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I Said Nothing Negative About Myself For 3 Days
Writer Katie Ramsingh finds out what happens when she bans negative self-talk
‘If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all’.
That was my mum’s favourite phrase when I was growing up. And while it worked to stop my little brother and I from hurling insults at each other, I never extended her words of wisdom to talking about myself.
Growing up British, being self-deprecating is practically part of your DNA. It’s ingrained in us to never boast about achievements and successes. As a result of this ultra-modest mindset, many Brits end up being far too hard on themselves. Myself included.
I think I have a good level of self-esteem, but like most 20-something women, I’d be uncomfortable telling you I was the best. I worry celebrating my wins will make me seem obnoxious, I’d rate my looks an average 6/10, and I’m happy with my career but could easily list countless people who are doing it better.
So when I was scrolling through Instagram one day, something caught my eye. A quote from Yoko Ono:
‘Say nothing negative about yourself for 3 days, for 45 days for 3 months. See what happens to your life’.
I was intrigued. But also convinced I couldn’t do it. And that’s when I knew I had to try.
After hitting the snooze button a good dozen times, I finally wake up far behind my schedule. I’m immediately annoyed at myself. Timekeeping has never been my strong point and being as I’m self-employed, it’s really a skill I should have mastered by now. But before I start internally slating my laziness, I remember the challenge. I acknowledge that I probably needed the rest and that listening to your body is one of the kindest things you can do for it.
As I lie in bed and read through work emails, I reach to itch my face and touch something on my forehead. Immediately my camera phone is flipped on and I’m assessing the situation. Of course, at the start of this positivity challenge, a giant spot has decided to erupt on my face.
I immediately feel less confident. I had severe acne as a teen and getting a spot triggers my insecurities. The voice inside my head tells me that I look truly hideous and need to cover it ASAP. But why does that even matter? I’ll only be seeing immediate family and my boyfriend today. Logic silences the negativity once again.
Later, I apologise for my appearance over lunch. “Sorry, I look a bit trampy today”, I laugh (but not really that jokingly). Classic British self-deprecation. But then I remind myself of the challenge and quickly correct myself. “Actually I look alright, don’t I?” Everyone rolls their eyes and we carry on like before.
I’ve been so swamped with work that I almost forget the challenge. When I do remember, I beat myself up for not making enough notes. I debate making something up to meet the word count for this article, and then I immediately feel terrible for even thinking it.
One thing I do manage to do is stop negative thoughts appearing when I pass by the mirror. If I spot an imperfection I remind myself that no one needs to look perfect 24/7. But where are these thoughts coming from? I realise my internal comparison is probably coming from time spent on social media.
Working from home means I can endlessly scroll socials unsupervised and I’ve realised it allows constant comparison to take over my brain. Following fitness bloggers, style influencers and even fellow digital nomads leaves me with an inferiority complex. I question why I don’t have a life like them, even though I know mine is pretty enviable to a lot of people.
I decide to set an activity reminder so I can limit my time online. I also try my hardest to repeat positive affirmations whenever I find myself wondering why I don’t have abs, the new Stella McCartney bag or a mini break in Mykonos coming up. I may not be published in a national women’s magazine yet, but I’m published on Restless, which is equally as cool.
Today is my day off and I’m too busy catching up on sleep and bingeing YouTube videos to be down on myself. There’s no guilt about having a lie-in, not brushing my hair or staying in my dressing gown. Today is for self-care.
Instead of filling my brain with negative thoughts, I try activities that are said to boost positivity instead. I write a gratitude list of all the things I’m thankful for and try physically smiling for no reason at all. Although the latter makes me feel slightly crazed to begin with, by the end I feel pretty positive.
Now that the challenge is over, I’m keeping up the good habits I’ve learnt. It takes practice, but I’ve found the best way to combat negative thoughts is to talk to your inner self like you would a friend. I’d never dream of putting a girlfriend down for her timekeeping, physical appearance or performance at work, so why should I say those things about myself? We need to start treating ourselves as we do others.
As Ru Paul says, if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?
And that deserves an amen.