The hens are clucking: Women and habitual toxic thinking

May 17, 2013

We women struggle.

We are fortunate not to live in a society that condones female genital mutilation or whose cultural norms leave us defenseless against HIV, but we certainly have a few doozies of our own.

Many women in our country think extraordinarily little of themselves.

Once upon a time – before we received random pieces of mail teaching how to “eat yourself skinny,” as I just did, – when there was some semblance of perspective, this sort of thinking might have been wrought with self-pity. But, it has caught on.

No longer just a means for self-discipline, staring into a mirror simply to point out our own flaws has become a pathological, reflex occurrence. It’s even social.

Who among us hasn’t gone to the bathroom with a female friend only to discuss the planet that has erupted on our forehead, “fat pants” or how crappy our hair looks that day?

We actually bond with other women – women struggling with the same negative thinking as we are – over self-criticism. Like a bad case of pink eye, we’re passing this toxic thinking back and forth between some of those we care about most.

And, in fits of self-satisfaction, we condemn the famous and beautiful for their moments of realism.

Are there things about the Kardashian family that warrant a *shake my head.* Obviously. Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy weight gain is certainly not one of them.

She is a woman of bodacious hip structure. They were sought after and drooled over before the two pink lines. It is really earth-shattering her weight gain continues to emphasize these assets? Allow me to correct myself: weight gain associated with the creation of another human.

This negativity snowballs, is passed back and forth and is so subtle that we scarcely recognize we’re doing it. But, the cycle has to stop, and it must be a conscious decision.

Here are a few thoughts for all of us to live a bit happier and more positively about ourselves, each other and our bodies:

1. Make a rule for yourself: “If I’m going to look in the mirror, I am not going to analyze my body.”

2. Barring medical necessity, throw away your scale. Numbers cannot be compared between different women of different builds.

3. Compliment, compliment, compliment. Stop a woman at the grocery store whose haircut you’ve been admiring since aisle three. Say something positive about yourself when you look in the mirror. Someone may be in more desperate need of a compliment than you can imagine, and, look, you made that person’s day!

4. Gain perspective about pregnancy weight. There are legions of women who would give almost anything for the joy of gaining 35 pounds or more if it allowed them to be a mother. Even more have suffered miscarriages and would do anything for the excitement of being that far along into a pregnancy. Kim Kardashian’s weight gain, in its way, is a celebration.

5. Consider this one a catch-all: In the kindest way possible, SHUT UP.

Gosh, I know it’s tempting. The hens are clucking. It’s been a long day. It feels good to gab. How easy is it to sit around and talk about how so-and-so’s pants have been getting a little tight?

The discipline it takes to hold that little comment in is exactly what it takes to put an end to the diseased habit of self-critique.

Conjure a large dose of empathy to imagine what it would feel like were your friends/co-workers/fellow women talking about you in that manner.

We’re in this together. Let’s act like it.

A registered nurse, web columnist Abby Mackey is author of the blog The Written Remedy and the Pittsburgh Pregnancy Examiner for She is a freelance healthcare writer for the Observer-Reporter. Follow her here and on Twitter: @AbigailMackeyRN.



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