How to be kind to yourself during eating disorder recovery is one of the most crucial things to learn and practice. How is your relationship with yourself can either help you to recover or it can even stop you from recovering. Sometimes nothing really is keeping us from recovering more than our own attitude and thoughts.
“You are your own biggest enemy. It is your negative thoughts that hold you back, nothing else.” – Leon Brown.
I think this above quote perfectly illustrates my point of this article – you have to become your own best friend, your own biggest supporter, and cheerleader in recovery, also in life. Because, at the end of the day, you always will be with yourself day in and day out. This is the most important relationship you will ever have.
To me, positive self-talk did not come naturally. I was also my worst enemy and critic at one point of my life. But my life forced me to change this behavior and learn to be kind to myself. To develop a more healthy approach that is always supportive and kind, not judgemental, hateful, or negative. In today’s article, I hope to teach you some of my most helpful approaches to develop this positive relationship with yourself.
1. Change Your Self-talk
Recovery is hard as it is already. So what is the point of putting yourself down, hurting yourself with blame, shame, and negativity? What is the point of saying to yourself: “You are ugly and fat. You will never become anything more. You deserve everything that’s wrong in your life!” Is this kind of attitude supposed to motivate you or get you moving towards recovery? Definitely not. You have to get out of this negative thinking spiral.
What helped me during recovery was to talk to myself like my best friend would. For example, I would imagine if my best friend would suffer from an eating disorder (I never wish that to anybody, but just to get some perspective of my situation). If she had the same negative self-talk and I know her suffering, fears, and problems during recovery, then what would I say to her? How would I try to help her? Would I try to put her down with shame, or try to lift her up instead? Would I try to encourage her by giving my support and acceptance? Or would I remind her constantly how fat and ugly she is?
By asking myself these question I knew that I would NEVER say those negative things to anybody. This was not who I was and never wanted to be. I would never think that saying those hurtful things is ok for anybody, especially if my best friend would suffer like that.
…so…why was it ok to say those things to me?
I have to take care of myself and talk to myself as I would talk to and take care of my best friend.
I realized, that I have to talk to myself the same way I would talk to any other person on this planet, especially someone I love and deeply care about. I have to take care of myself and talk to myself as I would talk to and take care of my best friend.
This mindset developed slowly in my recovery and grew stronger every time I practiced it. I truly think without this mindset I would have not been able to support myself in the hard days of recovery or not go through recovery at all. And I use this mindset even until this day and now I never go into this endless negative self-talk rut.
2. Develop Self-Care Practices
To have a great relationship with yourself you have to take care of yourself. And for that, it is extremely beneficial to develop some self-care practices. It can be great to practice them throughout recovery or even develop into a routine, something you do on a daily basis to boost your mental health and wellbeing.
Self-care practices and what anyone prefers can be very individual but it all comes down to what you really enjoy doing and what makes you feel good. I will list down below a few examples.
- Develop a nurturing and calming night routine – for example, taking a bubble bath, putting on a face mask, reading a chapter of a book, playing with your cat, combing your hair, going to sleep every day at 10pm.
- Be grateful for what you have – every morning list 3 things you feel grateful for in your life. Every night list 3 things that made you happy today. They can be even small things like laughing to a comedy show or talking to your friend.
- Be creative – do anything that makes you feel creative and gives you joy. For example, writing in a journal, making a vision board, drawing or painting, doing your makeup, singing, dancing, gardening, reorganizing your closet.
- Make your environment calm and cozy – for example, listen to calming music, clean your house, organize your closet, light a candle or burn incense, snuggle up in a bed and watch a movie while sipping hot chocolate.
3. Realize That You Cannot Change Anybody But Yourself
My own life experience taught me that I have to take care of myself and I have to love myself first and foremost. About 10 years ago I had my first big breakup and I was left totally heartbroken and my world was shattered in pieces. I developed depression, I was self-harming through alcohol overconsumption and even had suicidal thoughts. For the next few years, I did not have any motivation to interact with others and felt like I was in a “big black hole”.
I discovered that I have to become my own whole person first and foremost.
But during those years I also started to focus more on myself. To change my own thoughts and attitude towards life instead of blaming anybody else of my misery. I dug myself out of that black hole. I discovered that I have to become my own whole person first and foremost. To be happy and feel love within me, to be ok just being with myself day in and day out. To never expect that anybody else can make me happy if I myself am not. I had to become my own complete person. I did not need anybody to complete me or make me happy. I become happy with just being me and being ok with that.
