Are Your Fears and Self-Criticisms Holding You Back?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Every month The Go Get It Guide is your destination for motivation, musings on random goals and probably pop culture references. It's a space where we'll sort through the PR pitches and news, then share our honest thoughts on what's happening in the health and fitness world, what's on the horizon and just what we think of that video the internet obsessed over last week. Check in each month to Spark, Sweat, Smile, Savor and Shop with us!

Spark: Little Ears are Listening

From a young age, it's an uncontested truth that mother knows best. While we don't do it often enough, every Mother's Day is a chance to reflect on all the ways the women who raised us regularly resembled superheroes in disguise. Whether it's them flying in out of nowhere to help you find that shirt that you swore was in your bottom drawer but is now lost and you absolutely must wear today; calming you down when you take the curlers out of your hair an hour before prom only to realize that there's a good chance your date might mistake you for a poodle; or talking you off the ledge the first year you do your taxes on your own, moms have this omniscient extrasensory perception that seems to give them advanced degrees in almost anything at a moment's notice.

As with any great power, this indubitable wisdom also comes with great responsibility. For moms who are struggling with their body image or weight, it's the offhand remarks that make just as permanent a mark as the intentional advice. "Well that cookie is going straight to my thighs." "I could never wear a shirt like that with these belly rolls." "I just wish I could lose my arm jiggle." "I love pasta but I always feel so guilty! Looks like I'll be skipping dinner tonight." Children especially are at risk of latching on to these self-deprecating sighs mumbled under your breath. Take this video featuring young girls repeating phrases they've heard their mother's say, for instance, and consider all the times you've verbalized a frustration with your own body.   

In the moment, it feels like we're just venting, joking even, but when little ears are listening—little ears that are regularly learning and developing based on your words—those personal frustrations become something much more powerful and potentially harmful. After all, children, especially little girls, look up to their mothers, aspire to be more like them and learn from their behaviors. After hearing negative self-talk about their mother's body, the foods she eats or the exercise she may or may not be making time for, it's possible for a daughter to question her own choices and body image over time. By commenting negatively or bringing attention to self-perceived flaws and shortcomings, we teach our children that one particular standard of beauty (be it thin thighs, muscular arms or your personal benchmark for body success) is desirable and that self-worth suffers until that standard is achieved.

When on the path to weight loss, of course, there are times when you will feel down and critical of your body, and that's okay. It's a tough path that you're on and off days are bound to happen. The important thing here is to balance that negative self-talk with positivity. Take care to turn the volume up to 11 as you celebrate the successes, the improvements and the strengths along the way. Practice swapping a complaint about how you'll have to "work that dinner off at the gym" with a conversation about how you can't wait to hit your yoga class tomorrow morning to see if you can finally nail that eagle pose you've been practicing. Take the time to explain to your child, niece, grandchild the "why" behind your weight-loss journey so they understand that every body is different and health is of the utmost concern. Celebrate the body you have in the meantime by cutting yourself some slack and enjoying a cupcake on the porch without guilt or skipping your workout for a day at the pool when that spring weather is calling to you.

As with your diet and exercise, balance is key in how we talk to ourselves. When we practice gratitude in accepting our bodies as they are now and display a degree of enjoyment in the process of getting healthy—yes, even after a particularly sweaty spin class—impressionable minds take note. This month, focus on fostering your own self-worth by seeing yourself through the eyes of someone who loves you. To them, you're already beautiful and it's about time you started treating yourself that way, too.

Smile: Come on, Get Happy (for You)

A common fear mentioned by SparkPeople members hesitating to take that first step toward happy, healthy living is that of being judged, whether it's in the gym, running outside or just walking down the street. Oftentimes this fear is born from self-doubt or a diminished self-worth tied to a weight of which they are no longer in control. Perhaps they had an unfortunate experience while exercising in the past or have been overweight so long that it's difficult to imagine pursuing a fitness goal without drawing attention to themselves. To those with fears, I direct your attention to the following, one of our top Instagram posts from last month:


A post shared by SparkPeople (@sparkpeople) on

For anyone who's ever felt less than or judged in a place that is filled with people trying to improve their lives, I offer you this piece of universal truth: Everyone, even the thinnest, fittest, most confident person you see, has their own doubts. Why do we let prying eyes or imagined judgments get in the way of our ultimate pursuit of happiness? Trust me when I tell you that I've almost tripped over my feet trying to catch a glance at my running form in the mirror to confirm that, yes, it really is as awkward and clumsy as it feels. I've worked out at our office gym one day feeling like my bicep curls were on point, only to hit the gym the next and feel like everyone's eyes were burning a hole in the back of my skull as I struggled through a set of burpees. And who's to say they're judging you? More often than not, I'm thinking to myself "I love to see people out and about on such a nice day," or "Ugh, I should be out there running, too" or "Cute top! I wonder where she got it," if you catch me glancing your way.

