As usual this year, I rang in the New Year with sniffles and honks and snorts and sneezes. It seems no germ can resist me when a whole new year is about to begin. But this year, those germs also brought me a lovely new friend. Specifically, they brought me one of the biggest lessons I have yet learned in my ongoing recovery journey. That lesson was simply this: there are two kinds of body talk. The first kind of body talk is the kind I have practiced for most of my life to date.

I call it “Conditional (aka Selfish) Body Talk.”

With this kind of body talk, I am continually giving my body instructions. For instance, I might instruct my body to look a certain way, take on a certain shape or stay a certain size. Or I might tell it that I want to see it fit into a certain pants size when I go shopping.

Here, I don’t care whether my body is healthy or not. In fact, if it does get sick, my chief goal is to turn the arrival of those germs to my benefit, not to help my body heal itself. All I care about is that my body looks the way I want and need it to look.

The second kind of body talk is the kind I just recently learned about this past New Year.

I call it “Unconditional (aka Respectful) Body Talk.” 

With this kind of body talk, I am giving myself instructions on my body’s behalf. For example, I might instruct myself to rest when my body gets sick, and to eat nourishing foods and take plenty of vitamins and meditate to calm my nervous mind so my body can heal faster.

Here, I recognize that it is my job to help my body get better. If I don’t do it, no one will. It is part of my responsibility in life – I have a human body to take care of, as well as a mind, a heart and a spirit. So I make myself (body, mind, heart and spirit) stay in bed and rest and I see that as my job until my body gets stronger and healthier again.

I probably don’t even need to mention that hearing these two different kinds of body talk make me feel very different! The first kind of body talk is scary and discouraging, especially because I am treating the body like it is of less value than the rest of me – more like a slave than a valued partner. But the second kind of body talk is so nurturing and empowering – so much so that I can’t believe I am only learning about it now at age 46! It feels very, very good to accept and embrace this responsibility I have to take good care of the body I have been given. It is something I can do – something recovery has helped me to continually get better at doing.

Best of all, the better I get at it, the better all of me – body, mind, heart and spirit – feels. As a mentor and a friend, I highly recommend it!

Today’s Takeaway: How do you speak to your body? Have you experimented with different approaches and found one that works better for you? How do you feel when you speak harshly to your body? Or kindly?