Wellness, to me, means more than just physical health. I define wellness as balance in my emotional, spiritual, professional, and physical self. This month’s wellness challenge is about bettering not only your own emotional self but the emotional self of others around you as well.
A few days ago, my friend Meg posted a photo on Instagram with this caption:
“I’ve been thinking a lot about kindness lately. Specifically why people that extend kindness to some but not all really bother me. I’ve struggled to punctuate WHY it bothers me so much. Why don’t I feel good for the people these people choose to be kind to? Why don’t I feel good even if the person they are kind to is ME? I was thinking about it again this morning and I think I had a realization that true kindness doesn’t have limits. Kindness with expectations or intentions rooted in excluding others isn’t kindness. There isn’t a single circumstance where kindness to one person should hurt another. I felt a lot better after I figured that out.”
It resonated with me on many different levels but the part about extending kindness to some but not all people stuck with me. I’m a true Cancer in that I give more to and take care of others before myself. I always have and I probably always will. I can be thoughtful and kind to a fault in some cases. The fault being that it can be easy to take advantage of me (which I’m fully aware of, btw).
But like every human being, there is another side to me that isn’t always as kind. One that I see not only in myself but in my friends, family members, and many other women. The gossipy side that occasionally talks about people when they aren’t around. I’m not talking Real Housewives sh*t-talking status obviously, just the offhand comment that isn’t always very nice. My personal sh*t talking is usually veiled in kindness and I often don’t even know that I’m doing it. But it’s a thoughtless but disgusting habit and I want to be done with it.
So why do we do it?
A quote from this article summed it up well: “We have learned to utilize shit-talk as a conversation-filler, a perverted sort of emotional therapy, a defense mechanism, stilts upon which we perch an illusion of power, a time-waster, and even an instrument for connecting with others. We talk shit so casually that often times, we do not realize we’re doing it. It is a hateful, nasty habit supported by insecurity and fear, insidiously reinforced by nearly everyone around us. ”
Essentially we do it because it’s easy, it’s accepted, and it becomes part of our lives from an early age. We heard our parents gossiping about their friends and neighbors. Other kids at school did it to a higher degree by calling other kids names in the locker room. As adults, we do it for many reasons: to make ourselves feel better, to connect with other people, or to mask our own insecurities.
If you gossip about someone else, you are not a bad person. You’re just human. But we can all strive to be better humans. And cutting out or even just cutting back on the trash talk and the gossip is one way that I plan to do that.
But what if you need to vent?
Listen, sometimes things get hard and you just need to vent. I get it. I’m the same way. The way I define venting (versus sh*t talking) is that venting is telling someone about how someone harmed you, offended you, triggered you, or pissed you off and you need to get it off your chest. The best people to vent to are the people closest to you who will know how to offer feedback and advice on how to handle the situation.
When it turns into talking sh*t, is when you’re talking about someone else and it has little or nothing to do with you or how you’ve been treated.
Talking sh*t won’t make you happier
It might feel good in the moment to speculate about someone’s divorce or judge someone’s parenting (this one is a major trigger for me and I refuse to partake, ever), but in the long run, it’s not going to make you or me a happier person. Think about the people in your life who are really and truly happy. In my circle of friends, I can tell you that they’re the ones that focus on the positive things in life and don’t use gossip to connect with others or bring joy to their lives. They are inherently joyful and almost always avoid this sort of behavior.
In fact, talking sh*t won’t anyone happier
Especially the person you’re talking about… Have you ever been told something not-so-nice that someone you know said behind your back? It doesn’t feel good. It feels downright awful. This happened to me about a year ago. It wasn’t anything terrible but it wasn’t nice and it was said by someone that I had considered a friend. It hurt my feelings and made me feel vulnerable and small.
I want to stop.
I really want to stop. My mom always taught me that if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all. And I’m taking her advice to a new level…
I’m committing to not saying anything bad or even half bad about anyone I know (or don’t know, for that matter) behind their back for the entire month of September. If I slip, I’ll donate $10 to NAPAB each time, a national anti-bullying organization that operates solely on donations. PS before someone brings it up, I know that what I’m talking about isn’t exactly bullying, but it’s a slippery slope, especially with younger people.
Replace sh*t talking with spreading joy
If even a little bit of your mental energy is focused on tearing others down or speculating about their lives, you’re taking energy away from your own potential. Focus that energy on building up your own happiness, doing a better job at work, being a better mom, a better wife, a better friend. Focus on spreading joy! Next time you hang out with a friend, say something really nice about them and then about someone else who you both know. Can you imagine how different the world could be if every single human did this tomorrow and the next day and the next?
Summer Wellness Challenge Recap
My hope in doing this month’s challenge is that it will reset my internal gossip, similar to the way my summer wellness challenge has completely stopped me from body shaming myself.
Over the summer, I dropped the “f” word… no, not that f word! I worked really hard to be kind to myself and only talk about my body positively. It was really hard at first. I constantly slipped up but my family and friends were really supportive and on-board with the challenge so they helped me stick to it and reminded me of my goal when I messed up. Now, months later, not only do I not say things like, “I feel so fat today!” but I don’t feel it nearly as often. I feel more comfortable in my body than ever, and I attribute that to turning around my negative self-commentary.
My summer wellness challenge was a huge success. And it felt really good!
Read more about sh*t talking
Why No One Can Stop Gossiping, Including You! (Man Repeller)
Gossiping Is Good (The Atlantic)
10 Things To Do Instead of Talking Behind Someone’s Back (Happier)
It’s Amazing What Happens When You Stop Talking Sh*t (Thought Catalog)
How to Stop Talking About Friends Behind Their Backs (WikiHow. I included this because it came up in my search and I love that they have a WikiHow on this topic. The tips are surprisingly spot on!)
Why I’m Learning to Stop Talking Behind Other People’s Backs (Vix Meldrew)
PREVIOUS WELLNESS CHALLENGES
Who’s with me this month? Grab a friend and commit together! Support each other in this challenge.