I once thought that recovery from an eating disorder (ED) was all I would need to feel good about myself, but the actual truth was this:
My not feeling good enough was a problem I had way before I had an eating disorder.
Eating disorders and low self-esteem
One of the characteristics of someone with ED is low self-image (Forsén Mantilla, 2014). If you are struggling with eating disorder behaviors, you may be able to relate to this. I personally found that, in order to change my own negative self-image in recovery, I would need to cease some of the old behaviors that perpetuated my sense of not being enough.
In recovery, I discovered several ways to boost my self-image. Here are some of the practices that I implemented; you may find them helpful, too:
- Say "no" when you need to
This sounds simple, right? Well, not for this people pleaser! In fact, I am still learning to say this word when I mean it. I used to think that when someone asked me to do something for them, it was my job to say "yes," no matter what it was. It turns out that I was saying "yes" because I didn't want to feel bad for saying "no." I have since learned that knowing my own needs and meeting these needs can, at times, inspire others to do the same. Similarly, when I take care of myself, I am better able to give to and help out others.
- Stop confusing self-deprecation for empathy
Being empathetic to your friends is a positive trait. But, putting yourself down to make others feel better about themselves is not cool. While I love making jokes, when we consistently point out our own faults to help others, we may start to believe these negative thoughts. Instead of doing this, we can offer a hug without words.
- Let other people be accountable for their behavior
When people hurt my feelings or break an agreement, I used to think that it was my fault. I carried around the negative feelings as if I was the one doing something questionable. I have learned, since, to hold others accountable for their behavior. I certainly don’t want to rob them of the lessons in life that can come as consequences of their behavior.
- Practice esteem-able acts
What does this mean? An esteem-able act is any action that make you feel good about yourself and builds a healthy self-image. Here are just some of the many examples:
- Speak your truth
- Allow yourself to participate in joyful moments
- Try new things outside of your comfort zone
- Allow yourself to fail
- Learn from your mistakes
These esteem-able acts help to boost your self-esteem and create a profound sense of self. When in doubt, remember that any action moving you into alignment with your authentic self and your values is an esteem-able act.
- Memorize your favorite inspiring quote
When I need an instant boost to give me the courage to be my authentic self and do the above things, I remember this amazing quote from Marianne Williamson:
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
What behaviors do you need to change so that you, too, can let go of feeling like you aren’t enough?
Robyn Cruze, MA is National Recovery Advocate and online community manager for Eating Recovery Center.