Self-compassion is the key to full recovery because eating disorders really can’t thrive in an environment of self-compassion. If you are compassionate to yourself it’s very hard to do harmful behaviors.
Self-compassion won’t get rid of the hard moments but it changes how you deal with them, how you feel, and how you respond and all of this will have a positive effect on your recovery. So self-compassion is like a door that leads to full recovery.
What is self-compassion?
Self-compassion means being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or talking to ourselves with harsh criticism.
Self-compassion means treating ourselves like our own best friends. We recognize that we are humans and this means we may make mistakes, we may suffer, and we may fail but this doesn’t mean we are inadequate or unworthy. And we offer ourselves kindness, support, and understanding in the hard times.
One of the leading experts in this field is Dr. Kristin Neff and I highly recommend her books “Self-Compassion” and “The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook” if you want to get into this work more deeply.
3 Elements of Self-Compassion
There are 3 elements of self-compassion – self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. So let’s look closer at what each of these means.
Speaking to yourself kindly as you would speak to a dear friend. Speaking softly and warmly, rather than with harsh criticism. You realize that being imperfect or experiencing difficulties is part of life and it’s normal. And rather than getting frustrated with yourself, you offer yourself kindness, acceptance, and empathy.
2. Common humanity
Acknowledging that suffering is part of human experience, most people experience suffering in their lives, and you are not alone. Pain is part of the shared human experience that makes us all connected.
When we experience suffering then often the hardest part of it is the feeling that we are all alone in this or that there is something wrong with us. But when you acknowledge the common humanity part of self-compassion, and realize that we all suffer, we all make mistakes, and nobody is perfect, it helps us connect back to our hearts and validate our feelings, instead of feeling unworthy or somehow broken.
Being open to the present moment, thoughts, emotions, and feelings without resistance or avoidance. Rather than rejecting or suppressing parts of ourselves, we can hold them in mindful non-judgmental awareness. Because we cannot ignore our pain and feel compassionate at the same time.
But mindfulness also means that we are not overly identifying with our thoughts or emotions – we know they are human but they do not make you “bad” or unworthy. When we mindfully observe our pain we can acknowledge our pain without exaggerating it, ruminating over it, or taking it personally.
I recommend you to write out some self-compassionate phrases and put them somewhere you can see and read them every day. Maybe on your closet door, mirror, or on your wall beside your work desk. You want to start surrounding yourself with positive messages as much as you can because they will literally help rewire your brain. So write them out and put them somewhere you can see and read them every day, especially as you are going through recovery.
Some self-compassionate phrases can be:
It’s a moment of suffering, I’m not alone in this
Everybody makes mistakes and nobody is perfect
It’s a human experience.
It’s OK to feel this way.
I’m doing the best I can in these circumstances.
I’m struggling today like so many other people.
May I be kind to myself in this moment.
May I give myself the compassion I need.
These are just some of the examples. All of them come from kindness, they acknowledge common humanity and they also help to be mindful about what you are experiencing.
And if you struggle with self-love then know that self-compassion is just as effective for recovery. Plus, it’s a skill you can build and practice. So it’s something very practical you can learn to do and it will make a huge difference in your recovery, how you feel, what actions you take, and what results you get. So start to practice this compassionate way of speaking to yourself.
But don’t expect to do it for a few days and then get frustrated if negative thoughts show up or when things get hard. It’s important to keep practicing because only through repetition our brain will learn and rewire.
And even after recovery, we will still have negative thoughts, and we will still go through hard things, but what’s the most important is the way you treat yourself, how you speak to yourself, and how you react and act in those moments.
So this is why self-compassion is KEY to full recovery – because eating disorders cannot thrive in self-compassion because harmful behaviors or thoughts can’t persist when we have self-compassion.
And even when you can’t control what you feel or what thoughts come up you absolutely can control how you respond and treat yourself and that will make the biggest difference.
If you want to learn more about recovery and how to do it step by step then please read my book “BrainwashED”
You can check out my recovery online courses HERE.
Or you can book a one-off coaching call with me HERE.