on race day is so much fun, and listening to the way they talk about their strategy for the course is truly amazing. Maybe it’s because they are still young and naïve, or maybe they’ve been trained to think this way, but I guarantee you , each one of these kids is convinced that they will do their best, and that they will win. How different would your life be if you had this same mind set?

During race weekend, my son and I had to climb up and down the same hill multiple times in order to get from the restroom/snack area to our team’s pit area. After a few of these treks, my little one started whining a bit and saying that he just couldn’t do it anymore. Yikes. I knew that if I didn’t change his attitude ASAP, it was going to be a looooooong weekend! So, I took a minute to “fill him in on a little secret”. I told him that whenever you are trying to do something hard, if you say “I can do this. I’ve got it. I’m the best.”, those words will give you power & you will be able to do it! He ate it up.

“Watch, Mom!” deliberately trudging up the hill. “I can do this. I’ve got it. I’m the beeeeeeeest!”

Every. Single. Time. As if that last word was a match, lighting a fire under his cute little butt, Slammer would suddenly bolt up the hill as fast as he could.

I’ve been able to carry this “secret trick” into other situations my little man has faced as well. When he starts getting frustrated with a block tower that just won’t stay up, or a shirt that keeps wanting to go on backwards, and the grumbles start coming out, all I have to say is “Remember our special trick?” and suddenly his entire demeanor shifts…

“I can do this. I’ve got this. I’m the best.”

Of course this doesn’t always work. It’s important to remember that our children are highly sensitive and emotional little beings, and that each moment and each situation can feel very different in their great big world. But, for my son, this cool little method has been a game-changer. It gives him power. It reminds him that he can do big things. He feels in control. And most of the time, that is all he really wants.

I’ve been using this in my preschool movement classes as well, and have had similar results. Sometimes it’s more of a group empowering tool – “We can do this together”, and sometimes it’s a quiet one-on-one conversation with a child who is having a particularly hard time controlling their body that day. Whatever the case, convincing the child that they have the ability within themselves to do whatever hard thing they are facing is key.

One of my favorite ways to subtly teach this concept to my classes, is through our Super Hero Yoga activity. I make sure to teach this class early on, and frequently come back to it throughout the year. That way, when we are having a rough day, or when I hear a student say “I can’t”, I am able to quickly remind them that they have been through Super Hero training, so of course they can!

Of course, the best way to teach your children to do anything, is through your example, right? Well, this is a tricky one since our children can’t actually hear our thoughts! Or can they? No, I’m not suggesting that your little one has telepathic powers or anything like that. What I’m suggesting is that our thoughts have a way of making themselves known to those around us. The way we carry ourselves, respond to compliments from others, and even the way we treat others are all signals to our children how we feel about ourselves and, ultimately, how we “speak” to ourselves.

So, if this is a challenge for you…how do you work on it? Here are a few things that I have personally found to be helpful:

  1. START STRONG. This is huge for me. If I start the day telling myself that I look really old, my skin is terrible, and I need to do something with my hair – It’s likely to be a downward spiral. But, if I start the day reminding myself how much healthier I have made my body this past year, how incredibly blessed I am to have a healthy child, and how excited I am about the work I’m doing right now – I am going to have an amazing day. This is easier said than done when the alarm clock goes off earlier than I want it to and I was woken up three times during the night by my son. So, I find it easier to create a positive mantra, or a gratitude list right before I go to bed. I take just a few minutes to jot down a few things before I crawl under the covers and leave it on my nightstand – easy peasy. Then when I reach for the alarm the next morning, there’s my first thought for the day. Right there. Already created. Since I already know what it says before I even look at it, I can’t help but think it.
  2. ACCEPT PRAISE. It has taken me a long time to realize that there is a difference between confidence and vanity. I always thought that if I spoke highly of myself to others, they would think I was cocky and arrogant. So instead, I deflected compliments with negativity and frequently told others how dumb and ugly I was. Seriously. What does this accomplish? Now the person complimenting me feels bad and I feel even worse. My husband was the first one to tell me to knock it off and I couldn’t be more grateful to him for that. He taught me to simply respond to compliments with a “thank you”. In time, I started to believe those compliments, and now I know how to REALLY accept them as truth, and appreciate kind words fully. Now I usually take that “thank you” even further and add on “I worked really hard to accomplish that, thanks for noticing”, or something along those lines. Does that make me self-centered? Not at all. It makes me confident, and encourages others to feel comfortable with their own accomplishments as well.
  3. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. There will be times when you suddenly catch yourself in the middle of an internal bashing. It happens. Life is hard and we tend to take out our stress, anger and fear on those who we love the most….including ourselves. With practice, you can become aware of these times and stop yourself mid-sentence. Go ahead, be rude, cut yourself off. And finish that negative thought with a positive one. It will be hard at first, and you might even feel silly, but the more you do it, the easier it will get. Channel your inner Stuart Smalley (MadTV reference) and tell yourself You’re good enough!!
  4. SAY IT OUT LOUD. Tell others how you feel about yourself. I know, that’s pushing it, but it works. Start by practicing on people who love you the most – your mom, your kids, your siblings – if this is still really hard for you, try a pet! Tell them how proud you are of yourself for helping a co-worker solve a tough problem. Tell them how amazing you feel in your new swimsuit. Tell them how blessed you feel that you inherited your father’s artistic abilities. It can be done gracefully, and it can be really beneficial to your self-esteem AND theirs. This is especially important to do with kids. When you tell the children in your life that you love yourself, it gives them permission to love themselves.  How cool is that?
  5. DO SCARY THINGS. When you try something that is out of your comfort zone or feels a bit risky, you can’t help but be proud of yourself. Even if it doesn’t turn out the way you had hoped, you know deep down that you were brave, and that is a great feeling. And don’t forget to tell yourself that you rock. If you happen to conquer that super scary challenge that you jumped into head first – imagine all the amazingly kind words that will be flooding your inner dialogue!

Alright. I’m not a psychologist, I don’t have any special training on this subject. But I really felt inclined to share what I have discovered on this subject through my own journey, and specifically through my yoga journey. So, my final suggestion is this:

6. DEVELOP A REGULAR YOGA PRACTICE.  Yoga transforms people- physically, spiritually, and mentally. Find a studio where you feel comfortable and safe, with instructors who are positive and uplifting, and you will change.

Alex Korb, Phd. states, “It may sound like magic that posing like a proud warrior or a crow could have such extensive effects, but it’s not magic.  It’s neurobiology.  This next statement may sound to you either profound or extremely obvious, but it comes down to this: the things you do and the thoughts you have change the firing patterns and chemical composition of your brain.  Even actions as simple as changing your posture, relaxing the muscles on your face, or slowing your breathing rate, can affect the activity in your brain (beyond, of course, the required activity to make the action).  These changes are often transient, but can be long-lasting, particularly if they entail changing a habit.”

Make it a habit and you will see a difference in the way you feel about yourself, and in the conversations you have with yourself, and ultimately, in the way your life turns out.

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