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The Things We Say

By Celi Merchant on 02/09/2015 | Featured Columns & Series

“At least, you don’t have man hands!”

A declaration like that will catch your ear. I tuned into the conversation of two women near me at a nail salon. Chubby fingers, tiny hands, cracked cuticles. This pair of friends had every affliction you could imagine experiencing between two sets of hands. I was amused by the exchange at first. But then I thought more about similar conversations I’ve had with my friends. There’s nothing like being struck with a wake-up call while trying to enjoy a pedicure.

Complaining between friends has somehow become a sort of bonding activity between women

The more I thought about it, the more I felt like this complaining between friends has somehow become a sort of bonding activity between women. Perhaps one friend “just needs to vent.” The other friend does the same, as any good friend would. They take turns overthinking their shortcomings and validating each other’s concerns. Instead of providing constructive responses, they bond over feeding their insecurities.

At Girls on the Run, girls learn about the concept of negative self-talk. They learn about how it influences us and how to recognize it in themselves and their friends. It’s an important first step. The negative thoughts we have or hear from others can become ingrained in our lives. If we aren’t intentional about recognizing them, we may not even realize the negative impact these statements can have on us. When a Girls on the Run coach asked her team why they thought it was important to stop negative self-talk for ourselves and our friends, one girl responded, “Because we might start believing it.” Boy, is that true.

In fourth grade, my classmate Nicole and I stood in front of the mirror in the girls’ bathroom lamenting how “fat” we were. I cringe now as I picture two beautiful girls talking to themselves and each other in this way. Nicole comforted me by saying, “You’re not fat. You’re just big boned.” I felt like I had been punched in the gut. It was at that moment I realized that I didn’t actually believe any of things I had been saying about myself. I was just putting myself down because that’s what you do, isn’t it? I hadn’t thought it yet, but maybe Nicole thought I was fat. Maybe other people thought I was fat. Maybe I was fat and that was something terrible to be.

These types of conversations aren’t limited to body image. As adults, we dislike our jobs. We can’t find or hold onto a good partner. We’re not achieving the goals we thought we would by this point in our lives. But, there are also so many things to feel good about and to share with each other.

During the self-talk lesson, GOTR girls practice turning negative self-talk into positive self-talk. From athletic abilities to appearances to academics, the girls take turns changing negative statements to positive. It’s an exercise we could all benefit from. If we become more aware of negative self-talk in our chats with friends, we can practice changing it up to have healthier conversations and relationships.

Going forward, that's what I'll be doing.  

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Celi Merchant


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