I have been fortunate enough to experience eating disorder recovery from two perspectives: personal and professional. It has been a joy to emerge from the dark depths of anorexia to discover a life full of purpose laid out before me. Similarly, it is inspiring to witness clients gain insight and move toward health and well-being. In both capacities I have learned the importance of self-compassion as a foundation for lasting recovery.
Learning to Love Yourself
A common theme I’ve found threaded through many eating disorder cases is a lack of self-esteem and self-compassion. Some individuals have exhibited a great ability to be compassionate and empathetic towards others, but are unable to give themselves the same respect. More than a few times I’ve heard “They deserve compassion and respect, I don’t.” When pressed as to why this is, most can’t give a concrete answer. It seems to be a deep self-loathing for reasons mostly unknown.
The problem is that when we lack self-esteem and self-compassion, we look externally to receive them. We may think that if we excel in school or work, if we are popular, if we are thin and attractive, we will feel like enough. Over time we discover that even if we achieve all of these things, there is still something missing. That emptiness feels like “I’m still not good enough,” and so we cling to the eating disorder for reassurance that at least we are good at something.
Of course, there are many complex reasons why eating disorders develop and it can take a long time to really unravel the root causes. But the bottom line is that for lasting recovery, we must be willing to sit with and learn to accept ourselves as the amazing, perfectly imperfect humans that we are.
Ten Steps to Self-Compassion
Recovery is an investment in yourself. It is a decision to put yourself as a priority and learn to accept the person you are. There are many ways to accomplish this, but here are ten steps that can lead to self-compassion:
• Practice compassion! That’s right, resolve right now to speak to yourself gently. Give yourself some grace.
• Invest in recovery. This means engaging your treatment team as recommended, doing your homework, and being accountable for your journey to wellness.
• Take your medications as prescribed and follow your meal plan. Learn what it feels like to have your body’s needs met, and learn to cherish that feeling of wellness.
• Practice mindfulness. Learn to enjoy each moment as it comes.
• Recognize and honor your feelings. Make space for them and allow yourself to experience and express them.
• Cultivate your interests and hobbies. Make time for the things you love to do and that bring you joy.
• Practice positive self-talk. Work with your therapist to develop skills to challenge your negative thoughts and replace them with positive.
• Develop a new relationship with your body, one built on acceptance and respect.
• Know your triggers and have a plan to mitigate them.
• Work to accept yourself, your genetics, your mistakes, your achievements, and all of the wonderful, unique things that make you the only you on this planet.
Need further guidance to practice self-compassion and start your journey to recovery? www.prosperityedwell.com
Carolyn Labrie, PhD(c)
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