I'm out on a training run and it is hot. It's about 2PM and I just hit mile 8 during a run I had only intended to last for 5 miles. The unmistakable voice of the MapMyRun woman comes through my headphones. Her announcement makes me roll my eyes because it overpowers the sound of the podcast I'm invested in, which is the only thing still keeping my feet moving. She slowly and meticulously tells me my distance and pace.
Distance: 8 miles.
Split pace: 10 minutes 58 seconds per mile.
My hands fall to my sides and I hunch over, completely indignant, feet still drudging along. Almost an 11 minute mile!? What the hell am I doing? How am I ever going to be able to run this marathon? People are going to be passing me left and right. I won't be able to finish. I'm going to embarrass myself. I should just go home.
Luckily, because I'm stubborn, I finished my "quick 5 mile run" after a solid 10 miles, beating myself up all the way home, my final two miles even slower than the one I was initially upset about.
I was disappointed with my pace, but that wasn't what made the end of my run so bad.
The biggest issue I was facing wasn't how fast (or slowly) I was going, but rather the way I was speaking to myself.
If I had been running with a friend, I never would have gotten upset at her for running slowly, especially on a hot day during a run with no water! I would have told her that she was doing great and that she could go as slow as she needed to, as long as she didn't give up. I would have been supportive and proud.
So why didn't I treat myself with the same love and compassion?
The truth of the matter is that most of us don't practice positive self-talk. We tend to beat ourselves up and say things to and about ourselves that we would never say to a friend. It is an extremely common occurrence, and more often than not, it happens in casual conversation with other people.
I could never do that.
That dress is beautiful but I'm way too fat to wear it.
I'm sorry, I'm an idiot.
I thought about applying, but I'd never get the job.
We say these things about ourselves all the time, deciding that we would fail at something before we even try. Spend a few days really paying attention to the thoughts you have and the things you say, and I guarantee that you'll notice quite a few instances of negative self-talk.
But what about people who don't push themselves at all?
We all know someone who is way too forgiving of themselves. Maybe she always feels the need to skip the gym and relax with a bottle of wine because she had a "rough day," or he would love to start eating healthy but he's just way too tired so Domino's it is.
These people are far too easy on themselves. They don't challenge themselves, don't often put themselves in the way of fear or discomfort and rarely set or reach goals. Their self-talk is far too lenient and, in that way, equally as detrimental.
I can't wake up early to go to the gym, I'm too tired.
I had a stressful day, so I got some ice cream on the way home.
Cooking makes a huge mess in my kitchen, so I'm going to order in.
I would love to join you at the gym, but I've been having a pain in my earlobe for a few days, so I'm going to stay home and rest.
There is very little demand for change in this kind of self-talk, which is why these people are difficult to motivate. By allowing their excuses to drive their decisions, they can talk themselves out of doing just about anything.
Finding the happy medium.
Thankfully, there is a way to be both stern and forgiving when addressing ones self, especially when it comes to accomplishing goals and overcoming obstacles. It's not easy and it definitely involves constant patience and practice, but it is the best (and only) way to ensure that your best friend has your back - you.
Try speaking to yourself as if you're speaking about your best friend.
When someone says something negative about her, even if it's you, stand up to them. Remember that no one is perfect, that she is trying her best and that she has so much to be proud of.
Give her the benefit of the doubt and trust that she can accomplish anything she sets her mind to, no matter how many times she may stumble along the way.
However, don't forget to be that reality check for your best friend, too.
When she's feeling like quitting, remind her that she's tougher than that. Remind her that she is so much stronger than the stuff weighing her down.
Don't let her take the easy or convenient way out. Make sure she's pushing herself to be the best she can be, don't let her sell herself short and remind her that even when she's busy and tired and cranky, that she has just as many hours in the day as Beyonce, so #NoExcuses.
Whether you're way too hard or way too easy on yourself, chances are, that's what's keeping you unhealthy and dissatisfied. Start pushing yourself, cheering for yourself, forgiving yourself and protecting yourself.
Set realistic daily goals and allow yourself to flow with the punches without giving up or making excuses. That perfect combination of toughness and understanding will be exactly what you need to power through without getting too beat up or too comfortable.