The fact is, most people at the gym or those that you encounter walking through your neighborhood are too preoccupied with their own agenda to pay attention to what you're doing. Unless you're shooting off Roman candles as you jog down the street or shouting "No, Kelly Clarkson!" as you complete your last deadlift, chances are you're not going to draw attention to yourself by simply bettering yourself.

At the end of the day, we are responsible for our own happiness, not those people you think could possibly, maybe be looking in from the outside. Letting their imaginary verdicts pollute our heads keeps us from fully realizing our potential in the pursuit of healthy living goals. The next time you notice someone looking your direction, address it with a smile or imagine them being jealous of your form, attitude or perseverance, rather than some mean-spirited judgement. Remember this: No matter where you are in your weight-loss journey, you are an inspiration just for getting out there and going for it, and that's the happiest, greatest realization in the world.

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VHAYES04 12/8/2020
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VHAYES04 12/7/2020
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Good article. Love LADYBUG1943 comment!!!!! Report
Your children has a tendency to do whatever they have learned. Report
Alas, it was Dad who knew best, not Mom. It took me a lifetime to realize that. Report
I am SO happy we are still finding more and more things to blame mom's for! Keep up the good fight everyone! Report
Great job Report
The only one judging you, is you.
I don't agree with the body-image movement. If a soul is unhappy with how they look, it is time for a change. Blaming thin models because someone feels uncomfortable with how they look is an excuse. Being at an unhealthy weight is not okay. Report
Love this article. So much truth. Report
Good article! Report
going bysicling Report
Good reminder. Thank you. Report
This is SO true!! Report
Love this article! Way to go sparks! Report
Love this article! Way to go sparks! Report
Love this article! Way to go sparks! Report
great message. . . thanks! Report
Awesome! Report
I know it isn't just women who struggle with this. It would have been nice to have seen this from a more balanced perspective. Report
Every time I recognize a negative thought, I tell myself to stop it. Unfortunately, I have reason to believe some of those negative thoughts get past my notice. So, I keep watching for them. Report
good article Report
Interesting message Report
Interesting message Report
a good article Report
Great article. Thank you for sharing Report
Great article! Report
Great message Report
The only person judging you is yourself.

(Seriously, if you think *that* many people are judging you, you're thinking a little too much of yourself!) Report
nice Report
That message is so true, we are all beautiful in some way or another. Report
What an awesome message. I wish everyone could read this. Report
We are more than conquerors, SparkFriends! We can and will do it! Report
Such important reminders. Just saw a meme that said something to the effect of "trying to get a swimsuit body? Do you have a body? Have a swimsuit? Done!" I have to hear my mind to remember my insecurities are nothing compared to having pool/beach fun with my kids. Report
To some degree but quite frankly it's more what's in magazines, tv shows and movies. Report
Parents can be great mentors for their children and sometimes other influences can trump all the effort. Report
Society has developed such a horrible situation with the expectations that only a small few can attain. Report
We are the example for our children Report
It is amazing that the self critical attitude can be so easily copied by our children. Report
It's true, we are responsible for our own happiness. Attitude is everything! Report
Our looks change over time as we age. Wrinkles happen - on men they look good, but some women fear them. I've always hated that double-standard.

To me, they're a sign that I've lived, laughed, cried. Flab happens, stretch marks happen - they are all part of life, and anyone who desires to look like a fashion model doesn't know what they go through to maintain that look. Once they lose that look, they're out of a job.

And, the "look" that was considered beautiful when we were young also changes. Back in the 1960s everyone wanted to look like Twiggy. Ten years before that women wanted to look like Marilyn Monroe.

Because "beauty" is fleeting, focus on health, not looks. Teaching your kids to eat healthy isn't so hard if you don't introduce the junk food in the first place. Sugar and salt cravings are learned. I've seen parents with young children salt their foods or put sugar on top of cereal - totally unnecessary. Learning to taste what a fresh green bean or fresh carrot is supposed to taste like, compared to one that's salted - there's no comparison, the fresh, unsalted ones taste so much better. Report
Great Article Report
So important! Thanks for posting! Report
Great Report
Great Report
I wonder sometimes if we should stop the comments about, both ours and theirs, appearance altogether. Instead of saying "you're so beautiful," say "that dress just echoes your blue eyes." Or.... you're a person who never gives up." "You're an achiever!" "I always knew you were a kind person." Take the attention off how they look, and instead toward exemplary behavior (if it's true!) Report
It's not just moms, unfortunately. I remember my dad taking me to the zoo when I was little. When we got to the hippopotamus exhibit he said "there's your mom, haha"
We live what we learn... Report