It's time for a truce

We talk a lot about the war on women. At work (wage inequality). On the playing field (domestic violence). On campus (date rape). In the legislature and judiciary (restricted reproductive choice). It’s become a meme, a memorable turn of phrase that both highlights and diminishes the importance of the issue at hand.

But what about the personal war we women wage on ourselves every day? When we stand before the mirror or wake up at three in the morning. The self-defeating and marginalizing comments that become second nature after the age of eight (not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, thin enough). They’re as devastating as bullets and just as deadly.

The good news is that you can silence that internal critic who brings you down. Here’s how:

1. Ask yourself: is this story true? Have I really gained weight or is this style simply unflattering to my shape? Am I really unqualified for this job/promotion/raise or am I simply insecure because I don’t think I meet/exceed every single qualification? Take a good, realistic look at yourself (or talk with an objective friend or colleague) and separate fact from fiction so you can act with your best intentions at heart.

2. Develop greater self-awareness. Make a chart of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and things that get in the way. Getting things down on paper will help you see yourself more clearly so you can focus on what’s worth working on or pursuing and what’s worth letting go.

3. Cultivate shades of grey. (No, not that!) Are you prone to an all-or-nothing-at-all approach to life? Extreme thinking can really color your perceptions of what’s real and true. Tone down the black and white so you can see things as they really are and not as you may fear.

 4. Choose empathy over judgment. As hard as we are on ourselves, we can be even harder on other women. You never know what’s going on in someone else’s life, so take a step back before you judge another’s life choices. That compassion will come back to you.

 If we want to end the war on women, let’s start by making peace with our { selves }.

How does this make you feel?

Who’s the pretty girl in the mirror? “Not me,” I can hear you saying. According to Glamour.com, “women experience an average of 13 negative thoughts about their body each day, while 97% admit to having at least one ‘I hate my body’ moment.”

But wait, there’s more:

- 42% of first- to third-grade girls want to be thinner. 81% are afraid of getting fat. (Dove) We're talking eight-year-olds here.

- Among fifth- to 12th-grade girls, 47% wanted to lose weight because of magazine pictures and 69% said that magazines influenced their idea of what the perfect body looked like. (USA Today)

- Yet only 5% of American women naturally have the ideal body type portrayed in ads. (The Renfrew Center Foundation for Eating Disorders)

- 50% of commercials directed to women emphasize physical attractiveness. The average adolescent views over 5000 of these ads annually. (Radar Programs)

Is it any wonder that women excel in dieting and self-loathing? That we are at war with food, our bodies and ourselves?

How can we break the cycle? In a word: “body self-compassion,” Dr. Jean Fain’s prescription for transforming bad eating habits and body image.

Self-compassion requires mindful awareness (paying attention to the here and now—what you are doing and feeling in the moment); loving-kindness (seeing and treating yourself as worthy of love) and common humanity (surrounding yourself with a community of support).

Self-compassion doesn’t mean you see yourself through rose-colored glasses. But it does mean that you take the time to see yourself as you realistically are and embrace your whole self, not just your appearance. It means cutting yourself some slack when you falter. It means paying attention to physical and emotional cues around food without being judgmental and manifesting your inner strength to create the outcome you desire--greater self-acceptance and self-empowerment, decreased depression and disordered eating--and can control (rather than being a victim of external influences that drag you down.).

As Maya Angelou famously said, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Starting with your { self }.