On the rail trail, my feet hit the gravel covered ground one after the other.
I’m out for a run with John (who is training for his 1st 5K).
The first few minutes of a run are so hard for me. Every time. Without fail.
Doesn’t matter how much or how little I’ve been running lately.
It doesn’t matter if I’ve been eating well or living it up.
It does not matter what kind of shape I’m in or what kind of night’s sleep I’ve had, for me, the first 10 minutes or so always feel like my feet are encased in cement blocks.
But if I can just get through those first few minutes, I come out on the other side and start to feel like I’m gliding easily. One step falls in front of the other, over and over. I find the natural rhythm that comes from my body, a pace that I set. I start to feel like I could keep going like this forever (barring any foot or knee pain surfacing as it sometimes does!).
During those first 10 minutes where I just want to stop, there are countless thoughts that appear in my head and most of them have to do with “Just stop running.” “You can stop now.” “You should walk instead, this sucks.” “Why are you doing this. Let’s walk!”
Years ago, I went around saying I wasn’t a runner, because when I felt the difficulty of those first few minutes and heard those thoughts over and over again, I did stop. I took those things to mean that this wasn’t for me. The story I was telling myself about my abilities and it being hard added up to giving up.
There is massive power in the stories we tell ourselves.
If I tell myself, I’m not a runner, then I become someone who doesn’t run because I believe the story I’ve made up.
Doing something differently though brings me different results and allows a new story to form.
On some runs, as my feet hit the trail, one after the other, those first 10 minutes are still hard. And I still have thoughts about how I should stop and how it would be easier if I just started walking. But on some runs, I add some of my own thoughts. I say to myself:
You can do this.
You are amazing.
Look at how far you have come.
How incredible is it that your body can do this?!
I love that you are doing this.
I can’t wait to see how far I can go today.
This feels good.
You really are amazing.
And guess what happens? Those 10 minutes pass faster and the entire run feels better. I feel better. The story I create changes from my mind telling me “this is so hard, I shouldn’t do it”, to “this is hard but I’m totally capable of doing it and it’s going to be great”.
And the result is that it is great.
(Just to be clear, I am not advocating for ignoring your body when it warns you that something is dangerous. Sometimes our bodies tell us we should stop because we’re going to injure ourselves or that we’re not at that level of fitness yet. But you know the difference between that and the habitual negative self talk that we sometimes get into. I always recommend listening to your body (and that is not the same as ignoring the bullshit we like to tell ourselves). The mean and demoralizing chatter that comes from our brain is not the same as the warning signals our body sends. Always use your best judgement!)
The words we use to talk to ourselves are so incredibly powerful.
Most of us try to motivate ourselves with shame. It doesn’t matter if it’s to stick to some sort of goal, to make habit change or push ourselves out of our comfort zone. If there’s something we want to do but it’s really hard, shame is our go to.
You’re not good enough. You’re not smart enough. You don’t have what it takes. You just can’t do it.
These thoughts are not just something that happens with challenging physical endeavors. It’s something that will happen when we apply for a new job, when we go out on a date, when we try something new or anytime we’re doing something unfamiliar.
Shame “speak” protects us emotionally. We know that if we feel bad enough about something we might have the motivation to change it. If we feel bad about ourselves, we’ll stay small, we won’t take risks and we are less likely to get hurt. As far as our brain is concerned, that is always the goal (to stay SAFE) so it really thinks by putting these thoughts through your head when you’re trying to do something difficult, it’s helping. It’s trying to be a buddy! This is something we subconsciously do – and there’s no way to stop those thoughts from appearing. But that doesn’t mean we have to let them be the star of the show or in control.
When these thoughts show up, if we take a minute to step in and use the part of our conscious mind that we have access to, we can add our own spin to motivate, to encourage, to inspire.
You are not your thoughts. And just because you think something doesn’t make it true.
If you have a date with a new person coming up, your go to thought might be something like: “Ug, he’s not going to be interested in me. I should cancel before he rejects me. This is going to be awful.” When that shows up, so what? Add to it by telling yourself something like this instead: “I can’t wait to meet this person. I hope we have lots to talk about. I’m excited to see if we have chemistry. I’m a good catch and this will be fun!”
If you have a job interview, your go to thought might be something like: “I don’t know what I’m talking about. I answer every question so badly. I can’t sell my best qualities. This is a nightmare and I’m not going to get the job.” Well, when that shows up, so what? These thoughts aren’t you. Add to it by telling yourself something like this instead: “I am going to be relaxed and be myself. I know my field and I have a ton of great stuff to say about it. I am going to blow them away and if I want the job, it’ll be offered to me.”
You can even try this with the negative thoughts you have about your body, or about the food you eat. Add your own positive or neutral spin on those thoughts.
This isn’t magic. You can’t make things happen that weren’t going to happen otherwise, but you can change how you show up in life, how you interact with your world and how people perceive you. The most important thing is be more proactive with your self-talk will change how you perceive yourself and over time that will add up to a little less of the bullshit self- talk and more confidence and surety in every area of your life.
Because you ARE amazing, valuable, talented and worth it, even if sometimes you don’t believe it.
Some stuff to get your journal out for:
Where do you keep giving up on yourself when you hear negative self-talk thoughts?
What stories are you telling about yourself based on intrusive negative thoughts?
During those times, what are some more motivating things you could tell yourself?
What do you need to hear from yourself?
Just try it. I promise it will change everything for you.
Do you want to learn more about feeling confident in your relationship with food? Are you just in the beginning phases of trusting yourself? If so, click the image below and grab my copy of “You Have What it Takes“, a guide full of questions to help you improve your relationship to food.