A Word on Kindness, Self Worth and Deservability
For years I maintained the belief that I could survive on less than anybody else. That I didn’t ‘need’ food. I had an overwhelming fear of ‘exceeding’ my daily allowances of carbs and sugar and the false promises I made myself daily led to a life of unhappiness and inner turmoil.
Why didn’t I deserve what other people could have? Why could I not nourish myself like a normal person? What was the emotional pain I was trying to sooth through this continuous cycle of neglect? I couldn’t work it out. All I knew was that I couldn’t keep the self-sabotaging behaviours up on a permanent basis. It’s exhausting being horrible to yourself.
ED had crashed my limits, hijacked my mind and taken charge of my life. I very quickly reached an emotional/psychological place. There was a force within me sabotaging my health, my appearance, my energy, my relationships and my life goals. I felt helpless to resist its urges and more often than not didn’t even attempt to try. I became eager to indulge in my ED behaviours only to feel unhappy and disappointed afterwards. I avoided all uncomfortable feelings. I strove for the eternal high that came from starving my brain. I used food as an automatic cruise control on my feelings. That, and taking things that were not mine to take. I stole from my parents. I took food from their fridge and money from their wallets and denied it all point blank. Food, may I add, that I had no intention of eating, and money I’d no intention of spending. The condition had clouded my judgement and hijacked my value system so drastically that I saw nothing wrong, felt no guilt, and experienced no shame in what I was doing. To this day I struggle to see how it had such a hold on me. How it could drive me to such extremes and for me to feel NOTHING? With realisations however, come understandings – the first step to change. ED had stripped me of all self-worth. I was mind-body disconnected, had no sense of my own values, and was as far removed from society and real life as psychologically possible. I was a failure. Undeserving of love, undeserving of food, undeserving of happiness and undeserving of life. Tell yourself that often enough and it becomes engrained in your mind as fact. I measured my worth as a person on my performance in exams, the level of praise I received from others. I could ‘get away’ with ED behaviours, maintaining the standards others expected of me, how much charity work and volunteering I could do in a week, comparing myself to others in a ‘league table’ fashion of deservability, and on ‘do-ing’. I pushed myself to extremes in everything I did and based my self-worth on how much I had achieved on a daily basis. Nothing, however, was or ever could be, good enough. Deprivation and deception filled an otherwise empty void within me. Thankfully my parents saw through my condition, saw through my behaviours and maintained a strong belief that the honest, trustworthy, reliable, loving young girl they brought into this world would re-emerge in time. And she did. They never gave up on me or my recovery and for that I am eternally grateful.
But how could I stop? Without my ED behaviours, I felt desperate, angry and frightened. To lose ED would be to lose what was taking care of me in the world. I couldn’t risk it… I remember the moment – down to the very date of the session – that I realised how big of an impact deservability or lack thereof was having on my recovery.
I never allowed myself to indulge in what I considered ‘luxuries’…unnecessary ‘extras’. Why would I waste on myself? But the deprivation didn’t stop at food. Candles, ‘smellies’, pretty ornaments, flowers, gifts of the indulgent sort– sure what would I be doing with them? Received gratefully of course with open arms and smiles but they were soon deposited in the PA (Put Away) press on the top floor for somebody more deserving. The issue needed to be addressed. Fairly promptly. Deservability was effecting my life. My understanding of the word ‘enough’ was completely warped. And so began ‘Operation Date Yourself’. For every meal I prepared, it became my duty to prepare it with the love, care and attention I would somebody coming to the house for dinner. Eating alone was to be an experience not to be missed! Full plates – inclusion of all main food groups – colourful – creative – experimental – and best of all, it was to be my own private screening. I was eating for myself. No people pleasing. No compromising. I was eating out of kindness and respect to my body and out of kindness and respect to myself. Why? Because I deserved it.
It’s funny the extremes we have to go to sometimes learn the simplest of lessons. Years of unkindness and self-neglect have given me valuable insights into life and the workings of the human condition. If you tell yourself something often enough you begin to believe it. It becomes so deeply ingrained in you that you will defy everybody around you to defend its existence. I believed I was useless. I believed I was underserving. And I believed without a shadow of a doubt that I did not need the love, the care or the protection that others did. When you cross the boundaries of nature though, in my case through endless deprivation, you experience the consequences. And this time I was no exception.
Real self-worth comes from living a life coherent with your values. It is an inner state- a calmness, a sense of stillness and acceptance of who you are and what you stand for. We are worthy because we are alive, because we exist. ‘God makes no junk’. Our true worth is not something that is measured by how much we weigh or how much we own or how we behave. It does not depend on ‘doing’, but by ‘be-ing’. I know that now and I welcome and cherish the peace it brings. I can accept a compliment. I am open to and can accept help. I am accepting of love and of acts of spontaneity and kindness. When you feel worthy and deserving of life, destructive behaviours disappear. Outside forces no longer influence you and your mind-body connections flourish.
