Nurture Personal Growth
By Leslie Becker-Phelps, Ph.D. Dr. Becker-Phelps is a clinical psychologist
with a private practice in Basking Ridge. She writes blogs for WebMD.com and PsychologyToday.com. She is also the author of Insecure in Love: How Anxious Attachment Can Make You Feel Jealous, Needy, and Worried and What You Can Do About It.
When you are struggling with an eating disorder, life has a special set of challenges – and they can be particularly difficult. As you work in therapy, you may find that you sometimes lose patience with yourself. You want to fast forward past all your troubles, and so you tell yourself to just do what you need to do. When this doesn’t happen, you may become frustrated and try harder. Rather than making progress, you just end up being harsh with yourself. Despite your intentions, this approach doesn’t – and won’t – help.
What you are failing to take into account is the part of you that’s not ready to change. Whatever the reason is, it will probably just be you feeling resistance. So, instead, you need to approach it in a gentler, more understanding way.
To clarify, consider the following scenario: You come across an abandoned child (or dog) in an alley. He cowers fearfully in a corner. You want to help him, so you approach him slowly and with a quiet, reassuring voice. With time and patience, you can probably win his trust and guide him to help.
This is the same approach that you need to take with yourself. So, using this analogy, do the following:
Identify a self-criticism: Think about a trait or situation that prompts you to be self-critical. For instance, you might focus on how you tend to be extremely critical about your body.
Imagine the victim in you. See the part of yourself receiving this criticism as a hurt or scared child. Try to really connect with what that part of you is feeling.
Practice self-compassion. Choose to be gentle and reassuring with her. You might find it comforting to imagine hugging that part of you, or just placing your hand on her shoulder. If you have trouble doing this, visualize the scene with someone else feeling victimized and approaching that person with compassion. Many people also have success when they imagine themselves at a younger age. Then, when you’re able to feel compassionately toward that person, you can practice showing the same compassion toward present-day self.
Take time to practice this exercise. Repeat it. And just as you can calm, reassure and embolden a frightened child or stray dog with kindness and patience, you can be the same loving force in your own life. With this self-compassion, you will feel better about yourself and will have the resilience to persist in the journey toward a healthier you.
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