"You are disgusting." "Look at those hail-damaged thighs." "Ugh, gross." No, these are not the taunts of a bully or abusive boyfriend, but the inner insults of women all over the world. According to Doctor Carolyn Ross, "Currently, 80% of women in the U.S. are dissatisfied with their appearance, and more than 10 million are suffering from eating disorders."
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We all deal with our internal critic, but continuous criticism will eat away at your self-worth and wellbeing. When we take these negative thoughts and emotionalize them over long periods of time (usually beginning in childhood) they become a belief, and our beliefs create our identity: the internal picture we have of ourselves. So, if you want to change how you feel about the reflection in the mirror, you're going to have to address the reflection in your soul.
Our soul is where our deep inner thoughts have created and built what we see in our lives. Our mind creates between 50,000-70,000 thoughts a day, most of them in the subconscious: a thought-bank that functions to store and retrieve data. Here's the problem. According to Biologist Bruce Lipton, "The subconscious mind is fundamentally habitual; it will play the same behavioral responses to life's signals over and over again, much to our chagrin."
Aha! This is why you keep engaging in bad habits that support the demeaning dialogue in your head, you've got a story operating on autopilot. You may have been taught to run to food when you felt stressed or scared. You may have learned to celebrate every ribbon, trophy, or straight "A" with pizza and ice cream. Maybe you listened to your mom publicly proclaim her discontent with those pesky 20 pounds she could never lose. Don't think you have a story? If you're part of the 80% (I think it's higher) of women who don't like their appearance, then there is a negative story playing in your subconscious.
To close the book, you need to become fully aware of what's going on in your head, by challenging these deeply entrenched thoughts. We can retrain our thinking just like we can train our body.
In the gym, we apply the 5 components of physical fitness: body composition, flexibility, muscular strength, cardiorespiratory endurance, and muscular endurance. These same components can be applied to our thought life. Step into your Soul Gym:
1. Soul Composition
As a personal trainer, it's my job to assess your level of fitness. More specifically, to establish a baseline by measuring the percentage of body fat versus lean muscle tissue. This way you can set measurable goals and track your progress. The same is true in the Soul Gym. We have to assess the amount of flabby thinking we have versus mental muscle. Flabby thoughts are the limiting beliefs negatively affecting your life, and mental muscle is developed by renewing your mind. Your workout begins when you start "thinking about what you’re thinking about."
2. Soul Flexibility
Flexibility means being able to move a joint through a normal range of motion. However, we can lose flexibility over time due to injury, a sedentary lifestyle, and age. The same is true in our thinking. We can get trapped in mental quicksand: stuck in a pattern of behavior and haunted by our broken promises. “This time I’m going to lose weight.” “I’ll never eat that again.” “I’ m going to the gym tomorrow.” Sound familiar?
Change is possible, and everything you need is already inside you. Flexibility is the foundation for change, a matter of mindset … not willpower. You can stretch your inner critic by challenging decades of subconscious thinking and embracing the uncomfortable.
3. Soul Strength
Resistance training is not only good for muscle development, which speeds up metabolism and supports functional fitness, but it also strengthens your skeletal system. Feeling strong makes walking through life easier. When you feel weak you don't want to go after your goals, let alone take on a new challenge. Soul strength is zapped when you expend mental energy protecting your limiting beliefs, worrying, and focusing on circumstances. True strength is produced on the inside and works its way out (behavioral change will follow). Developing mental muscle is the key to toning up flabby thinking, but you've got to put in the reps.
4. Cardio Soul
Working up a sweat is a good thing. By exercising your heart muscle you strengthen it. This four chamber pump is distributing O2 and nutrients to every cell in your body. The same is true of your cardio soul. Scripture says:
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23
A guard is placed to protect only what's important, and your heart is a precious place … fertile soil. Everything we take in has the potential to become a part of us. Take a look at your inputs. The people in your life, cultural influences, music, social media and every other aspect that you give your time and attention. God has an audacious plan for your life, and it's your job to protect your purpose.
5. Soul Endurance
Any time you decide to make a change it requires a commitment and patience to persist. Patience is not a depressed passing of time, but cheerful endurance, but you have to keep your "eye on your why." It takes time to dig up our deeply entrenched misbeliefs and rewire our thinking. But just like going to the gym, you don't see anything for awhile and then boom! Your pants fit differently, you have more energy, and you're gaining some confidence. There is a law of sowing and reaping in the world, and the compounding effect of your daily commitment will pay off … if you don't quit!
You don't have to live another day feeling discouraged. Don't leave a legacy of self-defeated thinking. Be the kind of person who breaks the bondage of negative thinking and takes control over their life. Unlock the soul keys to changed thinking and you will change your life. See the masterpiece God created reflected in the mirror.
If you'd like to dig deeper, check out The Soul Gym online course: http://the-sou-gym.teachable.com
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