This is not the blog I intended to write today. My intention was to write an uplifting article about the remarkable power of resilience, but I had to finish another assignment first. This is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, and I had to write an article about dangerous websites that promote eating disorders.
As I was researching these websites I felt my insides literally churning. As I wrote about the need to instill in teens and adolescents messages of body confidence, hope and self-esteem, I came face to face with a brutal truth: I was disingenuous.
For years I've written, spoke, taught and trained about the importance of understanding one's self-worth. I even coined the phrase that self-worth is one element of the equation that makes for self-esteem: Self-confidence plus self-worth equals self-esteem. And let me tell you, I talk the talk about this pretty darned well. I encourage people to look at themselves in the mirror, to look straight into their eyes and tell themselves one good thing about themselves every day. I have them do this exercise to build a list of characteristics and traits that comprise their self-worth. And I encourage them to do this exercise with their children, too, because I do believe that if one is clear about one's self-worth, it is harder for one's self-confidence to be shaken. Or if one's self-confidence is shaken, rattled and rolled, you will be able to pick yourself up off the floor much quicker.
I also write, speak, teach and train about the importance of exploring one's life story and getting to the truth of the habits that do not serve you. Our adult conception of the world comes from within and is self-directed. And so we need to look back at those early lessons, those habits we have developed, and determine is they serve us or if they do not serve us. And then we must ask ourselves: Is this the kind of person I want to be? I teach this because I do believe that it is in examining and understanding the larger context of our lives that we can live a more flourishing life.
So, why have I been disingenuous? Okay... Here it goes.
I have not been truthful with myself about my life story. I have not fully acknowledged nor forgiven myself for being bulimic. All right, I've said it. Heck, I just committed it to paper for all to read. The brutal truth is that I battled bulimia for a number of years. And while I no longer purge (thanks to my grandmother who, upon discovering a trash bag in my closet filled with empty laxative boxes, loving and firmly helped me turn this around), I still carry within myself disdain and self-loathing because of that past behavior. Thankfully, however, I do know that by heeding the lessons of resilience that I preach, I will move forward with self-forgiveness and self-respect.
My journey forward begins with this article, with my willingness to reflect upon and come to terms with my personal history. I know I must embrace that "Where there's a will, there's a way" resilient attitude. I must continue to reflect upon and recognize objectively my strengths and weaknesses when it comes to my issues with weight. This self-reflection will help me gain insight into my current body image attitude and circumstance, opening me to new ideas and new tactics for building a healthy body confidence.
I know that resilient people are good at managing their emotions. And so I must acknowledge and embrace the fact that I am an emotional eater. By examining and understanding my emotional reaction to food, I can develop a plan that changes my current response method when I am under pressure and persevere.
I know that resilient people have a healthy social support network. Good friends help us get through the tough times; they listen and validate our feelings. And so I must be honest and forthcoming with them about this revelation and the changes I am undertaking.
I know this to be true: Building one's resilience is necessary to successfully cope with and manage life's hurdles. Resilient people are able to change the course and move onward. I don't need to be a prisoner of my past, and neither do you. Here are a few final thoughts to ponder:
- Break the cycle of self-loathing: Show the same compassion to yourself as you do to others.
- Break the cycle of self-directed anger: Evaluate your judgments against yourself, evaluate the interpretation for and against those judgments, then diffuse those negative thoughts.
- Set a goal: Know what you want to accomplish, establish a plan, then take decisive action.
Changing habitual behavior is a process. Be patient and be compassionate with yourself. Each of us creates our own journey of releasing bad habits and adopting good habits through conscious choice. Embrace those choices; embrace the changes. They are the catalysts that will improve your life. You can overcome personal barriers. Don't let obstacles, don't let fear, determine your path.
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders helpline at 1-800-931-2237.
For more by Rita Schiano, click here.
For more on eating disorders, click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.
Rita Schiano is an adjunct professor at Bay Path College, where she teaches philosophy and stress management courses. She is the founder of Live A Flourishing Life™, which melds her three professions: philosophy instructor, stress management instructor and resilience coach, and freelance writer. Her book, "Live a Flourishing Life," is used for the college program and in private training programs.
Rita also conducts stress management and resilience-building workshops funded by the Massachusetts Dept. of Industrial Accidents. She is actively involved with Maine Resilience, a program coordinated with the effort, materials and information offered by the American Psychological Association and the Maine Psychological Association through their Public Education Programs. Rita is an Associate Member of the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA). Visit her online at her personal website and at Red Room.