Three Ways to Practice Kindness on Your Road to Recovery
The road to recovery is usually a long, nonlinear one that can sometimes feel like it’s a never-ending journey. Although everyone is on their own journey, all roads in recovery have twists, turns, hills, potholes and roadblocks that impact how you maneuver through it. Each challenge is another opportunity for self-discovery and to practice self-kindness to keep you moving along your unique path. Kindness is essential to helping you connect you to the part of yourself that empowers you to take responsibility, and encourages you to take care of yourself while on your recovery journey — and beyond.
We all have a critical voice inside that plagues us, especially when we least need its words. If you struggle with an eating disorder, that critical voice becomes one that is guided by your eating disorder thoughts, and it dictates the relationship between you, your body, and food. It’s usually a harsh voice that judges and taunts you every day, making you feel that you’re flawed and not good enough. It depletes your reserves of positive energy by making you doubt yourself and question your worth. And it ultimately negatively affects your sense of self.
Most likely you’ve heard you should be kinder to yourself, but when you’re living with an eating disorder, there doesn’t seem to much room left for kindness toward yourself. That makes sense — you’ve listened to that critical voice for years, and you are used responding to its harsh judgments in a certain way, leading you to feel disdain for your body and hatred for yourself.
By having patience and making room in your life to practice kindness day by day when you’re experiencing difficulty as you recover, you will discover a different way to be with your emotional pain and to motivate yourself with compassion.
How to be kinder to yourself on your road to recovery
Remember that your eating disorder does not define who you are
Depending on how long you’ve been living with your eating disorder, it can feel like it’s something that has become part of your identity. Please take note: You are not your eating disorder, and your eating disorder is not you. Thinking the two are bound is simply a thought separating you from your self.
Make time every day to celebrate who you are and learn to reclaim and redefine yourself apart from your eating disorder. Reconnecting with what you’re passionate about, your likes and dislikes, and the things and people most important to you are powerful ways to rediscover your identity and separate yourself from your eating disorder. To give you some ideas, you could pick up an old hobby or discover a new one, reconnect with old friends who knew your before your eating disorder, or take an art, music or another class that interests you.
Acknowledge how far you’ve come, not how long you feel you have to go
The fact that you have a desire to have a healthier relationship with food and your body is powerful and shouldn’t be ignored just because you may not be “as far as you thought you’d be” or still experience difficulty.
And remember, you are not alone. Everyone experiences challenges in their life and feels vulnerable. It’s part of what makes us human. Don’t give into the stressful expectations and rules you place on yourself for how you think you should be at any point in time. Please take note: You’re exactly where you’re meant to be right now. That’s right...right now!
To help stay motivated, each evening reflect on or journal about the small positive choices you made for your recovery and what’s going right in your life, instead of dwelling on and beating yourself up for where you fell short or what’s not working in your life.
Make friends with yourself
Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to be kinder to others than to yourself? If your best friend was doubting herself, shaming her body or struggling with eating disorder thoughts, how would you respond?
I’m willing to bet you’d respond with kindness and compassion. Why not do the same for yourself?
Talk to yourself as though you were talking to your best friend. Actively respond to yourself with the same level of kindness and compassion when you notice environmental and social triggers that bring out that abusive voice. If you know what triggers you to compare, criticize and pressure yourself, practice what kind words you will say to yourself in the future or have a predetermined activity that will encourage positivity, such as positive self-talk, self-soothing techniques, or healthy distractions.
Recovery takes time, and that’s okay
On the road to recovery, it’s about progress, not perfection. Remember that no two journeys are the same. Accept your own unique path toward recovery by recognizing the moment you’re in, and appreciating your individual journey. What matters is that you stay engaged and practice kindness every day to help you take the steps you need to take toward healthier relationships with food, your body and yourself.