Eating Disorder Recovery: Six Tips on Building Self Esteem

self esteemAlmost every description of people with active eating disorders includes a statement about low self-esteem. You may not realize you have low self-esteem because you think that how you feel about yourself is based on your permanent personality. 

I invite you to try out these tips and see if they bring positive changes to your outlook and maybe even your life. *pix

To build self esteem:
  1.  Listen to yourself. Pay attention to your feelings. Good way to do it is to journal and READ your  journal.
  2.  If you have a conflict between work and people you love, sometimes choose the people you  love.
  3.  Know that you will not always be consistent, logical or unselfish. Accept your humanity and  continue to grow.
  4.  Give yourself an adult name that generates respect from yourself and others.
  5.  Catch yourself being good, competent, generous or saying "no" when you mean it.
  6.  Praise yourself for your achievements and smile. :)
  7.   Practice all the above on a regular basis.
Let me know what happens when you try these self-esteem builders.
  1. Which ones are easy for you?
  2. Which are particularly challenging?
  3. Which surprise you because you didn't think they had anything to do with self-esteem?

*pix This photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Attribution: Margret Hofheinz-Döring / Galerie Brigitte Mauch Göppingen

4 minute video: enchanting to delight your heart.
 What a glorious sense of the world she had and that lives on through her art. Can you honor and cherish the glory in you?


0 # Changing my nameshh 2014-03-14 19:30

It's probably about 18 months - 2 years now since I decided that I was going to change my name on Facebook from an old nickname to my real name. It was interesting for me that in some ways that nickname gave me a level of anonymity and something to hide behind from the wider world, yet in other ways it was so unique, anyone that had ever known me by that name would know that, that person was me - there certainly wasn't 2 of us.

When I reflect upon it, I didn't use that name until my mid-twenties, people who knew me as that were people I'd met in adulthood, people I'd chosen to invite into my life myself, people who knew me and that I felt safe with.

My real name, the one I'd chosen to ditch, was a name I associated with my mother, most people who knew me by that name knew my mother and sister too (they knew my dad as well, but I didn't mind that, my dad was a kind and generous man that everyone liked, yes he had a less positive side people didn't know too, but not to the same extent as my mother and sister). I didn't want to have mutual friends with those family members, the fear of information being passed back and forth to them about me, the thought of them gossiping about me behind my back, plus the fear of either of them sending me a friend request that I'd want to decline but would feel I had to accept...I didn't want any of that. And the other people that knew me by my real name would be people from school, from painful teenage years where my mother ensured I was a misfit - I wasn't allowed to follow any fashions, I wasn't allowed to remove excess body hair, I wasn't allowed to go to clubs or socialise outside of school, and if I ever took a friend home she always found fault with them and told me they weren't welcome again... I didn't really want to reconnect with people who thought I was weird, who were probably just wanting to see how much weirder I'd become as an adult, and whether I'd found a geeky guy to marry and have gawky children.

It was a big deal for me, to go back to that name and lay myself open to those things, but I made the decision and did it. It was a sign of my new found strength, of an acceptance that, that was my past and that it was pretty much beyond my control, but that this was the present and the future going forwards where I know I've changed and I do feel like I'm an okay person, and I'm not ashamed for people to know me as I am now, there isn't anything to hide about myself or hide from, I quite like being me - if people don't like me, they don't have to hang around and if I don't like the way they treat me, I don't have to remain their friend (not that I've had to unfriend many people, just a handful) - it's worked out really well, and has been a positive, rather liberating experience for me.

No more hiding, no more covering up - just me, the same me on the outside that I am on the inside :-)



0 # changing your namepinkjoanna 2014-03-14 19:34
What I love about your decision is not your decision.  It's the process you went through to feel good about yourself.  You drop so many burdens when you are the same outside as you are inside.

