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Nourish yourself with a healthy dose of self-kindness

23 August 2019

Category: Tips

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Welcome to the Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder self-help series {blog 5 of 5}

Often, we’re our own worst critic, and these negative thoughts and harsh judgements can not only fuel our eating disorder, but can slow down our recovery. By nurturing our self-kindness and distancing ourselves from critical voices — often called our ‘inner-critic’ — we can feel empowered and find positive change and nourishment along our eating disorder recovery journey.

It all comes down to fear or love

Yes, it sounds simple enough. But when you’ve been suffering with an eating disorder the feelings of shame, self-loathing and depression can be overwhelming and making the shift from fear into self-love can seem huge.

The key to dropping the self-judgement and shifting your perspective into one that is more helpful, nourishing and loving starts with self-kindness.

Why is self-kindness so hard?

Self-kindness comes easily to some people, however many others don’t believe they deserve their own kindness. This belief might come from childhood, or from trauma, or from poor self-esteem. Acknowledging that you need to work on your self-kindness is the first step. It’s ok to not know how to be kind to yourself. It starts with being willing to learn and practice.

Positive affirmations to help you practice self-kindness

A helpful exercise might be using a positive affirmation.

Some that might resonate include:
“I am kind to myself”
“I am worthy of self-kindness”
“I am willing to learn to be kind to myself”
“I am open to more self-kindness in my life”

Play around with a statement that makes sense and feels right to you. You can then write it on a piece of paper and place it somewhere you’ll see it regularly to remind you.

Tips for writing your own positive affirmation include:
• Start with “I am”
• Use the present, now, tense
• Keep it brief
• Make it positive

What does self-kindness look and feel like?

Self-kindness can mean different things to different people. You might think about self-kindness as being more patient with yourself. At its core, self-kindness is about generating feelings of care and comfort towards yourself. It’s about dropping the inner criticisms and self-judgment and replacing it with kind and compassionate thoughts towards yourself. Seeing, feeling and believing that you are worthy of your own love and support – because you are!

Self-compassion 

On your journey to increasing your self-kindness it can be helpful to start practising self-compassion.

Self-compassion is not about embracing good feelings. It’s a practice of goodwill towards ourselves that mean we mindfully accept all of our feelings without discriminating. We accept them without acting on them. We witness them with kindness and self-care, remembering that we’re all perfectly imperfect. In this way self-compassion helps us to grow and transform while generating a sense of inner connection and love for ourselves, even when we feel pain.

Why does it hurt so much to feel self-compassion?

When you first start practicing self-compassion you might actually notice your pain increasing. This is totally normal. Where once you might have numbed your pain with binging and compensating, now you’re learning to witness and be with your pain in a non-judgmental way.

This phenomenon, where you begin to notice the pain is called backdraft and is a firefighting term that describes what happens when a door in a burning house is opened and oxygen goes in and flames rush out. In this same way when we open the door of our hearts love goes in and old pain comes out into the light. This is normal and can be scary, but usually our pain wants to be acknowledged.

There is a saying, “what we resist persists”; thankfully as your self-compassion muscle gets stronger and you begin to acknowledge those painful feelings they start to lessen their hold on us. We get stronger and we get more comfortable with those uncomfortable emotions.

How do I strengthen my self-compassion muscle?

Self-compassion helps to create a caring space within you that is free of judgment, where you can witness your hurts and soften those experiences with self-kindness. So it makes sense to practice self-compassion.

The good news about flexing your self-compassion muscle is that the more you practice the easier it becomes. And there are lots of different ways you can build your self-compassion muscle, including:

  • Being still: If you start to feel overwhelmed by an uncomfortable emotion a self-compassionate response might be to stop and find stillness. You can focus on your breath. Ground into your body and notice the sensation of your feet on the ground, or the air around your hands.
  • Visualising yourself as a child: See yourself as a young child. Ask your inner child what they would like most right now. Maybe it’s a hug. Maybe it’s words of encouragement, Maybe it’s a safe place to cry. Hold your inner child with all the love and kindness you know you deserve.
  • Practice mindfulness meditation: This can be in the form of a guided visualisation or even in mindful movement like yoga or tai chi. Feel free to experiment and find a mindfulness practice that works for you.
  • Journaling: Take time out to write about your feelings. Journaling can be a safe place where you can uncover and acknowledge your feelings. You can also use your journal to check in with your body, asking it what it would like right now – which is a powerful way to build your mind-body connection.
  • Do something nice for yourself: Behavioural acts of self-care can go a long way to cultivating more self-compassion. Perhaps you can make yourself a cup of tea – you can be mindful as you wait for the water to boil and notice the scent of your tea as it brews. Other nice things you can do include painting your nails, going for a walk in nature, or playing with your dog, listening to soothing music, getting a massage or taking time to journal. You get to choose what feels good for you.

How can you boost your self-compassion?

Working on self-compassion can be an empowering way to build more inner connection, peace and self-love. Download our worksheet to get started on your self-compassion tasks.

Do you want to learn more about self-compassion?

There are many excellent resources about self-compassion, including websites and books. Some to help you get started include:

Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff

The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion by Christopher Germer

Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach

Self-Compassion website by Kristen Neff

Help is available

Recovery from an eating disorder isn’t easy, in fact, it may be one of the hardest things you do in your life. However, it is possible. Don’t give up and remember you can always try again next time. It’s about practice and persistence.

Getting information and ideas from these blog posts is an awesome step in the right direction. And as we’ve already mentioned, if you would like to chat further about anything you’ve read, or would like to work through the content or worksheets, you can always contact our Helpline. We can give you guidance on this blog series, general information, referrals and counselling support while you work through the questions. Butterfly Foundation’s National Helpline can give you free information, referrals and brief counselling. We’re open from 8am – midnight AEST, seven days a week, and you can chat via phone, webchat or email. 

A final thought

If you think you might have an eating disorder, it’s important to talk to your doctor, as there are many physical complications that can occur from having an eating disorder. Get in touch with our team and we can connect you with a professional who has experience in eating disorders.  

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Previous blogs in this series

Stop binging and start building a healthy relationship with your food {blog 1 of 5}

Why people binge and how they can stop {blog 2 of 5}

Not sure if you really want to recover from your eating disorder? That’s totally normal. {blog 3 of 5}

Practical tools to help you in your recovery {blog 4 of 5}

Do you want to learn more?

The caring team at the Butterfly Foundation are here to help answer questions. Call our friendly National Helpline team on 1800 33 4673, or connect with via webchat or email.

If you need urgent assistance or support, please ring Lifeline on 13 11 14. 

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