Recently my colleague Nicole Keay and I gave a presentation to the Eating Disorder Network about some of the cool things we are doing over at the Looking Glass Foundation. The network is filled with a lot of people high up in the eating disorder world here in Vancouver (mainly the health authorities) who are making a big impact in how we treat and support those who suffer. Now for those of you who know me, you know that public speaking brings up all kinds of anxiety for me. Starting the day before my body felt all tingly, my head was a little fuzzy and I noticed my thoughts start to gallop into all of the worst case scenarios.
It would have been easy for me to just continue down this path until I froze and believed myself incapable of delivering the presentation. I spent many years being frozen by my anxiety and having it take over and run my life and my decisions. Instead, being an eating disorder therapist, I felt it was important to walk the talk I give my clients every single week when they show up feeling really overwhelmed by things happening in their lives.
Anxiety is a part of life because we are guaranteed to have experiences that affect our emotional well being in a way that we don’t really want to face. The goal in therapy, as in life, is not to find a way to never have anxiety, but rather to find a way to take ourselves and our well being so seriously that we refuse to allow ourselves to actively suffer through our own neglect. Naturally we want to run away from the things that cause us pain, but what a difference it makes when we turn towards ourselves with compassion, care, and patience during our times of struggle. Not only does it change how we treat ourselves, but it also strengthens our resilience as we start to believe that we have the skills to make ourselves feel better and are responsible for our own well-being.
So how did this look for me during the talk? Well I decided to remind myself that the anxiety I was feeling was normal and that it’s okay to feel a little intimidated. I also reminded myself that I know the material, and even if I don’t get it perfect I will do a fine job and I can always stop and clarify or try again if I make a mistake. Did I want to get it just right? Of course. Did I? No way! I know I fumbled in a few areas and at times got a bit off track but I am also okay with that. I am human and beating myself up doesn’t change a single thing besides making myself feel bad about myself. Quite frankly I am just not interested in treating myself that way anymore.
So how can this apply to you and your recovery? Try to remind yourself that whatever you are feeling is there, and it’s real, but every barrier you have faced you have survived to date so it is unlikely that the reality is as scary as the story you are telling yourself. Remind yourself that recovery isn’t intended to be smooth sailing but rather will present many opportunities for growth that you are allowed to have any and all feelings about while still pushing forward. Your goal is not to be void of painful feelings, but rather to treat yourself with such love, support and seriousness that you welcome and explore all sides of your emotions.
There is a quote I have on my phone that I think speaks to this beautifully, especially because I think we all want to live in a world that is filled with a little more love and kindness. It goes:
“ Perhaps we should love ourselves so fiercely that when others see us they know exactly how it should be done.”
I hope today is the day you let your fierceness take flight.