I wrote and posted this several years ago however I recently was speaking about Ahimsa to my yoga students and thought I'd bring it back as a gentle reminder to be kind to ourselves.
Don’t Talk That Way About My Wife.
Two years ago, a friend of ours (let’s call him Matt) came over to borrow our bike pump. He and his wife (let’s call her Jane) were going to start biking as a way to get back into exercise. They dragged their bikes out of the garage and had flats in all the tires. We loaned the bike pump to them and they proceeded to inflate their tires in our driveway. As they talked about biking and going for a ride, Jane made a derogatory comment about her size, her weight gain and riding the bike. Without missing a beat, Matt looked up from the bike pump, stared her straight in the eye and said: “Don’t talk that way about my wife.”
A bunch of thoughts flew through my head as soon as I overheard Matt’s words.
First thought: “Awwwww….what a sweet, good husband.”
Second thought: “What an amazing way to gently point out to someone how hard they are being on themselves.”
Third thought: “Isn’t it sad how easily and readily we can be hard on ourselves? Putting ourselves down and saying things that we would likely never say to a friend, family member or even a stranger.”
Would Jane ever walk up to her neighbor who was going to ride a bike and say “Your fat butt is not going to fit on that seat” ? My money is on NO. She would never ever say that in a million years to another human. So why could she say it so easily about herself?
Now in Jane’s defense, she was likely nervous and a little uncomfortable. Making fun of herself could’ve been the easier thing to do than to admit that she was anxious. And to her credit, she got on that bike, went for her ride, and that was the start of what eventually became a total body transformation for Jane. But what has always struck me about that encounter were her words and what her husband said to her. “Don’t talk that way about my wife.”
We, all of us, need to stop bullying ourselves. I hear women and men almost daily talk negatively about their bodies and minds. “I’m too fat to work out.” “I’m slower than you.” “I’ll never look like that.” “I’m disgusted by the scale.” I’m gross.” “I’m ugly.” “I’m not smart enough, thin enough, tall enough, fast enough, strong enough, etc." Fill in the blank. Just typing these insults makes me feel like crying. These are hurtful, unkind words, yet why can so many of us go there in our heads so easily? Again. . I would bet my house that none of you would say any of these words about your friends, your kids, your spouses.
As a parent and a former school teacher, I have had a lot of anti-bullying education. We teach our kids about bullying and how to report bullies, how to stick up for the kid who is getting picked on. But what do we do when the bully is us? And we are picking on ourselves?
DON’T TALK THAT WAY ABOUT MY WIFE.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali offers 10 guidelines for living a yogic lifestyle. The Yamas and the Niyamas. If you have been in any of my classes, you have heard me talk A LOT about the first Yama, “Ahimsa.” Ahimsa means non-violence. Non-violence in our thoughts and actions. Another word for non-violence is kindness. Kindness in our thoughts and actions. Initially, many of us might interpret this as being good to others. Treating others with kindness and love. Trying not to hurt others. However. in order for us to love and show kindness to anyone else, doesn’t it make sense that we have to be kind and good to ourselves first?
There was a time in my life, back in my teens and through my 20’s, when I would pinch the skin on my waist and feel disgusted. Others would see it as skin, but I saw it as fat. Even though I have always been athletic and fit, I was able to find things wrong with myself physically. If anyone could’ve eavesdropped on my mental conversations, they would’ve been shocked at how hurtful and cruel I could be to myself. Retrospectively, I chalk a lot of this up to youthful body image issues, low self-esteem, trying to figure out who I was, how I fit in. Without delving too deeply into my psyche, I’m grateful, so very grateful that I have been able to shift my perception of myself over the years. Yoga, having kids, facing down a life-threatening illness have all helped me quiet that negative self-talk and encourage my more complimentary and positive mind-chatter. Getting to this point required me to shift my focus towards all that I COULD do…..all the positive aspects of my life…and softly move away from those negative thoughts. Without knowing it, I have thankfully adapted my friend’s attitude and I try to speak to myself the way I would talk to a friend or loved one.
DON’T TALK THAT WAY ABOUT MY WIFE.
Today I challenge you to shift the way that you think about yourself and the way that you look at yourself. If you feel some negative chatter floating to the surface, see if another thought can intervene. How can you spin that mean thought into a kinder, softer one? Think about what you would tell a friend. Think how nice you would be if you were talking to your child, your neighbor, your grandmother.
Be good to yourselves in your thoughts and actions friends. Try it. You will like it.
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