The Language of Limitation and Hate-Speak

Last week, I posted on social media that I would not speak hate to my body any more, and noted that for me, hate-speak often comes when I label one part of my body as weak, inflexible, or inadequate.  This, of course, seems harsh. Perhaps I’m merely speaking the truth - my right shoulder is indeed inflexible, my left knee has weakness leftover from an accident. But I’ve noticed that the more I labeled myself with limiting language, the more limits I see in myself; aka the Pygmalion effect is in full force. 

For many years, I struggled with negative body image. I would often tell myself that I was fat, I had a big nose, that I wasn’t tall enough to be attractive, that I wasn’t pretty,…the list could go on.  And, for many years, I attracted people and experiences into my life that enforced this view of myself. I had an ex who told me that I was “entirely unremarkable, in every way; you are forgettable,” he said. Those words burned into my heart for a long time. So, what changed? I decided I wanted to be friends with me; I wanted to stop hating myself, my looks, and my body. And quite frankly, hating me was much more exhausting than liking me. So I stopped. Cold turkey quit. And it was fantastic - I felt like a giant weight was lifted off me. What was even better is that I had more time to focus on what I liked and enjoyed because I wasn’t so preoccupied with what I didn’t like about myself. 

So, hooray for me! I cured myself from negative-self talk - clearly, it’s time to write a book, go on tour, start booking my own show. Right?  

Wrong.

Just like an addict replaces one vice for another, my negative self-talk was replaced with limiting language. Any time my shoulder hurt in yoga, I would say “well, it’s because my right shoulder is weak.” When learning another language didn’t come easily at first, I would say “well, it’s because I’m not young any more and it’s hard to learn something at my age.” When I broke out, my hair frizzed, my clothes didn’t fit,…you name it, I had a limiting label for it —  I have bad skin. I have weird hair. I have a funny body type.  Just as before...the list goes on and on. 

What I slowly began to realize is that negative self talk and limiting language, are both hate-speak - they reinforce an attitude of dislike, disrespect, and unkindness. It doesn’t matter if I’m telling myself that I’m ugly, or if I’m telling my shoulder that it’s weak. Both of these statements serve hate rather than love. 

With negative self-talk, this idea seems obvious. Telling yourself “You Are Ugly” doesn’t leave much room for interpretation - it is certainly hate-speak. But telling yourself, “You Aren’t Flexible” doesn’t immediately come across as hateful. But don’t be fooled - limiting language is perhaps the worst kind of hate-speak. It is underhanded, passive-aggressive, and self-deprecating. By placing these limits on ourselves, we are reinforcing the concept that we are somehow broken, incomplete, or not enough. Moreover, limiting language is sneaky. These little buggers creep into our everyday thoughts, language, and actions.

So, what’s my lesson in all this? I no longer wish to speak hate to myself. In any form. No more negativity, and certainly no more limitations. And this is, of course, a slow process. Much slower than I had originally planned. But I’m OK with that. So, I will continue to practice self-love and self-care. And be mindful of how I label myself.