Recently I was reminded of an exchange I had with one of my sisters a couple of years ago. I was sharing a personal struggle with weight and how guilty I felt about myself. She immediately corrected me with the truth. That revelation totally set me free to look at myself differently. Have you heard the phrase, “a self-fulfilling prophecy”? It is defined as “Any positive or negative expectation about circumstances, events, or people that may affect a person’s behavior in a manner that causes those expectations to be fulfilled.” What we believe about ourselves, whether it’s our thought, or someone else’s, has power over our lives. In my case, I believed the lie and talked myself into it.
I have two life stories that might help to illustrate the importance of uncovering the lies that can shape what we think about ourselves and what we “believe” others think of us.
“Maybe we should look at the Chubbettes?”
I was born prematurely in 1950 and was a very sickly child. I battled asthma all my life until about college-age and finally outgrew it. When I was about 8, I began to really put on weight. I struggled all through my pre-teen and teenage years. As the years progressed it was getting harder to find clothes that fit my short stature. I will never forget my shame and mortification when we were shopping for school clothes and my mother suggested we look at Chubbettes. I broke down in tears, begging her to buy the bigger size instead. Bless her, she did and had a seamstress shorten dresses and pants.
I remember brothers chanting, “Fatty, fatty two-by-four can’t get through the bathroom door.” and lectures from my parents about not having dessert and exercising more. I remember sneaking into the cupboard for cookies and into the freezer for coffee cake that I hid in the garage. You see, I believed the lie and began to agree with it by making poor choices. It wasn’t until I was in my ’60s and discussing my battle with my sister when she burst out with, “Mary, it was the steroids! It wasn’t your fault! Mom and Dad probably didn’t realize it either.” That revelation set me free from a lifetime of deprecating and depressing self-talk. The lie no longer had its grip on me.
I adored my Uncle Ray — so tall, handsome, and funny. I think he kind of liked me too. Whenever he saw me, he always called me, “Bubbles”. It was his way of getting my attention. It always made me cringe–just one more person remarking on my weight. I’d smile bravely, but inside I dropped to the floor. It wasn’t until decades later at a family gathering when he greeted me with “Hey, Bubbles!” that I got the nerve to tell him that “Bubbles” hurt my feelings. You should have seen his shocked expression as he replied with, “But, Mary, I NEVER meant that to hurt you. I was talking about your personality.”
Self-Talk Has Power
I have learned the impact of having negative thoughts about myself. I have also learned how important it is to speak the truth in love. Our words have power to cause a self-fulfilling prophecy in someone’s life. A child needs love, encouragement, and strengthening to make good choices. But so do we adults… everyone does, no matter the age. Ever since I’ve understood the destructive power of believing a lie, my ears perk up when I hear it in someone else’s conversation. I’ve become bold in calling it out.
What lie are you believing?
Nana’s Nudge: Catch the negative and release the positive.
Nana’s Song: Known by Tauren Wells
Nana’s Prayer: Father, help us to seek Your truth about You, ourselves and others. Help us to hear and comprehend what You are saying about us and give us grace to believe it!