Written by: Adrienne Ressler, LMSW, CEDS is Vice President, Professional Development, The Renfrew Center Foundation & Susan Kleinman, BC-DMT, NCC, CEDS, Dance/Movement Therapist at The Renfrew Center of Florida
Weight and self-worth often intersect in complicated ways – especially for those suffering from an eating disorder. In this post, we look at how to put the emotional burdens of self-esteem into perspective.
Self-esteem represents the personal perception we have of our own worthy-ness – what it feels like to be us! This perception often becomes skewed or out of balance when we are faced with solving what we perceive are uncomfortable or overwhelming problems.
How Emotionally Driven Behaviors Obscure Reality
Although it is not uncommon to search for ways to find relief when trying to tolerate difficult times, emotionally driven behaviors such as substance use, disordered eating, over exercising and isolating, to name a few, may provide us with an illusion of control; but sadly, it is only an illusion, not reality. The self-defeating behaviors that may help us feel in control, or even safe in the moment, do not actually directly address the cause of what is sabotaging the goals for our recovery.
In our culture, from a very early age, we become conditioned to constantly monitor and assess the state of our bodies. When we obsess about the body, we are not recognizing it as a place to live – not recognizing it as our home; rather, the body has become an object needing to be controlled. An obsession with size, shape and weight can quickly become a barrier to well-being, distorting our authentic emotions and feelings and burying them underneath this illusion of health.
For well-being, it is essential for each of us to learn how to support ourselves and surround ourselves with those who recognize and support our potential for recovery – that will set the stage for us to be more likely to find the compassion for ourselves we need in order to risk problem-solving, deal with larger emotional issues and become un-stuck from the barriers keeping us from moving forward.
The Importance of Practicing Self-Compassion
Self-compassion is not self-pity nor is it anything like feeling sorry for yourself. To the contrary, when you practice self-compassion, you become stronger, more aware of yourself as a human being and more likely to feel good about who you are. It has been just in recent years, that we have been able to recognize that self-compassion will help “set you free” from perfectionism, self-criticism, and self-indulgence.
According to Dr. Kristen Neff (2011), the 3 elements of self-compassion are self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Self-kindness involves being tender and understanding toward ourselves when we “mess up”; common humanity means you realize you are not the only human suffering; mindfulness involves not denying what can be labeled as negative thoughts or feelings – this will lead you to move through life in a more balanced manner.
Mary Poppins, the Disney character whose “job” required flying through space using her “magic” to help others, needed weight to help herself remain “grounded”. She created an umbrella that allowed her rise above the problems she observed and transform those problems into opportunities.
Although we certainly don’t recommend using an umbrella or weighing yourself to problem-solve, we do suggest you address pressing issues by following a few of the tips below. They are designed to help you put your perceptions regarding your body weight and size into perspective.
7 Tips for Putting Body Weight & Self-Worth into Perspective
- Catch yourself when you notice judgmental thoughts. Being harsh or unkind to yourself is not going to help.
- Gather some photos from a time when you were a baby or toddler. Keep them handy where you will see them often. Look at the photos every day and allow yourself to connect with your younger self, an innocent child. Keep in mind that when you are not kind to yourself, you are also unkind to the child within you.
- Use the mirror to appreciate, not punish yourself. Give yourself a friendly greeting and practice relaxing your eyes. Close and open them very wide – do this a number of times. Soften your eyes as you look in the mirror and say hello to yourself. It may sound silly, but it is important to reframe how you look to yourself and repeat as often as possible.
- Think of yourself as your best friend and treat yourself accordingly.
- Keep in mind that most of the images you see in magazines, movies and online have been manipulated, filtered, sculpted, scrubbed, and starved. You have permission to let go of these unrealistic standards.
- Surround yourself with people who know the “real you” and love you for who you are.
- Consider adding forms of relaxation, breath work, movement, and mindfulness to your everyday routine. Notice how these changes impact you both physically and emotionally.
The tips above will work best when you select working on only one or, at the most, two at a time and go from what will be the easiest to the most difficult for you. But we must learn to trust ourselves – to realize we can problem-solve and transform abilities into actions that result in resolution.
Neff, K. (2011). Self-compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself. W. Morrow.