New year’s resolutions are a common tradition in American culture. These resolutions often center around self-improvement or accomplishing goals and dreams. A common resolution is to eat healthier or exercise more. This is usually done with the intention of losing weight. Self-compassion and self-acceptance are rarely thought about, instead opting for critiquing ourselves.
The fact that this is a common goal for people is a reflection of America’s obsession with physical appearance, specifically with being thin. Being thin is seen as being healthy or being well. This obsession with thinness becomes even more important for people when physical appearance is also tied to self-worth and self-esteem.
This is the case for many people, not just those with eating disorders. The truth is that someone’s health is not dependent on how healthy they are . Someone can be in a bigger body and be healthy . Also, physical appearance is not a reflection of someone’s worth or whether they are a good person.
Instead of focusing on transforming yourself this year, what if you focused on accepting and showing self-compassion to the person you already are? It’s okay to want to change things in order to create a better life for yourself, but sometimes a better life comes from having a better relationship with yourself.
There are a few ways you can begin building a better relationship with yourself. Here are some ideas:
Say Goodbye to Diet Culture
Diet culture is a term used to describe a system that values weight over wellness. Many people go on diets to achieve wellness. Research shows that diets fail the majority of the time. The failure rate is close to 95% ! Not only are they not effective, but diets also tend to lead to poorer physical and mental health .
Stepping out of this mentality can be difficult because information about dieting is everywhere. Some ways to break up with diet culture are to get rid of your scale and stop counting calories. This may feel extremely difficult, but these are good ways to start refocusing your attention on how your body feels instead of what a scale or calorie-counting app tells you to do.
Self-compassion is when you give yourself compassion and kindness, especially during moments of suffering. Sometimes we are our own biggest critic and can treat ourselves harshly. This usually happens when we need kindness the most, such as when we make mistakes or are going through a difficult time .
Some people may think that being hard on yourself will motivate you to make progress. Usually, the opposite is true. The more compassionate we are towards ourselves, the more likely we are to make positive changes or accomplish goals . Even if you don’t feel any compassion towards yourself right now, self-compassion mindfulness practices are shown to increase the amount of kindness we show ourselves .
It makes sense that in a culture obsessed with beauty that it would be difficult to accept ourselves for who we are. This fixation on appearance can leave us with a very shallow view of ourselves. If we value our appearance the most, then it is easy to forget about the internal qualities that make us who we are.
This can be complicated for people who feel a lot of shame. Shame is the feeling that we are somehow bad or different from other people. This feeling often leads people to feel that they aren’t deserving of love or connection. If you feel a lot of shame, it can be hard to feel that you have any internal qualities that are worthy of acceptance.
It’s important to know that every single person has qualities that are good and bad. It’s part of being human. Humans are complicated, magnificent beings. Feeling compassion towards the part of yourself that you feel ashamed about can help you accept yourself more.
Resources: Scritchfield, R. (2016). Body kindness. Workman Publishing.  Biasetti, A.S. (2018). Befriending your body: A self-compassionate approach to freeing yourself from disordered eating. Shambala Publications, Inc.
About the Author:
Samantha Bothwell, LMFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, writer, explorer, and lipstick aficionado. She became a therapist after doing her own healing work so she could become whole after spending many years living with her mind and body disconnected. She has focused her clinical work to support the healing process of survivors of sexual violence and eating disorders. She is passionate about guiding people in their return to their truest Self so they can live their most authentic, peaceful life.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published December 21, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on December 21, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC