Self-care can feel like torture.
Don’t get me wrong, self-care is crucial to our overall wellness. Our minds, bodies, and souls all require conscious actions that rejuvenate us and refill our batteries to take on each day’s tasks and challenges.
The struggle with self-care is when it’s the last thing we feel like doing.
But how could taking care of yourself turn into a civil war in your mind?
Well, that’s all thanks to a little friend many know as Ed. In clinical terms, Ed can be any variation of an eating disorder. And “disorder” doesn’t even begin to cover the havoc they can wreak.
Nice(?) to meet you, Ed
I remember first meeting Ed back before middle school.
Picture a stereotypical image of a small ballet studio: creaky barres nailed, a giant mirror, and a room full of little girls in dance garb.
Then, one of those little girls notices how others kid’s leotards don’t bunch up and their tights don’t get chafed between the legs… After that, I was in for many years of self-harm and loathing.
More than a face-mask
After dealing with all those years of self-loathing, simple self-care acts can be super difficult.
For example, I still have nonexistent or odd hunger cues I struggle to follow. Going out to eat and just eating with other people in general still makes me nervous. And I still automatically think of burned calories during any exercise.
“But non of that has anything to do with self-care!”, you may be thinking. “Isn’t self-care about making yourself comfortable, like getting your nails done or using a face mask?”
Well, no. Self-care isn’t necessarily meant to be easy. In fact, if a self-care act is challenging, it likely proves how impactful it is to your overall well-being. We assume self-care always looks like face masks and bubble baths- like a zenned-out spa vacation.
However, for someone who’s struggled with an eating disorder, self-care usually embodies what our minds fear the most.
For us, self-care may be eating in front of someone else when you’re internally screaming for them to leave. Or resting even though you know how many calories you just ate. It’s going to a restaurant without memorizing the nutritional facts of every item. Self-care actually eating when your stomach growls. And it’s buying the correct pants size, even if it’s bigger than you used to wear.
Our comfort zone can seem like a beautiful place. The place where we rule and control every detail. But it’s not where we are meant to stay.
Alas, that search for perfection and control is only an illusion. We’re human, and we aren’t meant to live within strict boundaries. Nothing will ever grow in your comfort zone. You’ll never evolve. You’ll stifle your potential to be truly healthy and balanced.
Embrace the challenge
Acts of self-care challenge our disordered expectations. Even if, in the moment, they feel like torture, I know that they are molding me into someone free from Ed’s whims. I might not be completely cleared of that influence, but I can move forward despite it.
Self-care is a decision to make every day. Ask yourself, “What do I value? Who is the person I want to embody?” Self-care is incorporated and necessary every step of the way.