Getting Off The Self-Love Hype Train
Why I feel self acceptance & self care is a more powerful mindset for those trying to live with an eating disorder
Apparently, everybody has gone through stages of hating their body. As a collective we’re told that to a degree, it’s normal to feel degrees of self loathing. Whether or not it is actually normal to feel such a way about your meat machine leaves much to be desired morally about contemporary societies attitude towards self acceptance.
When I stop and listen closely to the conversations I’m having with those closest around me it blows my mind that the same rhetoric is on repeat; “It’s okay, everybody feels that way”. It’s not okay and somehow there needs to be a collective effort for change to occur – a conversation that keeps the movement moving, way before businesses can capitalise and make the message meaningless.
Daily I feel an almost uncontrollable urge to scream messages of “self-love” at people who talk down about themselves to themselves and others. I have all my pre-prepared mantras ready to shout, like; “you got this!”, “every body and everybody is beautiful” or even if I’m feeling extra cheesy, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.
I believe these statements for the most part, but they lose meaning after a while. Like saying potato for 50 times. What even is potato? They become corny as brands consistently drive home the pressure inducing message to love yourself.
Contextualising self love as a kind of Nirvana is ultimately dangerous. It can make you feel that you have to love yourself no matter how you feel otherwise you are not being authentic, or you aren’t successfully lifting those around you and as a result are against the body positivity movement.
I don’t know about you – but FUCK THAT in bold and capital letters.
Honesty is the best policy and the truth is I can feel shit about myself. For the most part, the only way for me to process these thoughts and tangibly deal with it is to be as honest as possible about those feelings in a safe space. Acceptance is such a strong and powerful feeling and is wildly more attainable than love when you’re really in the doldrums. In the words of Laura Marling;
“It is hard to accept yourself as someone you don’t desire, as someone you don’t want to be”.
This lyric from Rambling Man has always gotten stuck in my pith, choking me up every time without fail when I sing it out-loud.
It’s fair to say that I’ve put myself through the mill and after battling with bought’s of BDD and bulimia for the best part of 14 years I decided to seek some medical help.
I underwent CBT and found real solace being able to reason with why I was feeling and behaving the way I was. I found that there were certain triggers or feelings that indicated that I was becoming unwell.
Things like; not being able to touch my skin which led to not being able to wash. Not being able to feel my shape or see my body in its truest, most authentic form, leading to purging and over exercising. Putting red flags in these behaviours has helped me spot them and develop coping mechanisms to turn the tide when it rears its ugly head.
What a very long and very bumpy road to recovery in the latter half of my precious twenties has taught me is to implement my small yet significant changes to keep things at bay. I’ve noted them below, but remember when reading these that it’s okay if they don’t work for you and to always, and I cannot stress this enough, always seek help when things get too much.
1. When I can’t touch my skin
First things first create some space, a buffer between the hand and the body. Lush Shower Jellies are my go to in my battle for cleanliness and self-distance. Aside from being a product that cleanses, soothes and comes with a whole host of ethical brownie points; it allows enough distance to prevent skin on skin contact for those days where you just might not be able to bear the thought. The reason they are such a sudded staple in my self care routine is because mould to silhouette, without me having to feel my body. They wibble and they wobble and are a full-time jelly-joy barrier.
Obviously you don’t need a shower jelly to practice this, a soft flannel or even luffa is perfectly fine. Whatever works for you.
It can be an overwhelming feeling when you’re head is so disconnected to your body. So be gentle and only do what you feel comfortable and able to do. Baby steps, always.
2. When I can’t feel my shape
Take one slow breathe into your chest, count to 10 and release.
Take a deeper slow breath into your stomach, and release. Feel your hand rise and fall and take stock in how malleable your body is – not rigid but flexible and alive.
Next, take a final breath into your diaphragm, hold it for 3 seconds and release, slowly. Repeat this, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. Try aiming your breath into areas of your body such as your hip or your spine and give your body permission to become larger, to release and fall back.
Let the breath creep into your forgotten corners and fill you, like a little hot air balloon. Listen to your heart and your calming pulse as your breath finds you. Let yourself become aware of your internal body so that you can stop trying to make sense of your outer.
You can find incredible breathing videos on youtube. I’ve popped my fave at the bottom for you, should you need a starting point.
3. When I can’t see my body
Tell yourself what you see, out loud. They do not need to be overtly positive things, but they should never be negative, no matter how tempting that might be.
Start easy and aim for neutral ground; “I see two legs, I see two arms, I see two eyes”. Reinforcing “I see” at the beginning of every observation. Trust me when I say that you will find things that you like about yourself as you tell yourself your bodies narrative. As soon as you spot these treasured places, be they freckles, dimples, hip dip or swooping waist, tell yourself that you see them. Draw attention to the things that you love.
It may feel forced at first, but give it time. If it helps, write it down and give yourself a starting point each time you need to practise this, touch that part of yourself and examine this new, exciting discovery. Mine was the one grey eyebrow hair I have. I’ve come to love it because now I recognise it as a beacon that guides me back to my face and the rest of my body.
4. When I can’t. I just can’t.
I ask for help. It’s the hardest, bravest and most powerful thing you can do when the outlook feels bleak. But bolster up, use your strength and make the call to tell someone who loves and cares for you very much that you need to confide. That right now, you need some help in unpicking how you’re feeling.
You could starts the conversation like this;
I need to talk to you about something sensitive, can I trust that you will be accepting of what I’m about to tell you.
I have been feeling quite overwhelmed recently with how I’m feeling about myself, could we talk?
Would you be open to coming with me to the doctors this week?
I’ve been feeling unwell and I could do with some support.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder affects almost 0.7% of the UK population, according to the NICE guidelines; that’s over 46,000 people.
If you feel like you are one of those people, or are affected by this entry and need to talk, call your GP or if you can’t get through give BEAT a shout (linked below).
Give yourself the opportunity to unlearn your behaviours.
You are worthy; lumps, bumps, warts and all.
Lush Shower Jellies – https://uk.lush.com/search/site/Jellies
Breathing Video – Yoga with Adrien
Talk to – https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/