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Our True Selves are Cheerleaders

As small children, hopefully spared from early trauma, we radiate our “true selves”—the very essence of us that resides in our souls.  Unbridled by insecurities and fear, we joyfully sing and dance, and view the world as a magical place just waiting for us to explore.  We race around playgrounds, pumping white Keds on black plastic swings until we can almost touch the clouds.  And, for most of us, launching ourselves towards heaven and trading Bugles for Twinkies at Kindergarten lunch tables, life is simple.  

As time passes, however, life becomes complicated.  We absorb unkind and judgmental words, encounter that first bully or cool chick who draws attention to our flaws, and sometimes, often through no fault of our own, we run smack-dab into trouble that propels us to build defensive walls to protect our hearts.  Seeking safety and approval in our rapidly expanding skins, most of us are still children when an inner critic first tiptoes into our minds and settles in for an extended stay.  It would be rad if this internal voice became a dependable ally; a cheerleader waving sparkly pom-poms and calling out “You’ve got this, woman!” at all the right moments.  Unfortunately, however, our critics are usually kill-joys; self-defeating quarterbacks that feed us lies and cut us down with statements like, “You aren’t pretty enough!” and “Why would you say something so stupid!”  Sound familiar?

I was fortunate: my childhood was filled with Barbie pool parties and lemon-cream sandwich afternoons in a loving home.  As a shy Army kid frequently moving and intimidated by beautiful and popular new classmates, however, I allowed high school and a flurry of insecurities about my weight and appearance to smash my youthful swagger.  By the time I arrived at university, I was ripe for a disordered lifestyle spearheaded by an “ED voice”, a violent extension of my inner critic that was completely obsessed with thinness.  “If you become super skinny,” this voice whispered into my brain, “you can prove your strength, courage, and tenacity in this competitive world. You can prove yourself worthy of praise and love!”  Insecure and desperate to feel pretty and good enough, I placed my trust in this voice, increasingly giving it more power over my thoughts until I was deep inside an eating disorder and constantly bombarded by internal criticism and harsh lies and commands.

For over a decade, my voice called the shots, but, as is the case with eating disorders, the more committed I became to a “perfectly skinny” existence, the more I felt like a failure and unworthy of love.  I continued on as an unhappy woman until I reached a breaking point one winter’s night and ran out of my house sobbing with my arms flailing, completely shattered by unrelenting, manic thoughts and drowning in hopelessness.  Admitting I needed professional help, a few months later I was attending therapy sessions and plowing through self-help books when I stumbled across Alan Singer’s The Untethered SoulI’d selected Singer’s book on a whim because of its alluring cover image of a unicorn galloping alongside a deserted shoreline.  Imagining myself as this liberated unicorn, free of negative thoughts destroying my peace, I flipped the pages to Chapter One and began reading.  It wasn’t long before I came across a quote that shook my sad soul:

There is nothing more important to true growth than realizing that you are not the voice of the mind – you are the one who hears it.”

For years I’d believed I am the voice in my head—angry, unsettled, dissatisfied, and chaotic.  All at once, however, I realized I’d been duped.  I sat with Singer’s book open for a long time, staring at the words as I absorbed their truth and my eyes filled with tears.  The voice in my head was not my authentic voice and goodness lay within me, ready to break free. 

It would take another few years before I acquired the skills to declaw my ED voice and transform its violent screams into the soft growl of a baby cub.  In this moment, however, I took a huge step towards health and happiness by recognizing that, like all of us, my authentic voice is a kind manifestation of my true self.  Our true selves know that we deserve to be properly nourished and that we deserve to be happy.  Consequently, regardless of your shape, size, or current circumstances, know that you are braver and stronger than the inner critic in your mind, and that, with practice, you can replace negative thoughts with positive truths.  As you catch unkind thoughts in their tracks, reframing lies and meanness with compassionate, true statements, the balance of power will shift.  Gradually you’ll begin to rewire your brain towards love, and you’ll once more radiate the joyful child who raced around the playground with peace in his/her heart.

For years I’d believed I am the voice in my head—angry, unsettled, dissatisfied, and chaotic. All
at once, however, I realized I’d been duped. I sat with Singer’s book open for a long time,
staring at the words as I absorbed their truth and my eyes filled with tears. The voice in my
head was not my authentic voice and goodness lay within me, ready to break free.
It would take another few years before I acquired the skills to declaw my ED voice and
transform its violent screams into the soft growl of a baby cub. In this moment, however, I took
a huge step towards health and happiness by recognizing that, like all of us, my authentic voice
is a kind manifestation of my true self. Our true selves know that we deserve to be properly
nourished and that we deserve to be happy. Consequently, regardless of your shape, size, or
current circumstances, know that you are braver and stronger than the inner critic in your mind,
and that, with practice, you can replace negative thoughts with positive truths. As you catch
unkind thoughts in their tracks, reframing lies and meanness with compassionate, true
statements, the balance of power will shift. Gradually you’ll begin to rewire your brain towards
love, and you’ll once more radiate the joyful child who raced around the playground with peace
in his/her heart.

Image by Deana Spryes from Pixabay

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