Caring for Ourselves

By Deborah Etienne-Ward

All too often we criticise our own bodies e.g. “too fat”, “too skinny”, “too short”, “too tall”, “legs are too big”, “stomach isn’t flat” and so forth. These criticisms make us feel shame. As a way to reduce the feeling of shame it is not uncommon for people to restrict their food intake, and engage in binge eating, laxative and/or diuretic abuse, and excessive exercise. However these ‘strategies’ are only helpful in the short term. Once the criticisms re-emerge we re-experience shame, and re-engage in eating disordered behaviour.

The key to breaking this vicious cycle and moving towards recovery is self-compassion. Providing ourselves with kindness and compassion for our perceived shortcomings or failures reduces the amount of shame that we feel about ourselves, thus reducing the chance that we engage in eating disordered behaviours.

How do we practice self-compassion?

Being self-compassionate does not get rid of suffering. Being self-compassionate is about noticing the emotions that we are feeling no matter how painful they are, providing ourselves with kindness, and remembering that our pain is part of the human experience.

A good way of working out how to practice self-compassion is to ask yourself how you would treat a friend in the same situation as you. Imagine a close friend telling you about their failure or shortcoming. What would you say to them? In what tone of voice would you say it?  The key is to treat yourself in the same way.

You might like to start by putting your hand on your heart or saying something kind to yourself such as “You are feeling upset but that’s ok. Feeling upset is part of the human experience. You have felt upset before. It will pass and you will be ok”.

Whilst we are good at being compassionate towards others, it can be very difficult to be compassionate to ourselves. Your inner critic might be screaming that you do not deserve to treat yourself with kindness. However, we are all human and none of us are perfect. Our shortcomings should not be treated any differently to other people. I challenge you to have a go at practicing self-compassion and see what difference it makes for you.

For more information about how you can incorporate self-compassion into your recovery plan please contact us. Additionally Love Body Yoga can also help to develop your ability to be self-compassionate.