Self Worth

Q: Self worth – How have you learned to love yourself more?
I believe that self exploration helps us to find our self worth. Without knowing ourselves on a deeper level, we can’t learn to appreciate who we are.
I thought that after admitting to my mom that I had an unhealthy relationship with food, everything would improve. I thought I had gotten it all out, that I would just move on and lose weight again, get back on track, and try to forget all the bingeing that had been a result of restricting so strictly for so long.
Not exactly.

A close friend finally got more out of me. But that was months after talking to my mom. It was when I talked to this friend that I realized there was a lot more pent up emotion than I thought. But I figured our conversation was the end of it all at last.
Yeah, right.
“It’s not like I need professional help or anything.” I can’t tell you how many times I said this each time I found myself explaining what I was going through. Talking certainly helped, but things weren’t improving like I thought they should. I tried to “fix” myself by going on yet another diet, closing myself off from the world, diving into more and more books about nutrition and blaming myself for going “out of control” when I felt the sugar cravings and yearning for food dominate my life. I lost so much time in my life that could have been spent elsewhere–hanging out with friends, writing, enjoying my college years.

The Journey

It has been a long journey to self acceptance. I reached a new chapter of my life with each talk and with each new journal entry, but the process sped up when I met with an eating disorder therapist and dietician. My voice, the true Rachael, was coming out at last.
The process took longer than I, or anyone (besides my therapist), probably ever expected. It wasn’t until this past summer, nearly a year after seeking professional help, that I realized I needed to be okay with where I was at my with my current weight and move on with my life. There would be no “I will live life when I am X pounds” anymore. I had to accept that. I had to accept me, just as I was, in that moment, as if I would stay that way for the rest of my life–even if it hurt. It was as if I had accepted the death of a loved on at last, and I was no longer trying to get her back.

Support

Once I had accepted myself, I felt I could move on with my life. But something was still holding me back. I had to speak with my parents more openly about where I was in my life with food. I could not move on until they were on board, too. It took a few talks before we were on terms with everything. My dad proved to be a challenge, as the eating disorder world was a mystery to him. But by communicating more with my parents and friends, I was finally able to accept where I was and how they could support me.
I hadn’t realized how far I had come in accepting myself until one day I realized that I didn’t need a number on the scale or the number of calories to determine my day. I felt a sense of freedom of not knowing. Those days were far and few between, but they are becoming more frequent.
This is such a gradual process that you may not see or feel it at first, but over time you heal. One day you may look back and realize how far you have come. Just don’t expect a sudden change. There will be small revelations here and there throughout the process, as well as ups and downs, but there is no “secret” that will have you feeling bad one day and cured the next.

Beyond Eating Disorders

I think with anything, whether it be an eating disorder or any other traumatic experience in life, self acceptance, or accepting a new change in your life, takes time. Allow yourself to heal, to grieve, and to find ways to be kind to yourself. For me it meant taking away the scale, not allowing myself to look in the mirror from the neck down (this is a hard one, but I find the less I do it the less negative thoughts float through my mind), writing, and talking it out (which meant being open with friends and family no matter how embarrassing it felt).
Not everything will be smooth-going once you find self acceptance. The most important thing that my therapist told me is that I will learn to accept myself, but being happy with my body will take the longest to happen. Once I accepted that possibility, it was easier to find other parts of myself to accept before I accepted my body.
I am not satisfied with my body, but I am more so than I did before. I still compare myself–I think we all do–but I am much more confident with who I am because of everything I’ve learned about myself. And honestly if it hadn’t been for this eating disorder, I don’t think I would have done as much self-reflection as I have these past few years. It has made me into the stronger person that I am today. I encourage you to do the same.
Self acceptance to self worth. It’s a process.

About Rachael

Rachael Steil is a graduate from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts. Steil an author, speaker, and a recipient of the Spirit and Outstanding Runner award for the Aquinas College cross country team and has received 6th place All-American accolades in cross country as well as 7th place in the NAIA track nationals.

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13 Responses to Self Worth

  1. Tamara Steil says:

    You have become wise beyond your years. I am loving the insights I am reading here. I hope knowing your friends and family accept you as you are helps you accept yourself more quickly and easily.

  2. Neal Steichen says:

    I think your last sentence is a great mantra. It kind of reflects something I just read recently, “Progress, not perfection.” In the world of instant everything, it can be hard to follow that. I know that I get very easily discouraged with a lot of things and I have to push myself to get through things that would probably be considered moderately difficult, especially if it is something I don’t enjoy. But every step is just that: a step. Forward movement is good, even if it is slow.

  3. Annabel says:

    I love the question you pose because I think it’s a huge question. It is something people constantly ask us, and I think that at times the amount we love ourselves fluctuates. You do a good job of talking about that as you describe that it’s not something that will happen to us over night, but that it takes time and patience. Not only do you have to learn how to love yourself more, but you have to be patient as it comes in strides, and that’s hard. It’s amazing to read about the love and support that you have received from your friends and family because they are certainly a huge contribution in the healing process.

