In a recent post, Missy (who struggles with anorexia) talked about how she can love other people, but finds it practically impossible to love herself. I can't say that I was surprised to read this -- I would guess that the majority, if not all, of the people who battle eating disorders have difficulty viewing themselves in a positive light. After all, eating disorders are defined by abusive of self.
I also struggle with loving myself. I can't say that I do. I don't know if I ever have. However, I'm working on it. And . . . I'm making progress. It's difficult to recognize the thoughts that disparage my self, let alone combat them, but I try.
Missy asked her readers how they cultivate a sense of self-love. After thinking about that question and leaving a lengthy response on her blog, I thought that I'd devote a post to the same topic here. So, based on my own experience grappling with the self-hating hell that is an eating disordered life, here are the ways that I practice self-love.
- spending time with God (I read The Message version of the Bible, which is much more blunt about how God feels about us, and it always brings me to tears with passages like Ephesians 5:1 — “Mostly what God does is love you”)
- being mindful about negative self-talk, and replacing it with self-loving thoughts and affirmations
- loving myself for my self, not my body or my productivity or my mood or my job
- taking time to do something that I truly love, that makes me come alive (and while exercise makes me feel good, it is not my passion in life, and I doubt it’s most over-exerciser’s true passion, if they’re honest)
- doing what I need to do for my health, even if I don’t like it or don't want to or I'm afraid of it
- spending time with other people, especially other people who love me — their love shows me that I am indeed loveable, and that helps lead to self-love
This is by no means an exhaustive list of practices that, if used over time (and that's the key -- this will take time), will cultivate self-love. I dream of the day when women will not be afflicted by eating disorders and negative body image and low self-esteem, as so many of us are now. And since I definitely don't have all the answers, I must ask -- how do you cultivate love for your self?
"So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well." ~ Philippians 1: 9
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