Author – Laura Muth
Shame and eating disorders
Individuals who have experienced abuse, neglect or trauma often become much more prone towards self-criticism. Therefore, for those suffering with an eating disorder or body dysmorphic disorder, self-loathing and self-judgement are familiar rituals. There is often a great deal of shame surrounding eating disorders. Shame can be described as a painful emotion triggered by perceiving yourself as flawed and also believed that others share this view. Eating disorders behaviours, including restrictive eating, bingeing or purging can subsequently be used to regulate and cope with these underlying feelings of shame. Research shows that feelings of shame can play a key role in the maintenance of an eating disorder.
Tackling these feelings of shame
A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change your life. Research has shown that exercising our self-compassionate voice can relieve feelings of shame, and subsequently eating disorder pathology. Self-compassion is an attitude of kindness and acceptance to one’s personal distress and disappointments. It can be difficult to notice suffering when it comes from our inner critic, but self-compassion is the foundation for healing.
It is therefore important to try to stay mindful and be aware of our feelings and emotions, and how we can comfort and care for ourselves in response. Think about what it feels like to have compassion to others and extend that compassion to yourself. Tune into your body and respond kindly and supportively.
As a society in general we are prone to negative and critical self-talk. This ‘tough love’ mentality has unfortunately encroached on our daily routines, so much so a lot of us are being too hard on ourselves which can prevent us from living happy and healthy lives. It’s important we learn to respond to our struggles in a self-compassionate way, and to treat ourselves, including all perceived flaws and imperfections, with the same love and acceptance that we would show others.
How to cultivate self-compassion
We understand it may seem impossibly difficult to view yourself as being deserving of compassion or love however, start with these simple strategies to cultivate self-compassion:
1. Consider how you’d treat someone else: Next time you form a judgement of yourself, think about how you’d respond to a friend if they said the same about themselves. Would you tell them that they don’t deserve kindness? Or that they deserve to experience all the negative feelings they have? No. So try not to treat yourself any differently to how you treat a loved one.
2. Observe your inner monologue: Perhaps you are so used to criticising yourself that you do not notice the negative self-talk anymore. By paying attention to how you are speaking to yourself, you can start to question these thoughts.
3. Practice positive affirmations: Once you notice negative self-talk, consciously make an effort to say positive affirmations, such as
♥ I am worthy of love
♥ I deserve kindness
♥ I am loved.
4. Practice mindfulness meditation: Mindfulness involves accepting all emotions, thoughts and sensations in a non-judgemental manner. When we are mindful of our suffering without judgement, we can create a loving, connected, and balanced state of mind and heart.
If you are having a hard day remind yourself that it is only a moment of suffering. Suffering is part of life. Be kind to yourself in that moment. Give yourself the compassion that you need.