  4. Kelly says:

    As someone who is just now admitting she might have a real problem, I can definitely relate to what you went through. I didn’t go through an eating disorder but I am currently battling depression, but I know how many times I said “it’s not like I need help”. You articulated dealing with a serious problem in a compelling and truthful manner.

    • rachael says:

      Thanks for your comment, Kelly! Yeah, sometimes we don’t give ourselves enough reason to reach out for help–we often think someone may “have it worse” or that it isn’t really “that bad.” But the key to a healthy relationship with ourselves (which is just as important as our relationships with others) is taking care of our physical AND mental health. I hope you feel comfortable to reach out for support and work through this mental difficulty. THanks for sharing!

  5. Jennifer Parks says:

    Your Mom told me about your blog; she also said she was reading “Dark Marathon.” I congratulate you on your open journal of your struggles. I coached college women for 19 yrs., HS girls for almost 10. I have seen divers starve themselves to look good on the board; swimmers who pass out, their breath stinking of bingeing, contemplating suicide. I also taught about these problems, that many female athletes face, though some men have similar problems, in classes about Contemporary Issues in Sport. I congratulate you on your running, as well, and your choice to visit with professional counselors. Good luck on your continuing journey of self-acceptance in your life ahead. All the best, Rachael. JP

    • rachael says:

      Jennifer,
      Thank you for reading! It is awesome that you are teaching about these issues–sounds like a great class! It is so important to spread awareness.

  6. DRA says:

    It is incredibly frustrating when you are trying to talk to someone who has no idea what you’re going through, especially when it is the only person willing to listen. Working things out on your own to achieve self-actualization is no easy task. It’s inspiring to see someone who is well on their way to accomplishing it.

    • rachael says:

      I agree. I think self reflection helps you to understand your own struggle so that eventually you can express yourself in a way that other people can better understand.

  7. My primary reason for wanting to lose weight (not be healthy, but be thin) was because I kept thinking that when I was finally size-X I’d be happy; I’d automatically accept myself, and people would automatically love me. When I started to become successful in losing weight, I realized that I was actually on a much bigger journey. Without dragging on and on, the end–current–result is that even though I’m still working to my ultimate fitness goal, my reason for doing so has drastically changed. The process is slow but steady, and I am liking myself more and more just for sticking to my plan, not for becoming smaller.

    As someone else who can very much relate, I have to say that I imagine this post was a hard one to type up. Stay strong!

  8. Elizabeth Swanson says:

    This is possibly my greatest problem in my life. I hate myself. I wish I was better, smarter, prettier. I don’t know why I struggle so much with things that are easy for other people. I’m a long way from the freedom you talk about. I weigh myself on the scale every time I use the bathroom and the numbers are always too high of too low. There is no number that will make me pleased with myself. There is no grade that will make me pleased. Even if I receive a hundred I know I should have done better. Knowing that you are overcoming your own poor self image gives me hope, but at the same time it makes me jealous. Why can you overcome what I can’t even fathom. How can someone accept them-self, when I’ve been trying so hard and failing miserably. How can you be on the road to success as an author and I’m still wallowing in self pity. I see you through your writing and wish I was you. I think this is my problem. I always wishing I was someone else instead of just accepting me for me.

    • rachael says:

      Oh Elizabeth…I am so sorry you feel this way. I can’t say self-worth is easy to achieve and maintain; far from it! I still have my bad days, believe me. I still have those days where I wonder how in the world I wrote a post like this, when I feel like it is far from my beliefs about myself in that moment. But knowing that those bad days come and go, that there ARE days where I feel better about myself again, keeps me going. I’ve learned to find areas in my life where I am confident and happy, and I’ve learned to focus on those.
      What I find has helped me the most is writing each day about myself; just writing out my problems helps me to learn how to overcome them, and in doing so, I’ve learned so much about myself. And the biggest lesson I’ve learned? It all takes time. My eating disorder was not as severe as many others (and for that I am lucky and thankful), but part of the reason was that I got help early, and I worked on myself. Never feel selfish for working on yourself; in doing so, you can strengthen relationships around you, and eventually reach out to others who are struggling.
      Keep fighting the fight. The first step is recognizing your fears, obsessions, downfalls, etc. You have already come to that stage; now it’s about digging deeper and slowly finding ways to overcome it.
      Good luck, and if you ever need to chat in person, I’d be happy to meet up! ;)

  9. Becca Ryan says:

    Humans are made for community. We’re made for relationships. I often say: “Before I have a relationship with anyone else, I need to have a relationship with myself!” How am I going to love my loved ones if I don’t love myself? You pose a good question here. Media has so tossed self-worth to the side and asked “what do OTHERS consider you are worth?” What a disgusting question– one that puts us into so much pain!

    Reading previous comments, I’d like to declare: I have my “days”, too– undoubtedly! We’re not alone.

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