Self-esteem is a psychological term describing the way people value their worth. It is shaped by circumstances and experiences encountered in life. Logically, having positive experiences will increase self-esteem, while negative ones can result in false beliefs about yourself. Naturally, people internalize negative experiences more easily than positive ones, resulting in lowered self-esteem.. In order to deal with the painful feelings you’ll seek ways to cope that may lead to destructive behaviors. These behaviors start to serve the need of avoiding negative emotions, dragging you into a downward spiral and low self-esteem. If you have a high self-esteem, you appreciate and respect yourself for who you are, including flaws and weaknesses.
In general, people with an eating disorder tend to have an extremely low self-esteem and a desperate need for acceptance. This low sense of self leads to obsessive and destructive behaviors related to food, exercise and the body. Most people having an eating disorder hold the strong belief of not deserving life. I remember this myself. I felt being not good enough and literally used and needed my eating disorder to cope with my emotions and block them in the end. A vital part of recovery is to regain a healthy sense of self. This process takes time, effort and a lot of work. After years of recovery I learned how important and meaningful it is to have a positive self-esteem. I want to share 9 things that helped me to build my self-esteem.
1. Stop comparing yourself to others
We all know comparing is the thief of joy, but we still do it. When you have an eating disorder you find yourself constantly comparing yourself to others. This is something I did all the time. It made me feel even more worthless, but I kept doing it. Once I stopped comparing, I became able to see I didn’t need to compete with others to be a valuable person.
2. Learn to say “No”
This might be hard to learn when you are patterned to say “Yes” in order to please people or get positive recognition. If you don’t your own needs into account you will end up losing yourself,by being so focused on pleasing the needs of others. This is something I learned the hard way. People were so used to me being a pleaser, that they felt rejected immediately after I said “No”.This is something you might experience as well, but it’s important to realize it’s their problem, not yours! When you learn to say “No” you’ll be able to see your own priorities and find out what you really want.
3. Compliment yourself
Give yourself compliments on a daily basis. When I lived with an eating disorder I was giving compliments to other people all the time, but never to myself. Do you? It’s very important when you’re building your self-esteem. Write them down in your journal, say them out loud in front of a mirror or use post-it sticky notes that you put in your bag. Don’t expect to feel better about yourself instantly, but practicing will help you internalizing positive behaviors towards yourself.
4. Forgive and focus on your accomplishments
All people make mistakes. Punishing yourself for making mistakes or telling yourself you shouldn’t make mistakes, will not help you. Instead focus on your accomplishments. Look how far you’ve come! Think of things you can be proud of. You have to let go of what happened in the past to get ready for the future.
Smiling creates a chemical reaction in your brain which results in a positive feeling, less stress. Smile at yourself and others. It’s a simple mood boost that will help you in getting a positive relationship with yourself
6. Respect yourself
Respecting yourself plays an extremely important role in building your self-esteem. I used to be ashamed of myself and feel guilty all the time. Why? Simply for being. Stop feeling guilty. You shouldn’t be ashamed of who you are. Indulge your body and your soul with positive things and treat both of them with respect.
7. Make a list of your qualities
Are you Kind? Honest? Generous? Write down all positive qualities about yourself. Don’t come up with excuses you do have positive qualities! When I was living within the cage of an eating disorder, I denied that there was anything good or positive but, everyone has positive qualities. Don’t fool yourself, you exhibitmany qualities! Use this list as daily reminder.
8. Surround yourself with positivity
If you’re working hard to build your self-esteem, it isn’t very helpful to be around people who tend to see the worst in every situation. You’re simply not strong enough to stand up for yourself and you’ll easily fall into the negativity trap. I remember myself looking for negative confirmation in others instead of being around positive people. It all became a self fulfilling prophecy. Think of the people in your life. Do they give you energy or do they drag you down and take your energy instead?
9. Re-discover your passion and dreams
When you live with an eating disorder your passions and dreams fade away. When you start to build your self-esteem pursuing what you love doing will make you feel meaningful and alive. What is your heart calling you to do? What are your passions and dreams? In recovery I learned how much I was living someone’s else life. I lost myself in it and it ruined my whole identity. Gradually I regained my strength and realized my passion and life mission, building a platform for people with an eating disorder. Once you let go of what others say you should want, you can finally discover your own dreams and be yourself.
Building a positive self-esteem isn’t easy, but step by step you’ll start to see a positive change in how you view yourself and the world. Once you reconnect with the soul living inside you, you’ll also be able to connect with the outside world. Choose to live, instead of simply surviving. Follow your heart and discover what you really live for.