A common feature of individuals diagnosed with an eating disorder is self-criticism or low self-worth. In order to achieve a lasting recovery and to prevent relapse for someone who has struggled with or who is currently facing the challenge of overcoming an eating disorder, they must learn to love themselves. This is a concept that can be challenging for anyone, but often times feelings of shame accompany an eating disorder, which can make recognizing beauty both inside and out especially difficult.
It is commonly stated that in order to love someone completely, you have to accept them for who they are. The same applies to learning to love ourselves. However, sometimes accepting our own flaws, letting go of any baggage we may carry and forgiving ourselves for mistakes we have made in the past, can be more challenging than accepting flaws in others.
It is human nature to want to compare what you have to that of others. In this day and age, the go to place for that, of course, is social media. All of these outlets allow for a person to post the “perfect” photos and posts about their significant other, kids, job, etc., so that it appears that they have it all together. It is so important to remember that generally speaking, people are not going to air their dirty laundry publicly for all of the world to see. In some cases, it is just a facade and that while they are portraying success, they are harboring an intense negative sense of self-worth which ultimately overrides their representation of a flawless life.
Without learning to love oneself, the chances of ever being happy are unlikely. Even in the most gratifying relationships where one partner whole-heartedly loves and adores the other, happiness for that person is still not guaranteed because that is dependent upon them being happy with themselves first.
It seems like among most of the population, it is believed that we need a relationship to help define who we are. Family and friends, the media and other peers may encourage, or even push, the idea on us. Often, a timeframe for when we should have accomplished anything from a relationship, to graduation, or having children is set for us and if we miss that deadline the belief is that our window is gone. This can make us question ourselves and wonder if we are the problem and ask, “Why can’t I have what everyone else seems to?”
The thing is, you don’t need someone else to fulfill every need and expectation you feel you have in life. You can do it for yourself.
Is it a cold hard fact that learning to love yourself will enable a person to more effectively love you? Not necessarily. However, if you have chosen to accept yourself flaws and all (because let’s face it, we all have them), it is natural that you will exude confidence and others will be drawn to that. This will result in more intimate relationships because you are choosing not to hide the things you find to be “unacceptable” qualities and you will find yourself willingly opening up to others more easily. Both of these tend to cause others to respond in the same way, heightening feelings of love and admiration between you. Authenticity and vulnerability tend to be highly correlated with intimacy and happier relationships.
If you have yet to find the person you are meant to be with, that is okay. Take advantage of the time and use it to connect more within. Do yourself a favor and love yourself right now because love from another will come to you in unexpected ways the more that you do.
Our suggestions: put down your mask hiding feelings of anxiety and unlovability and unveil the beautiful person you are. Be comfortable in your own skin and be confident in it and in allowing others to see that beauty along with the “warts.” Find ways to do things for yourself mentally, emotionally and spiritually first and use those methods to share the amazing person that you are with others.
Below is a list of suggested ways to show self-love. We encourage you to select ones that work for you and to come up with some of your own ideas as well.
- Journal – Whether you sit down in the morning with your daily dose of coffee or lay in bed at the end of the day after watching your favorite Friends episode, take a moment to put pen to paper and jot down some of the things you have in your life to be grateful for, reflect on the day or set goals for yourself.
- Find some “you-time” – Life can get busy and full of clutter at times, so it is important to find time for yourself to slow things down and engage in activities or hobbies that make you feel good. For example, pampering yourself with a massage or mani/pedi, watching a good movie or reading a good book. Plan for and mark this time on your calendar so that it doesn’t get rescheduled or pushed aside for something else.
- Get up and move! – Doesn’t matter if you walk, swim or ride a bike, activities like these release endorphins (the “feel good” hormones), which cause a natural, high and reduce stress. Movement should be aimed at loving yourself and your body, not punishing it or attempting to change it.
- Reach out to your support system – Surround yourself with the people in your life who will wrap you in love. Make a cognoscente effort to connect with them and schedule time to spend together.
- Sneak in daily positive affirmations – Find ways throughout the day to give yourself a little pat on the back. While you wash your hands, look at yourself in the mirror and point out what makes you beautiful. When you overcome a hurdle you’ve been climbing, compliment and congratulate yourself for that achievement. When a stranger opens a door for you, remind yourself that you are worthy of love – no matter what form it comes in.
- Meet with your therapist and dietitian – Even if you are in recovery and don’t feel the need to meet with your treatment team anymore, we encourage you to continue to do so. Look at is a forcefield you are creating together to prevent relapse and protect the progress you have made.