Hello everybody, welcome to episode 188 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. Today's question is on life after an eating disorder.
I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino reminding you before we begin that if you have a question you would like help with on the show, we welcome you to email it to us at advice AT oldpodcast.com
And in our episode today, everyone, we’ll be talking about how to rebound and rebuild self-confidence on the other side of a lot of emotional turbulence. Our asker today recently had a setback with her eating disorder that she felt she had overcome, and is now wondering what she and others can think about and do in order to get back into the right frame of mind after such a thing. So without further ado, let’s hear her question about how she and others like her can rebound…
QUESTION: “I am struggling with low self esteem, low self worth and low confidence stemming from a life-long struggle with an eating disorder. I always thought I had it under control, but in light of recent events, I can see clearly it still had control over me this whole time. I know now I do need to seek help, I'm in the process of finding a good therapist.
Could you maybe give some insight on how one can develop their sense of self worth after overcoming depression, addiction, or eating disorders?”
An Eating Disorder, Addiction And Control
Very powerful question that stands to help many people who are suffering out there in addition to our asker. Thank you so much to her for sending this in and giving us an opportunity to talk about something that, frankly, needs to be talked about.
I really love how you mentioned control (twice) in your question, because that’s something that really lies at the core of the issues faced by people who have experienced what you’ve experienced or similar things such as depression and addiction that you mentioned.
I want to start by saying that, to a degree, this is something we all wrestle with. Small traumas, significant traumas, or onset problems that can be caused by traumas (like eating disorders, alcoholism, etc.) are isolating experiences. And the more extreme they are, the more isolated we can feel.
When we’re separated from the group so-to-speak, we’re forced to question who we are as individuals. Recovery, then, is about finding ways to reconnect to yourself and those you love. The ways in which you can do it in your daily life outside of a therapist’s office aren’t terribly unique or flashy, but they’re effective.
Changing False Beliefs
You thought you had your eating disorder under control. You defined yourself as someone who had it under control. Now it resurfaces unexpectedly, leading you to be conflicted about who you are, how well you can control yourself, etc.
If feelings like this are allowed to run off the leash for too long, greater levels of suspicion and uncertainty can blend into unrelated parts of life, making it hard to feel a sense of control or confidence over anything.
But today we’re going to talk about what you can do to change these false beliefs before they take up too much of your time.
Let’s talk about the steps you can take so that you can walk out of here knowing that you, legitimately, do retain a lot of control over your life and your destiny in spite of this setback.
The first important step for someone in your shoes to take is to reflect on the strength you’ve gained from your hardship. And the good news is, you don’t have to wait for this benefit to show up, it’s already there. You just need to remind yourself of it.
Doing a Reality Check
For example, it’s no secret that your specific setback would be enough to throw many into a deep depression and diminish self-confidence dramatically.
Perhaps you’ve experienced depressive feelings in light of the recent events you’ve mentioned, but are you out of control? No.
Here you are reaching out to me for help, looking for inspiration in the OLD network, prepared and willing to look for a therapist, and I’m sure doing many other things you haven’t mentioned to me.
You’re moving through this at as good a pace as anyone in your shoes could ask for. Has this given you a reality check of the importance of good health? I’m sure it has.
Has it given you a reality check of how important it is to keep going after you’ve been knocked down? I’m sure it has. Has it made you more comfortable with asking others for help and not doing too much on your own? I’m sure it has. Are these lessons, among others, you can now draw from to bring more meaning into your life and teach others to do the same? Unquestionably.
You’ve garnered so much strength from this; strength you can use to fuel a more meaningful life, and that pours into a few other points to talk about here today:
Setbacks and Progress
One being that it’s time to indulge in new or old healthy activities. Do the right things for yourself, have fun, help others, and witness first hand how much life has to offer that has nothing to do with your eating disorder.
Yet another example of how it doesn’t need to control you. This will ring especially true if some of your activities consist of helping others who may have struggled with eating disorders as well.
You’d be maintaining that part of you, not pretending it isn’t there, and leveraging it to create good in the world on your own terms. So seek out things that feel important, adhere to your values and prove to yourself through action that your identity and routine are not summed up by a history with an eating disorder which might have acted up lately.
We all have setbacks to the progresses we all make. Bounce back by flourishing in the many other areas of life that are worth living for and treat you well.
And in addition to choosing activities that mean a lot to you, choose people that mean a lot to you. As I said, you’ve found yourself in an isolating experience. But you’re not isolated. You’re surrounded by people that care about you and want to be a part of your journey. Some of them you know, many of them you don’t.
There’s a world of people out there that would champion you if they knew you, and one place to find them would be in support groups.
Strong Social Connections
But a strong social rebound isn’t just about support groups. It also means being more open with family and friends about what you’ve gone through.
Those who love you will want to see the real you, and if you’re vulnerable with them, you’re empowering yourself at the same time as strengthening your relationships with others, all the while reinstating self-confidence, as you’re reminding yourself that people care about you in spite of the parts of your life that you’ve felt helpless over.
A loving circle of people like this will not only help bring more progress to each good day, but the more familiar you get with disclosing to these people, the easier it’ll be talk through any feelings of digression should they come up. This is vital, as you’ll be able to catch yourself quicker should another downward spiral feel like it’s creeping in.
You won’t bottle and you won’t feel isolated; you’ll instead know that you’re bonded with people who are on your side. That’s confidence.
Finding Self-Esteem After An Eating Disorder: Conclusion
I know you feel you’ve taken a step backwards. But what a pivotal moment this is for you to handle it the right way, which you are. You’re admitting that you were wrong about how you were responding to your eating disorder and you’re determined to learn how to do it right.
No one would make any progress and thus develop any confidence if they didn’t respond the way that you’re responding right now. You said yourself that these events were recent. It’s going to sting right now. And because it stings, you’re reaching out for help and overcoming adversity. You’re doing everything right.
All right, folks. Thank you again to the asker for submitting this question and thanks to all of you for listening. While this episode is geared for people who have had particularly strong struggles, as I mentioned in the top of the show, our traumas all affect us differently and put us on similar paths when it comes to recovery.
Though we all suffer to different degrees, the path back often boils down to rekindling a sense of meaning in life, getting you back in touch with what makes you, you. Though there are many ways to do this, the primary ones, as mentioned today, are the people we spend time with, how well we communicate with them, how we help them. It’s what we do with that time; activities that we enjoy and are good for us.
And, of course, it’s the lessons that we learn; the scars our struggles leave us with that give us unique viewpoints and better ways of coping with and understanding hardship down the road. So that’s going to do it for me, folks.
Thanks a million for being here today and listening to the end. I had fun, I hope you did as well, and I’m wishing the best for our asker and for the rest of you. Be sure to stop into the next one, 189, after what’s hopefully a fun and safe weekend. Talk to you all then.