How My Eating Disorder Recovery Led Me to Self-Love
This post is part of the #GlitteryGuests series which features contributions from guest writers. Today’s post is from Denice, who so generously shares with us how her eating disorder recovery helped her discover self-love. Self-love and body positivity are recurring themes on this blog. I truly believe that they are foundations to living our best and most authentic lives. So, I am eternally grateful that Denice was willing to share her story with us. I hope it empowers you, wherever you are on your journey. -Callie
How My Eating Disorder Recovery Led Me to Self-Love
By Denice Cox
I’m still baffled that there isn’t a mandatory class in school about how to love ourselves. Truly, if I can point to any one thing that has absolutely transformed my life, it’s been my journey to self-love.
While we may not have been taught how to love our beautiful lil’ selves in school, the good news is that you can still learn today. In this post I’ll share my top tips on self-love, coming from the perspective of someone who used to hate every inch of their skin.
My self-loathing took a particularly unpleasant form: an eating disorder. Recovery was long, rocky, and still continues to this day. But over time I learned how to not make food (and myself) the enemy, and instead ushered in an era of loving my imperfect self.
How did I do this? I used a combination of strategies – some learned, some found. If you’re struggling to love yourself, I hope that sharing these can help you get at least one step closer to accepting yourself today.
Start where you are
You know how they say the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step? Well that’s totally true. When I first decided I wanted to learn to accept myself, I would spend hours scrolling through body-positive Instagram accounts, silently wondering why I couldn’t love my imperfect body like them.
The truth is, I was trying to jump from A to Z and skip all the messy stuff in the middle. You can’t go from hating yourself to loving yourself overnight. At least, no one I’ve ever met has.
It’s a process that starts with acknowledging where you are. How do you feel about yourself? What emotions come up when you look in the mirror? Dislike? Apathy? Fondness? Whatever it is, know that’s totally ok. Start with accepting where you are on the self-love spectrum and then you can gradually move forward.
Take the next best step
Once you know where you stand with yourself, you need to figure out what the next step closer to loving yourself is.
I, for one, started at the “hate” end of the spectrum. I actually wanted to disappear sometimes, and so it’s not a surprise that I developed anorexia to slowly shrink myself to nothing.
My recovery and self love journey began with taking one tiny step forward: I focused on allowing my body to exist.
If you’ve never had an eating disorder this might sound a little silly, but the truth is for me this was huge. I went from actively trying to destroy my body to allowing it to be here. It didn’t mean I accepted my body. And I definitely didn’t like it. I just took one small step forward.
Your situation might not be as extreme as mine was, but you can still take a baby step. For example, if you currently accept yourself but don’t like yourself, try moving toward respecting yourself.
Isn’t it amazing how much work our bodies do for us everyday? Can you respect the millions of tiny processes and cells that are all working in unison to keep you alive? Can you respect the good you bring to your friends or family? Start there.
This process will be the same no matter where you are. If you’re at apathy, try moving to accept. If you’re at like, try moving to celebrate. And if you keep making these tiny steps forward as you go, you might just find yourself ending up at love one day.
Let yourself be wrong
Another huge turning point in my recovery came when I finally grasped the idea that my view of myself might not be right.
All of us go through life forming ideas about ourselves based on the experiences we have and how people treat us. We can start to think things that might not be totally true (like, “I’m unlovable”) and over time these thoughts become so ingrained in our minds that we never question them.
For most of my life I was convinced I was a fundamentally bad person. I can’t point to one specific experience that made me believe this, it just sort of developed over time and stuck, like a bad song that won’t get out of your head.
But then one day I found myself in a therapist’s office, in treatment for my eating disorder, trying to explain how awful and horrible I was to her – trying to prove why I didn’t deserve love.
She then said something small that completely changed my life: she told me I wasn’t bad.
Now, she wasn’t the first person to try to tell me this. But the difference was, for some reason, in that moment I actually listened to her.
As mind boggling as it was, I started to question all the things that I believed about myself. What if most, if not all of it, wasn’t actually true?
(Spoiler alert – it wasn’t.)
If you want to learn to love yourself, you have to be willing to be wrong about yourself. I know you may be absolutely convinced that you’re unattractive or boring or not worthy of love, but what if that’s not actually true? Has anyone ever told you anything to the contrary? Consider the possibility that they just might be right.
I know they say that no one knows yourself like you, but I’m not convinced that’s totally true. Our perspective is skewed. We can’t see the way our face lights up when we laugh or know exactly how we made our friend feel when we cheered them on. We only have our own thoughts and ideas about who we are, and sometimes, those completely don’t match what other people think of us.
So the next time someone says something nice about you, instead of brushing them off, believe them. Most people don’t just give compliments because they’re trying to be nice. They say it because they genuinely appreciate you and want to let you know. Let that goodness in.
It’s ok to be wrong about yourself. I was, and I couldn’t be happier about that!
Enjoy the ride
Self love really is a journey, not a destination. Don’t expect to always love yourself every minute of every day, because I’m pretty sure even Beyoncé doesn’t do that. But if you can spend the majority of your days appreciating and celebrating and respecting the unique person that you are? I think that’s a pretty great life.