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Self Esteem

Posted May 01 2009 12:00am

This one’s quite simple.

If you’re prepared to sentence yourself to the violence of an eating disorder, it’s pretty obvious that you’re not your greatest fan. If you don’t think that you’re worth looking after, you clearly don’t rate yourself that highly.

It sounds flippant – and given that it took me over 10 years to recognise that I had low self esteem and to actually get what this meant, I can’t really over simplify the issue – but the link to eating disorders is hard to miss.

And hard to break.

The difficulty with not being your own greatest fan is that you look for other ways of making yourself feel better, other ways of raising your rating. This is where the context bit comes in: if being thin is considered to be in vogue or part of the social aspiration or implicitly associated with popularity – well, it’s a great (although clearly flawed) way of moving up the social scale. When you end up believing that you are a worthy person because of your anorexia – and not just because you’re you – then it’s a lot harder to view recovery as a positive.

To add insult to injury, what starts out as a way to feel better about yourself can quickly become a way of feeling a lot worse. As the isolation (no I can’t go come to your Birthday dinner) and the preoccupation (90 food:10 life headspace scenario) and the depression (nothing’s funny) and the whole miserable condition kicks in – well, there ain’t that many opportunities for positive feedback.

Particularly when you’re also berating yourself every time you miss the impossibly high standard you’ve set yourself. Or feeling like a complete failure because you’ve slipped up on one of the ridiculous rules you’ve deemed unbreakable.

As you can see, there are far greater ways of developing self esteem.

In fact, after the initial surge – lasting all of about 8 weeks – my self esteem plummeted for 16 years and only began to re-emerge as I finally saw the eating disorder for what it was . And me for what I am.


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