To find that worth – to feel good enough – it’s the most powerful thing you can do for your Recovery. Be proud. Say ‘YES’ to experiences. Legalise your self worth.
Now with my own internal support system in place, I listen to my emotional cravings and my bodies yearnings with understanding and I have the ability to make wise choices. I say no to what’s not good for me and yes to what nourishes me. I have the internal strength to go against everything society so badly wants me to buy into. My body has learned to trust me again. Not only that, but I learned to trust me too. I have befriended my body. I am kind to myself when those destructive urges creep in and I breath. Long deep breaths. I face my feelings – accept and acknowledge their existence without judgement J– and I find other ways to cope with the powerful emotions of inadequacy I sometimes still feel. I answer my own 911 call. And so can you.
Go easy on yourself. Be kind. It’s exhausting being crippled by an internal war of control between a malnourished mind that distorts reality and healthy body urgings that are striving for survival. I came across a really great comparison highlighting the impact of trust and kindness in recovery in a book I read a few months ago by a lady called Joanna Poppink. In it, she compares our maltreated body to an animal in a rescue shelter. The animal needs lots of love and care and attention from you before it builds up its trust in you to feed it well and regularly. Before it is strong and healthy enough to do it alone. Your body is no different.
Eating is only a small part of your life. Don’t let it control you – You deserve to be free. With more healing, strength and hope –your life will blossom.
Marie often says that people with ED have minus self-esteem, and minus self worth. I would absolutely agree with this. It’s not something you realise when you’re in the thick of it. Therefore I think self worth is an interesting and important topic in recovery.
Having self worth, means to place value on your life, just because. It’s innate, it’s inherent, it’s something intangible and unrelated to any of the doings and achievings of daily life.
I believe I have a lot of self worth these days. But I had to work at it. I had to learn to place value on myself.
I suppose it began with conscious recognition of my needs. It began with me answering back the condition, like maybe I did deserve, maybe I did matter, maybe I was an ok person even if I wasn’t perfect or didn’t win the thing or get the A or receive the external reassurance.
It’s sad that self worth can be so tied up with appearance too. But that’s how it was for me. If the number on the scales was down, I felt like a “better person”. It meant I was more worthy of going to the nice place, and talking with the important people. If the number was up, well suddenly I was a useless failure who didn’t deserve anything, and had to be punished.
It was a horrible existence because I measured my worth on things that frankly didn’t matter an iota. I placed more worth on myself if I was busy all day. And if for some reason I had a quieter day, then the guilt would creep in and my self worth would plummet.
Learning that my life had value was a slow process. But it happened. The more I gave myself credit for the little things, and dropped the comparing- the better I felt about myself. I stopped using everyone else’s life as a yard stick for how worthy I was. I stopped translating other people’s successes into my failures. I also started to magnify all the things I liked about myself, and I stopped telling myself The Story about what an awful person I was.
Self worth started to blossom from the inside out. I always think of this quote: Self confidence isn’t about everyone liking you, it’s about being fine even if they don’t. I realise that has a lot to do with self worth. We are worthy no matter what! I repeat, no matter what. It doesn’t depend on anything but our own CHOICE to believe we are worthy.
It’s important to treat yourself with kindness and compassion. This can be tricky to navigate in early recovery, but if you wouldn’t do it to a small baby or someone you love, then why on earth would it be ok to do to yourself? When you treat yourself with respect, you start to realise that’s what you deserved anyway.
What I’ve realised is that once the self worth gets to a certain level, it’s impossible to fathom doing behaviours or treating yourself badly. It just doesn’t make sense anymore. I wouldn’t dream of depriving myself, neglecting myself or hurting my body & health in any way. I value myself too much to do that now!
Nurturing my self worth has made all the difference in my life, and it’s something I wish I could bottle and share around.
I promise you are already worthy. You really are.
I will remind myself that God makes no junk each time I doubt my worth and value.
For many of us, knowing we are special has to be learned. Our families and our society may not have conveyed this much-deserve message. Coming to believe that we are wonderful and worthy as we are requires that we dispel our more critical, though comfortable self-assessment.
Our worth cannot be expressed in numbers. We are worthy because we are alive, we have unlimited worth. Our true worth is not something that is measured by how much we weigh or how much we own or how we behave. We have worth because we exist. Every one of us is born with unlimited worth and we have to learn to believe it.
We are worthy twenty-four hours a day from the minute we are born until we die. It is our recovery, which makes us aware of this fact. Worth does not depend on our doing, our weight or our behaving, worth depend on our existence, and we have to learn to accept this as the truth.
What is your definition of human worth?
How do you measure the worth of people around you?
How do you measure your worth?