Self-Worth: 15 questions to discover and build your true value

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Self-worth and your eating disorder recovery

Self-worth can get bogged down by your binge eating, starving, purging and other eating disorder behaviors. Unhappiness about your weight and shape not being near your standards of acceptability adds to your low self-esteem. You may be confusing your authentic identity with your compulsive behaviors and self-criticism. The result is you don't believe you have much self-worth.

Instead of sinking into depression because your self-worth and self-esteem are low, explore these 15 questions. Find out if what you are telling yourself is true.

Personal Detective Work

Do you believe the genuine you fuels your problematic behaviors?
Or do have an inner knowing that what fuels these behaviors is not the real you?

Have you considered looking at the difference between the genuine you and your eating patterns and negative self-talk? Perhaps your low self-worth is a symptom of your eating disorder rather than a cause.

It's time to be your own detective. You might begin by looking at your unwanted behaviors, like bingeing or starving or exercising to excess. Your challenge is to learn how to look at these behaviors without the negative self-talk that lowers your sense of self-worth.

As a detective your task is to separate your behavior from your identity. How can you discover the difference between a false sense of self-worth and the self-worth you have when you live  as the real you? Detectives do research and look for clues.

Symptoms versus Authenticity

If you suffer from an eating disorder or deregulated eating patterns you most likely do not know the difference between your symptoms and who you authentically are.  Yet knowing the difference is vital as well as delightful for your healthy emergence from your eating pattern trap.

A powerful and profound aspect of eating disorder recovery occurs when a person with an eating disorder discovers that she is a valuable human being. Her self-worth rises. She discovers she has untapped riches that are blocked, not by her character or basic nature, but by symptoms of an illness. Your own self-worth is based on how you see your value as a person. A treasure underground is worth the same as that treasure when it's brought to light. Just because we can't see it doesn't mean it's valueless. We need to uncover your hidden treasure before you can fully appreciate its full value.

When you get even a hint of knowing you have untapped riches, you feel a glimmer and then a surge of hope. Your self-worth increases with that hope. You develop a renewed dedication to living a healthy life, free and whole. You are aiming for a life that includes eating without irresistible cravings and with a healthy normally weighted body.

Can you imagine your relief and freedom if symptoms vanished and you alone, in your authentic state, remained?  Your self-worth continues to increase. Negative self-talk stops. You’ve been carrying a burden whose power you only really appreciate when it's gone.  

Discovering your genuine self-worth

In countless situations with patients over the course of my career as a psychotherapist specializing in eating disorder recovery, I see that a focus on the strengths and values of the authentic person undermines the power of the eating disorder. The more self-worth you have the less the eating disorder dominates your life.

This is not wishful thinking, nor is it easy.  Your self-worth is based on your strengths and authentic values.  When you have an eating disorder your strengths and values are buried under the compulsive behaviors. Your internal negativity and sense of helplessness undermines your identity. That identity and your self-worth gets weaker over the years as your eating disorder gains more power and influence in your life. But you can turn the tables on this system and have your authentic identity and self-worth undermine the eating disorder.

Beginning the hunt for the authentic you.

As a detective you have suspicions and an open mind. Your suspicions can be incorrect or correct, but they may be clues. You use them as a beginning place to start your investigation. Often a person who binge eats or has another eating disorders believes her low self-esteem and feelings of low self-worth are a practical and honest appraisal of herself.

Still, an investigation might show her a different truth. You begin with questions.

With courage and trust you ask yourself the following 15 questions. They can open closed doors within you and give you more clues about your genuine nature. If you keep an open mind and answer honestly eventually your authentic self will answer.

15 Questions that lead to the real you

1.  Who am I really?­­­­

2.  What do I care about?

3.  Who do I care about?

4.  What do I want?

5.  What is my life's work?

6.  What do I need to learn to be effective in a world I want to live in?

7.  Who are the people I want in my life? How can I meet them? How do I equip myself to be qualified to enter new circles of people I want to know?

8.  What might be consequences if I take action based on who I am and what I want and believe in?

9.  How do I cope with those consequences? Do I need to prepare? If so, how?

10.      What risks are involved in taking authentic action?

11.      Are these risks proportionate to my gains or am I frightening myself into non action?

12.      What would I do if I were just a little tiny bit braver than I am?

13.      What do I want out of my life?

14.      What do I want in my life?

15.      During a normal day or week or month or year, how do I want to use my time and energy?

The Hunt for Your Real Value: Challenge and Reward

With determination and courage, you can ask yourself these questions despite your symptoms.

How close can you get to responding to these questions without your eating, exercise or negative self-talk getting in the way?

As you ask yourself these questions, pay attention to your answers and nourish your authentic response. As you honor the questions and the directions they give you, your authentic self will grow strong.  That growth diminishes power of your negative behaviors and demeaning self-talk.

Giving yourself the attention you need to get through your negativity and into your genuine interests and values will give you many hints at what could be next for you if you step into what you care about. Your true personhood will emerge, perhaps to your surprise, because your genuine personhood is a grand presence. With a greater sense of self-worth you won’t need an eating disorder.

Joanna is a psychotherapist in private practice serving California, Arizona, Florida, Utah and Oregon.

Author of 
Healing Your Hungry Heart: recovering from your eating disorder. 

To schedule a free telephone consultation write: 
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLA. – At NASA's Kennedy Space Center, a bald eagle soars into the sky. A common sight around KSC, there are at least a dozen active bald eagle nests in the Merritt Island Wildlife Nature Refuge that surrounds KSC. The refuge is a habitat for more than 310 species of birds, 25 mammals, 117 fishes and 65 amphibians and reptiles. In addition, the Refuge supports 19 endangered or threatened wildlife species on Federal or State lists, more than any other single refuge in the U.S.

Date   September 6, 2006


PHOTO CREDIT: NASA or National Aeronautics and Space Administration, photo taken by Gary Rothstein

This file is in the public domain in the United States because it was solely created by NASA.

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