What is self love? Why is it important while caregiving a loved one with an eating disorder? How do we practice self love?
WHAT IS SELF LOVE?
This week I learned of a school district in Mississippi that sent home a letter with middle school students informing them and their parents about the rampant challenges with body image that students are facing. And while they had good intentions, their pure immersion in diet culture and weight stigma turned their good intentions in a really wrong direction. At the end of the letter they listed as a resource, body shapewear for the girls. No wonder the girls have body image issues.
Of course I felt compelled to do something and thankfully this story has gone viral due to one warrior momma speaking out. I looked up my colleague, Connie Sobczak’s email to send this to her organization, The Body Positive to see if they might propose some educational opportunities to this school district. Well, I found an email from her from 8 months ago that I had never responded to! In this email, Connie asked me to watch her TED Talk on self love and write a review. Right away I got to practice one of the components of self love that she talks about in her talk, modeling imperfection. LOL! And I got my topic for this week’s newsletter because one thing I see most family caregivers do is listen to that self critical voice and then get stuck feeling badly about themselves and doing the opposite of self love.
According to Connie, we are born with self love and it can protect us from harsh judgments from others and ourselves.
Self love has nothing to do with ego. It’s not about being narcissistic. We need it for self preservation and protection. It is being kind to ourselves in spite of the things that hurt us.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR CAREGIVERS?
Self Love leads to deeper connections to others, we can show people who we are when we as caregivers allow ourselves to be loved or be open to being loved. We cannot love our person with the eating disorder when we are; depleted, exhausted, and barely taking in our own oxygen and end up not having any oxygen or anything else to give.
Our loved ones who are in the grips of an eating disorder need caregivers who can be calm, compassionate, confident and caring. This takes loving the imperfect parts of ourselves so that we can be supporting them from a very centered and healthy place rather than a depleted, worn down and insecure place.
HOW TO PRACTICE SELF LOVE?
I love that Connie shares in her TED Talk that we cannot simply tell our critical voices to leave as that just strengthens them because it’s the job of our critical voices to protect us by trying to “perfect us” and only get bigger and louder by trying to push them away.
Here are a few things that we can begin doing to increase our self love:
- Notice and understand our critical voice by validating and acknowledging it.
- Remember that we can retrain our brains via neuroplasticity.
- Using mantras to continue practicing being kind to ourselves and listening to the kind voices.
- Breathing in love and kindness and breathing out the self critical voice messages.
- Get support to grow our self love.
- Role model imperfection.
- We can show up for our scared selves with love as Connie would say.
When we are up against painful thoughts of our own or hurtful actions or words of others we can love our flawed self by turning towards the hurt, scared part of ourselves and acknowledging the critical voices in our heads. Courageously loving the critical voices we have. When we are able to gently give ourselves validation, love, compassion, attention and gratitude even when we are validating the critical voices, then we can allow in more kindness and healing. The Body Positive website has so many resources including sharing the research on the impact of their trainings, using their 5 Competencies of the “Be Body Positive” model.
I hope that the school district in Mississippi will get training for their staff and for these kiddos so they all can have more self love and understanding of what fosters a positive body image. It certainly is NOT by putting on shapewear to try and achieve a look that society has deemed “acceptable” in some way.