By Amanda G.
One of the most valuable lessons I learned while recovering from my eating disorder was how harmful negative self-talk can really be, and how to shift that into a more positive light. It hit me hardest during treatment that the relationship with myself is the longest, most intimate one I’ll ever have. I am my longest best friend, and I deserve to talk to myself that way. Do you struggle a lot with negative self talk like I did? I remember being so cruel, crueller than any critics, even crueller than my harshest bullies. It’s akin to being bullied, by someone who can never escape. Eating disorders thrive when we’re trapped. It’s almost like they guard a secret passage to freedom and will only let us through as long as we obey and honour the disorder.
To break the cycle, it might resonate with you to check in with yourself and literally break your thought. For example, if you’re having a negative thought about yourself, interrupt yourself the way you would want to interrupt someone rude. Ask yourself why you’re saying or thinking these things, practice standing up for yourself – to yourself. It’s a hard skill. It’s not nearly as easy as typing it out makes it seem to be. I hear you. There are times when the self-criticism is so automatic, so ingrained into my everyday way of living, I forget how to interrupt it and replace the thought with ones that are more forgiving. That’s what lead me to “go-to thoughts” which I’ll soon explain.
First, one of my therapists first encouraged me to create a mantra. This would become something I was to repeat to myself when I couldn’t think of anything nice to say about myself, and what all I wanted to do was engage in eating disorder behaviours, and listen to everything the disorder was telling me to do. I came up with “I deserve to be healthy.” It’s seemingly simple, but something I never told myself prior to that. I had this belief that I never deserved anything good, so at first it was daunting to tell myself that I did. But it got easier with practice!
As I went through my recovery, even to this day, I remembered how that mantra had helped me. Then I thought of another technique I could use. I could think of this negative self talk as a conversation. A conversation with a friend. For every negative thought I had, I pictured myself talking to a friend, which grounded me into realizing that I would never ever talk to a friend the way I talk to myself. That’s lead me into giving myself pep talks quite often. I find myself doing it quite regularly now after lots of practice. I do it when I’m feeling extra anxious before a school or work day, or when I’m trying something new, particularly something physical. My “go-to thoughts” typically include telling myself that I can do hard things, or that my anxiety is nothing to be ashamed of. “I deserve to be healthy” still remains one of my favourites, so much so that I’m actually thinking of getting it tattooed one day.
It’s also worth noting that all your thoughts don’t have to be super positive. You can just be neutral with yourself, and still encouraging. You can accept that you’re sad, angry, or anxious, and even tempted to engage in eating disorder behaviours, and tell yourself that its okay to not be okay. Self forgiveness is so powerful. I sometimes (though less and less often with practice) blame myself for my struggles. Demanding myself to be “normal”. What even is normal anyways? I guarantee you, if normal is anything but a societal and social construct, normal is to be human, and being human is to fluctuate in emotions.
Through my recovery I had help making goals towards self-compassion. This really resonated with me and may do the same for others as well; to make goals to meet in a determined amount of time, such as coming up with 1-3 mantras in one week. I have a goal right now to be able to compassionately talk myself through a panic attack. Be easy on yourself throughout the recovery process. Self-compassion is a hard skill, but it’s definitely an important one.
Hello, my name is Amanda! I’m a writer from Vancouver, and I’ve been in recovery for over 7 years now. I’m volunteering with Looking Glass because I love the idea of supporting others through their recovery, as well as finding support when I need it as well. I’m really looking forward to sharing my thoughts and my work; writing is a huge passion of mine.