11 Mar 2011

Why I have to develop self-compassion for recovery

After I wrote my last post, I thought some more about self-kindness and how it relates to recovery for me personally and for others in general. I know that cultivating self-love and self-compassion will be vital to my complete recovery. This is because, for me, complete recovery is not just about learning to eat healthily and have a healthy relationship with food, its also about confronting and healing the behaviours, attitudes and feelings that allowed the eating disorder to take hold in the first place.

When we are in the early stages of recovery, it can be helpful to separate our eating disorder from our personal identity, so that we can fight against it (ED v Me). But as I’m getting further along the recovery road, I’m beginning to feel the need to acknowledge the parts of myself that led me down the eating disordered path. For me, a lack of self-love and an unwillingness to be kind to myself has been a major issue for a long time and not feeding myself adequately was just one manifestation of these punitive and self-punishing tendencies. Other manifestations that I’ve begun to acknowledge more recently include:

1. criticising myself in my head and focusing on my flaws
2. refusing to praise myself for my achievements
3. beating myself up when I’ve failed or messed up, instead comforting myself 4. not taking holiday from work even when I’m exhausted
5. working late even when I’m tired and everyone else is leaving;
6. not spending money on myself even when I know I have plenty
7. not letting myself ‘have a lie in’ even when I’m exhausted and it’s a Sunday
8. refusing presents, offers of help and nice ‘treats’ from other people (all things which make me feel really uncomfortable).

(Phew! I hadn’t realised the list would be quite so long – but I just kept thinking of more and more things!)

All of these punitive and self-denying behaviours stem from a fundamental feeling of unworthiness or ‘not deserving’. For complete recovery I will need to change this whole attitude towards myself, not just in terms of how it relates to eating. It doesn’t make sense to say ‘I deserve to eat this sandwich’ at the same time as saying ‘but I don’t deserve to use my holiday quota at work’ or at the same time beating myself up when I’ve failed at something.

 For complete recovery, I will need to learn to believe that I do deserve to feel healthy and satiated and to enjoy eating, and also that I do deserve rest, relaxation, fun and treats.  I will need to let myself eat as much as I need and rest as much as I need; I will need to talk kindly to myself instead of criticising myself, and to comfort myself instead of beating myself up. Complete recovery will come, when I learn to look after all of my emotional and physical needs.

Does anyone else have this problem with being kind to themselves? I found a great website by Dr Kristen Neff where you can test out your levels of self-compassion and find exercises on how to improve your self comapassion: http://www.self-compassion.org/.

I also found a really interesting interview with Dr Neff in the NY Times in which she explains that:

“I found in my research that the biggest reason people aren’t more self-compassionate is that they are afraid they’ll become self-indulgent,” but actually: “Self-compassion is really conducive to motivation” “With self-compassion, if you care about yourself, you do what’s healthy for you rather than what’s harmful to you.”

No comments:

Post a Comment