In Diane Setterfield's debut novel, 'The Thirteenth Tale' , she beautifully articulates: “There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.” She highlights how words can also be manipulated to deliver negative consequences and very often we are the authors of the toxic words that burden us with negativity, self-loathing, guilt and shame.
I recently went on holiday with a gorgeous female friend of mine. She is a very successful business woman, kind, generous, witty and great fun to be around. She is slim, curvy, sexy and feminine and looks a lot younger than her forty-something years. Yet, despite all of these amazing attributes she spent a great deal of the holiday berating herself for eating, highlighting to us parts of her body she is unhappy with and declaring her intention to quit eating various foods. The words she was using to describe herself were incredibly cruel and self-destructive and it was clear that she was making herself feel utterly miserable obsessing over her negative body image. It was very uncomfortable listening to her as it mirrored the way in which I have been speaking to myself for decades, up until very recently.
The issue of damaging self-talk and body loathing is certainly not limited to my friend and me - it is global. Taryn Brumfitt, the Founder of the Body Image Movement, a movement to inspire women to change the way they feel and think about their bodies, states how women "have many remarkable qualities but sadly we are often anchored down by negative thoughts that ‘sideline’ us from being all that we can be."
Since reaping the rewards of using positive language to stay alcohol-free, coupled with the dulling of the mean girl voices that had been running wild in my head for years, I have found it much easier to adjust my internal dialogue to a far kinder one. Without alcohol feeding the darker parts of my consciousness, I am able to focus on my positive qualities - many of which extend beyond my physical appearance. I quite literally feel at peace with myself for the first time since I was around ten years old. Quitting drinking and its ripple effect continue to be the gift that keeps on giving. It has reinforced just how much words matter and how the words we choose can either lift us up or drag us down. I'm no longer prepared to be that mean girl to myself, I finally want to make amends for all the cruel words I've used to hurt myself and hold myself back year after year after year.