Do you think your thoughts about yourself don’t matter? Do you believe talking down to yourself or thinking you are ugly or fat will somehow motivate you to become the best version of yourself?
I think the answer to the above questions is a ‘yes’ for many of us. It certainly used to be for me. I remember religiously following advice in slimming magazines, internet articles and posts on social media about how you could use self-shaming (self-hate) to lose weight. I totally bought into it because my happiness (or lack of it) was dependent on how much I weighed. Needless to say, I was happy when I was heading in the direction of weight loss and extremely unhappy when I was not. I was so desperate to be thin that I believed that this was going to be the answer to my dreams.
Let’s apply this in practical terms because I think the answer to the above questions should be a resounding ‘no’ and I am going to use a few examples to show you why I believe that to be the case. I have randomly selected three situations where self-shaming is used but of course there are many more! In essence though, all of my counter-arguments can apply to any form of this type of motivation stimulation!!
Place a ‘fat’ photo of yourself in clear sight
Why, because it will be a constant reminder of what you do NOT want to look like. It is particularly recommended to pin one of these on the front of your fridge as a deterrent before opening the door!
Place a ‘thin’ photo of yourself in clear sight
Why, because it will remind you of how you once looked and how you would like to look again. As with example 1 above, the advice suggests you pin it on the front of your fridge to hinder the chances of you breaking your diet!
Buy a beautiful item of clothing in a size that you would like to be and place it in a prime location in your wardrobe
Why, because every time you reach into your wardrobe, the sight of the said item will spur you on to stick to your diet
Now, don’t get me wrong, I do think the fundamental idea behind these suggestions is wholeheartedly good but it is the suggestions themselves that are bad. By that I mean there are many things we CAN do to motivate ourselves but self-shaming certainly is not it!!
Why then, do I think these are more of a hindrance then help is this:
That fat photo on the fridge might just motivate you to not open the fridge door in the short term, but what it is actually doing is causing long term damage to your self-esteem. Whilst the act seems innocent and well-meaning, you are actually telling yourself subconsciously that you are not good enough; That you are imperfect and that image of yourself is actually placed there to mock all the imperfections you are trying to repel. It makes you live in the future, robbing you of any happiness in the here and now which is all we really have. How very dangerous is that?!
The thin photo on the fridge sounds great, doesn’t it? You are faced with an image of how you used to look and how you would love to look right now. The problem with this is that it forces you to live in the past and makes your happiness something for the future. Like the ‘fat’ photo, it also tells you that you are not good enough, that in order for you to be happy, you need to return to your former ‘thin’ state. Your sub-conscious is a very powerful force. One that you cannot see and for the most part aren’t even aware it exists, but powerful it is!! When you constantly tell yourself that you’re not good enough, your sub-conscious mind will believe it whether it is true or not. It will then go out of its way to keep you that way.
When you hang on to item/s of clothing that is/are too small for you, you find yourself in a continuous state of desperation. It means you will beat yourself up each time you fail to live up to unrealistic expectations. You will feel guilty and inadequate each time you see the item/s; you will be more prone to getting caught in the starve binge cycle and ultimately you are more likely to fail because your sub-conscious is constantly being bombarded by images the said item/s that you currently cannot wear.
Written by Sherry Taylor
Author of The Anti-Diet Lifestyle