Self-esteem can be defined as a psychological term for the way people value themselves and their self-worth. Self-esteem is shaped by the unique circumstances and life experiences of each individual. For example, having positive experiences early on in life will instill a strong sense of self-esteem in a person. On the other hand, being brought up with negative ones will instill false beliefs that lower a person’s self-esteem.
This happens more often because it’s easier for people to internalize negative beliefs about themselves rather than positive ones. Many people with low self-esteem are not even aware of the issue and will find other ways to cope, usually with self-destructive behavior. These behaviors only keep an individual from facing the negative emotions that feed them.
For people suffering from eating disorders, low self-esteem is a big issue. A low sense of self-worth and desperate need for approval leads to destructive behaviors related to food, the diet, and one’s own body. An eating disorder becomes a way to block negative emotions. In order to make progress in recovery, the issue of self-esteem needs to be addressed and a person needs to learn new ways to cope with their feelings and rebuild a stronger sense of self. The process can be long and difficult, but it can be done. The following are a few ways to begin building self-esteem during eating disorder recovery.
1. Stop comparing yourself to other people.
This is a bad habit that many in eating disorder recovery do. Comparing ourselves to others is a surefire way to make ourselves instantly feel bad and lower our sense of self-worth. Many of us do it all the time without any awareness of it. It takes time, practice, and diligence to break this habit, but when you do, you’ll notice a huge improvement in the way you feel about yourself. You’ll realize that your value as a person comes from within, rather than in competition with others.
2. It’s ok to say “no” when you need to.
When you lived your whole life trying to please others or earn approval, it can be especially hard to learn how to say no sometimes. The truth is that always putting others’ needs in front of your own will do a lot of damage to your self-esteem. Get in touch with your feelings and needs, so that when someone isn’t respecting them or you simply need space, it will easy to say no.
3. Practice kindness to yourself.
A good daily practice to encourage self-esteem is to compliment yourself. Do this in any way possible, such as posting notes to yourself where you can see them, writing in a journal, or using positive affirmations. It may seem silly at first, but with regular practice, you will notice a definite boost in self-esteem.
4. Forgive yourself.
It can be too easy to dwell on past mistakes and beat ourselves up for making them. When you find yourself doing this, try to focus instead on what you learned from the experience and let the rest go. Everyone makes mistakes, it what we take from it that we have to control over. We can relive the hurt and shame over and over, or let ourselves grow into better people instead.
5. Focus on your passions.
Eating disorders can have such a stronghold on our lives, that often everything else fades away. We forget who we are and stop living our lives for ourselves. Rediscover your passions and your true self by doing things that make you happy. What were some of your dreams and hobbies before your eating disorder? What is something you’ve always wanted to try but were always afraid to do?