0 # Yay!!mylifex2 2014-06-07 18:38
Yay to you ! That was a very inspiring read!! I can feel the liberation in what you wrote. I see this is from March. I hope you are still working on this positive move. I hope things are going well with your girls, and I hope you are finding peace in your relationship with your ex and your mom.  You seem to have really grown emotionally. I know we need to take things day to day. Just wanted to say hi and that I'm proud of you :-)
0 # Emotional set backmylifex2 2014-06-07 19:18
I am really working hard on my sexual abuse issues in therapy. I often feel like a complete failure after leaving my weekly sessions because I tend to zone out and my therapist ends up talking the most. I feel that a lot of my problem stems from feeling so bad about myself as a child being abused, and now as an adult I am carrying much shame. My therapist has challenged me to love myself. I can't even say the words out loud. I have come very far in my recovery per se: I have gone months without b&p. I am proud of that. Very proud. But the issues that drove me into my ED in the first place are haunting me like crazy.

I feel bad that I can't get myself together in therapy. I feel bad that I am ashamed to talk about sex - I just shut down. I want a healthy attitude about sex, but all it does is scare me. I haven't had many sober relationships. I feel like a teenager just feeling her way in the world of dating. my self worth and my self esteem are faltering. I know it takes time, but I hate seeing people around me having such ease in the dating world :sad:

My therapist is retiring in about 18 months. I am 45, and we have been together off and on since I was 25. That's a long time! She has seen me through periods of starvation to bulimia. And back and forth. I'm already anxious about her leaving. I'm feeling low self esteem about all the things I still need to work on- things I've been working on for forever!! I find myself struggling with trying to get it all "fixed" before she retires. I'm not sure I could start over with someone new.

I pray hard that I can find some bravery from within. I want to feel "normal" and comfortable in my own body. I want to stop feeling scared in relationships. 

I journal often. I e-journal my therapist during the week and she provides feedback that allows me to work on things between sessions.  She encourages me to use positive statements about myself - even if I can't say "I love you" to myself. I'm working on paying attention to all or nothing statements-I catch myself often. 
0 # I hear you, Tracypinkjoanna 2014-06-07 19:27
Dear Tracy,

You are going through a tough period. It's painful, I know.  

A big challenge we all confront at some point in our lives is holding love during separation. 
Sometimes separation is temporary.  Sometimes it's long and sometimes it's permanent.  But the love doesn't have to be affected by separation.  Love remains.  

You love your therapist.  She loves you.  I don't doubt that.  The thought of her absence is painful. But, absence is not abuse. Feeling pain may trigger old associations, feelings and thoughts stemming from your sexual abuse.  Please don't get them mixed up with the genuine emotional connection you have with your therapist.

Knowing that termination is coming and knowing you have a good stretch of time to work on it with her is one of the greatest experiences that can happen between patient and therapist.  

0 # Oh mymylifex2 2014-06-13 15:45
Talk about a dive into ones self esteem! I have been doing really REALLY well with my ED issues. I had a major hit today and need a little support. One of the nurses (who I love to pieces) walked up to me and said "did I offend you with what I just said?" I had not heard her. 

She proceeded to say that she had said something about not having interest in big men. She was talking with another nurse.  I connected that she felt she had offended me because I'm not skinny. Yes, I have put weight on in the last year. This comment bothered me as she continued by saying "but you are so sweet and I love you so much!"

i have totally gone backwards in my bad thoughts so fast I'm dizzy. 
my thoughts are bad, I'm hearing those "voices" in my head again.."don't're fat..."

ive worked so hard to get where I am. Now all I feel is guilt. It took one statement from one person to remind me how bad I must look.  I'm thinking about dinner and what to fix for my kids and I have that old familiar lump in my stomach that I thought was gone. 
my brain is calling me all sorts of bad names. 

I have recently lost 20 lbs from being sick from my chemo. I was not letting myself use getting sick from being sick interject itself into my ED. It has not. I've done so well. Now, I just feel ashamed of me. How bad must I look for this nurse to think I would be offended about her talking about large people?

also yesterday I heard a patient say (about me), "look at the size of that diamond on that big girls hand".  

so my thoughts aren't good right now. I have so much guilt. I didn't think I looked so bad.

i don't want to get sick again. I want to be "normal" with food. Now all I can think about is how small I used to be.
0 # Supportpinkjoanna 2014-06-13 23:25
Dear Tracy,

One statement from one person got to you when you were more vulnerable and unprotected than you knew. 

You've been doing very well in your recovery and your life.  You know this.  At the same you you also know where you've been, what your challenges were and are and where you need to take particular care of yourself.