And after going through this self-transformation I attracted the right person to my life. Someone who is totally different than I would have attracted when I was still miserable. What kind of energy you resonate to the outside world is exactly what you will get back. If you want to be happy, feel loved, feel good, you have to first start with yourself.
A great place to start to develop this positive mental attitude is by reading self-help books. I have learned a lot by just reading and implementing the suggested strategies from those books into my daily life. Here are some of my favorites:
The Power Of Your Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murphy
Unlimited Power by Anthony Robbins
How To Stop Worrying And Start Living by Dale Carnegie
The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
The Power of Positive Thinking by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale
Chicken Soup For The Soul by Jack Canfield
4. Take Bad Days As Great Growing Experiences
Do not only be your own biggest supporter on good days but also on the bad days. It is especially important to notice how is your self-talk when everything seems to go in the wrong direction. How do you deal with those situations? How do you think about yourself and talk to yourself?
Here’s what I do. When I have a bad day I just accept it as a “bad day”. I do not have to “feel great” when I just don’t feel it – and it’s OK! I do not have to feel good all of the time or “fake it”. I accept the situation and my emotions.
BUT, I do not dwell on negativity either. I let myself feel negative emotions but I do not let them grow bigger by constantly feeding them with even more pessimism, blame, and self-hatred. For example, it’s a totally different mindset if you tell yourself “I can feel bad today, I can cry and let it out. I will take some extra time to pamper myself. Tomorrow it will all be better”, rather than saying to yourself “I am worthless #%#$%$#%! I hate myself so much! I wish I would not have this ugly fat body!”
So when you have a bad day just accept it as a “bad day”, and still talk to yourself as a best friend. This is a true unconditional love you can develop. The kind of love and respect for yourself when you do not only like yourself when you have a great day, big successes or accomplishments but also when you are the most vulnerable, weak and down. Won’t you like to have this kind of relationship with your partner? Where you do not have to be fake and can be loved even when you have bad days? Won’t you think this is a healthy relationship where you support each other no matter what, not only when things are “perfect”.
Be your own true friend and partner who loves you unconditionally. As in any relationship, the hard days really show people’s true colors. And hard days that are survived together with supporting each other will make the relationship stronger. I think if you can still accept, love and support yourself even when you have bad days or experiences then you have developed a great relationship with yourself.
5. Find Positive Things Even In Negative Situations
We as humans tend to focus too much on the negative aspects of things. I have been there too. But it’s not helping anything. By focusing on the negative things you will only attract it even more into your life.
You can also watch my video on this similar subject by clicking here: “6 Steps To Full Eating Disorder Recovery Using The LAW OF ATTRACTION”
What helps me to get out of the negative thinking rut is to try to see positive things even in little things. To start to focus on the little things that are going right, rather than to focus on the things that are going wrong.
When something is not going as I wish it would I try to find something positive about it anyway. For example, the fact that tough situations and experiences have the power to teach us so many things and make us stronger. I think: “I am sure this situation will later benefit me somehow, I will find a way to grow from this.” Or even if I do not see anything good about the situation at the moment I make something up! For example, when I had an eating disorder I did not see anything good about it, but I thought like this anyway: “I will later use this experience to help someone to overcome their eating disorder.”
Also, in recovery when I noticed even the slightest change or improvement of my eating or thinking pattern I became excited and happy! Or when I did not feel so good some days I had extreme hunger and bloating, I forced myself to focus on the fact that I am actually recovering and trying to do something to get better! Or when I felt like I was overeating and kind of panicked, I tried to think to myself how happy I actually was that I promised myself to never restrict or feel deprived again. Or when I had water retention and felt heavy I reminded myself that it will pass and this is better any day than staying in my eating disorder for the rest of my life.
In every negative experience, you CAN find something positive.
Do you see how it works? In every negative experience, you CAN find something positive. You absolutely must! Because otherwise, what is the point of feeding negativity? Is it gonna make anything better? Is it gonna help you? Nope. So start changing your negative thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors inside yourself and I can guarantee that your recovery will be much easier and faster.
Learn how to be your own best friend even in the hardest days possible and you will develop a strong positive relationship with yourself. Someone who is (quite literally) always there for you, in good and in bad. Not a “fake” friend who is there only in good times, but someone who supports you in all life experiences and someone you can always count on. The most important relationship you will ever have – the relationship with yourself!