Self-compassion is something many of us are sorely lacking. We will make excuses for others, give them numerous chances, and are more apt to give them the benefit-of-the-doubt.
When it comes to ourselves, the same rules do not apply. This lack of self-compassion is impactful in life and, particularly, in eating disorder recovery.
Many studies have been completed on the emotional and psychological factors that contribute to disordered eating.
An important theory by Goss and Gilbert proposes that “individuals with an eating disorder use symptoms such as restrictive eating and binge/purge behaviors to experience temporary relief from feelings of shame; however, the secretive and isolating nature of these behaviors typically intensifies and perpetuates shame .”
Goss and Gilbert further posit that “cultivating self-compassion, a form of self-directed care, can be instrumental in interrupting these shame-symptom cycles .”
Self-compassion can be defined as “responding to personal distress with sensitivity, kindness, and a desire to alleviate suffering,” and those that have higher levels of self-compassion are proven to “experience less shame and eating pathology and respond better to eating disorder treatment .”
After reading the study results above about the positive impact of self-compassion, I thought, “wow, I definitely need to up my self-compassion game.” If you thought the same thing, the natural next question is, “okay, how?”
Stop Judging Yourself
You wouldn’t feel supported and loved by someone that was constantly judging you. In the same vein, you cannot be compassionate toward yourself if you are judging yourself at the same time. Acknowledge your present thoughts, feelings, and experiences without judging them one way or the other.
Start Forgiving Yourself
I mean forgiving yourself for everything. Forgive yourself for what you did years ago, months ago, weeks ago, days ago, and seconds ago. There are so many missteps and ineffective or unhelpful decisions and behaviors that we could hold onto, and we often do.
Doing so instills and internalizes feelings of shame, guilt, and self-criticism, none of which are helpful in eating disorder recovery. It might feel strange or uncomfortable at first, but letting go of your past and forgiving yourself will help you to work toward have empathy for yourself.
Become Friends with Your Inner Self
Cultivating compassion for someone we barely know is hard. Get to know yourself. Without your ED voice, without the judgments of your inner mean girl or others. Get to know the authentic you. The recovered you.
How to do this may vary by person. You might begin exploring your authentic self in therapy or through art. Maybe you practice an inner dialogue or write out conversations between your authentic self and your mind.
You could also free-write in a journal or answer journal prompts that help you to explore your thoughts and feelings. Engaging in movement that connects you is also a possibility.
It doesn’t matter how you choose to get to know your authentic self. What is important is that you do it. You have bullied and berated yourself for long enough, and it hasn’t brought you joy or fulfillment.
Caring for and about yourself, showing yourself unconditional love, and being empathic and compassionate toward yourself is a firm foundation on which to build recovery.
 Kelly, A. C., Tasca, G. A. (2016). Within-persons predictors of change during eating disorders treatment: an examination of self-compassion, self-criticism, shame, and eating disorder symptoms. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 49: 716-722.
About the Author:
Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.
As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published March 27, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on March 27, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC
The post The Art of Self-Compassion in Eating Disorder Recovery appeared first on Eating Disorder Hope.