The outside world hasn't changed as much as you have in your recovery.  People have their perceptions, insensitivities, prejudices and poor vocabulary skills.  If you let yourself be defined by how others see you, you would have to be changing your self of sense constantly.

Others will see you as old, young, sexy, boring, fat, thin, normal, blonde, black, white, asian, latina, tall, short, shapely, deformed, pretty, plain, gorgeous, wrinkled, straight, crooked, and on and on.  People see you not as you are but as their own psyche and mental state influences their perceptions.  

At the time of your writing your post you found yourself slipping into an old self criticcal inner world.  When you slip and fall you hurt, look around and see how to climb up and right yourself.

That is not about being a certain weight.  That's about finding your own authentic self again. You lost it for a moment.

Go back to your self building routines. Journal. Write down your dreams. Do the exercises in Healing Your Hungry Heart.  Start from the beginning of the book and go through it again.  It's a different experience every time you do it.  Find exercises in the Appendix you haven't tried yet.

Don't let someone else's perceptions trip you so you fall and stay down.  Reach for the tools you already have and come back to your true place in the world as the woman you are.

You can do it. I know you can.  You've shown your authentic self on these pages. I know you are there. Come on back, Tracy.  Give yourself a refresher course in recovery work and let those comments blow in the wind.  You don't have to take them in.  You have better things to think about and your own life to live.  

Do you feel me supporting you and cheering you on?  I know you can rise from this.


0 # I know :/mylifex2 2014-06-14 07:24
thank you, Joanna. Yes, I know what to do..I will get my book out. It's easily found because I look at it often. It's not like I haven't been hurt by words before, just this time the "thump" was almost audible. It really shook me. My head tells me that purging is wrong but maybe if I just don't eat too much, then I'm not sick. I woke up today with the lump in my stomach I fell asleep with. 

I know what I need to do. I hope this bad feeling goes away soon. I love my girls, we have fun plans this summer, and I have no time for relapse.

something JUST occurred to me. My therapist is going on vacation Monday for three weeks. I usually see her weekly and we may email once a week on occasion. Perfect storm time as we are getting places in therapy. I do feel abandoned (of course I know she deserves a vacation), but I just realized something.
i purge when I'm angry and I starve when I'm scared and need control. I seriously just connected this.

so I guess I need to work through this. She'll be back. I was left "hanging" after a well needed and strong session on my abuse.  ok.  Makes sense.
0 # knowingpinkjoanna 2014-06-14 10:46
Smiling as I write to you.

I love how when you pull out of the old obsession just for a moment and get a glimpse of the healing path that was maybe a tiny inch from your fallen place that hope, clear choices and then revelation come in.

Support is when a person or book or tree or companion animal reminds you that you are caught. When you know you are caught you are not caught! Then your perceptions from your heart and soul and psyche come in. You find your knowing and get to work on what is real for you.  The false standards fall away and you nourish your heart and soul again.

Isn't it wonderful?  

Yes, the shock of separation when your therapist is on vacation is hard. But it's also an opportunity.  

Starving is such a futile way of being in control compared to really building strength, awareness and health for your life.  

Brava, Tracy!
0 # BuildingJessie 2014-10-07 07:12

  1. Build self esteem: Know that you will not always be consistent, logical or unselfish. Accept your humanity and continue to grow.

--wow, that one is like, tailor-made for me. Sometimes I feel that I can only judge myself on my most recent action, or that I am only the worst things I've ever done; the best things don't count. I feel like I deserve every bad thing that happens to me because of my past transgressions. 


reading this post was very powerful to me. I have recently started my own recovery blog ([censored]://[censored] and this really inspired me for my own postings...and kept me on track for a busy day. Thank you!!!

0 # humanitypinkjoanna 2014-10-07 10:01
Glad to hear from you, Jessie.

Yes, knowing we are flawed and paradoxical human beings gives us the ability
to accept forgiveness, be patient with ourselves and then, give forgiveness
and patience to others.

Interesting how, when we accept the limits of our humanity we build our self esteem
and ability to more completely pursue our dreams.

I hope you'll write again, Jessie.

best regards,


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