One of the turning points in my bulimia recovery were the steps that took me from self-doubt to self-acceptance to self-love. I believe we are born inherently loving ourselves. When we separate ourselves from our true nature and put society’s standards above what we need, when we begin to compare ourselves to others we start to de-value ourselves.
Self-love is not about being conceited. It’s about accepting and appreciating yourself just the way you are. You recognize your value as a human being. Low levels of self-esteem, self-confidence, and a lack of self-love are regularly exist in those with self-destructive behaviors and addictions. This includes bulimia, other eating disorders, as well as other addictions.
I don’t believe we are born with an inner critic, but instead develop one over time. This inner critic has been given many names over time: Negative Nelly, Ego-self, Little Me, Lower Self, Monkey Mind, Devil Inside My Head. Whatever you choose to call it it’s a survival-oriented, (mostly negative) defense mechanism that we establish to keep us safe and secure.
Our innate desire to fit in and be accepted by others causes us to compare ourselves to those around us. We recognize society’s idealized body size and shape and strive to morph ourselves to meet other people’s standards. Consequently, accepting that we’re beautiful, exceptional, or amazing-just as we are-doesn’t come naturally. And our inner critic is going to keep us striving to fit in and be accepted so we can “survive” in the world around us.
I believe one of the foundations of bulimia recovery is learning to first become aware and then distinguish ourselves from the negative voice in our head and feed ourselves with love and optimism from within. After many attempts to overcome bulimia, recovery finally came when I realized that self-love was crucial to my healing. Here are a few questions to help you find out where you are in terms of accepting, appreciating and loving yourself:
- Does it make you uncomfortable when people compliment you or can you take them in stride?
- Are you overwhelmed or burdened by the expectations of others?
- When someone says you’re beautiful, do you think they’re just saying that to get something out of you?
- Would you consider yourself your own worst critic? Do you frequently compare yourself with others and catch yourself wanting what others have?
- Do you trust your intuition?
- Do you hang out with people who are optimistic or do your friends bring you down or make you feel badly about yourself?
- Is it easy for you to forgive yourself when you make a mistake-either imagined or real?
- Is it easy for you to forgive yourself?
- Is it super important to you that you work hard to please others, particularly your parents?
- Would you consider yourself selfish if you put your needs before those of others?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then practicing self-love is something I’d encourage you to consider.
There are different ways to go through life. You can choose to see life as hard and everyone around you as better than you or your can choose to believe that what makes you unique is also what makes you beautiful and brilliant. The world would not be the same without you.
Here are 3 ways you can begin to practice self-love:
- Go easy on yourself– if you make a mistake, be easy on yourself and move on. Think twice before you start to beat yourself up. If you can, see the humor in what happened and how you probably made an innocent mistake. Just like you would a friend who had made a mistake, show yourself some kindness.
- Put YOU first– prioritizing yourself above your work, your family, your responsibilities will go a long way to helping you value your needs. If you’re putting your needs last, you’re not valuing yourself and what you need to be healthy and happy. If you need more sleep, get it. If you want to go for a walk, do it. This may mean saying no to other people and that’s ok.
- Do nice things for yourself– when was the last time you gave yourself a nice gift or treated yourself to something you enjoy? If you haven’t done anything nice for you lately, it’s about time. Honor yourself by gifting yourself with what makes you feel good. Make a list of the 10 things you enjoy most and do at least one a week or one a month. Hey, why not?!
Self-love isn’t something you can expect to achieve immediately in bulimia recovery if you’ve been beating yourself up all these years, but it will grow over time with practice.
The practice of self-love is not about being someone you think people will like or think others want you to be. It’s about you being your authentic self. When you are loving and kind towards yourself – and realize you deserve to live a fulfilling, happy life – you will not only feel better on the inside, but I believe everything around you will start to line up with your new vision.