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How do we gain and maintain confidence in recovery?
My confidence is practically non-existent. Or at least it was prior to beginning this blog. I have issues in reminding myself of how hard I work because my bank account doesn’t reflect it. It’s a sad but true reality that all too often we’re caught up with the digits on our payslips.
Gaining confidence in myself is the first step to gaining confidence in eating disorder recovery.
Not only that but it also depends on my readiness and willingness to participate. Recovery requires confidence in your ability to handle the physical, psychological and social stressors both during the initial stages and beyond.
There are thought to be four different ways to help shape our confidence in recovery:
1. Mastery Experiences
This comes when you’re successful in adopting a behaviour that you deem as being difficult. For example; In regards to Anorexia recovery, this could be managing to eat three meals a day, or conquering a fear food.
The more you succeed in mastering certain behaviours (or letting go of bad habits) the more your confidence builds.
Think of it in regards to schoolwork. If you hand in an assignment you’re concerned about, and you manage a good grade, then your confidence will increase in that area. The same goes for recovery.
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It’s natural that success builds confidence while failure undermines it. As someone who struggles with Anorexia, I’m not overly familiar with the sense of success and mastery. My obsession with weight has always given me a sense of failure. I can’t control myself and be Xkg, so I’m a failure. Even when I’m competent in other areas of my life the failure of Anorexia overshadows it leading me to believe I’m incompetent. As a result, I’ve been left with low self-esteem, one which needs to be built up again through successes.
Once this success begins in recovery the rest can follow.
2. Vicarious Experiences
This is built through experiences and observations of another person’s actions. If you see other people of a similar demographic, social status and in a similar situation to yours achieve recovery, it allows you to see that it is possible.
You feel that if they can do it then so can I.
This can also work against your confidence. Watching someone succeed and recover while you feel like every step is a struggle can be very disheartening.
Remember, Chances are they were once in the same position as you!
As someone who is in recovery and frequently blogs about my experiences, I try to be as real as possible without being triggering. I want you all to know I’m human, I fall down and I sometimes don’t feel like getting up. I aim to be a realistic and human exception, not a machine.
Remember the above if you also blog about your own recovery experience. You don’t have to be a recovery guru who has never relapsed, eats every meal, doesn’t cry every day and has given up coffee and cigarettes. Perfection is not obtainable, human is.
3. Verbal Persuasion
It’s not that hard to imagine. If someone tells you that you’re doing well and that they’re proud of you, then chances are you’ll feel reassured that you’re doing something right.
but this is not as important as self-persuasion.
It’s up to ourselves to replace negative mantras with positive ones.
That’s where daily gratitude comes in. Every day remember to write down what you’re thankful for, and what you admire about yourself.
4. Psychological state
This is all about positive mental states such as being relaxed, well-rested, warm, loved, excited, etc. These are all states that make us feel comfortable and, in a sense, better. Satisfied would usually come in there but I know that sometimes the feeling of being satisfied can make us feel negative. We need to challenge that!
Feeling satisfied in regards to our hunger levels needs to be switched to the positive mental state rather than the negative (along with tired, cold and tense).
This is something that will naturally come along with recovery.
How can I achieve confidence?
1. Be your own No.1 fan!
From being tangled in the grasp of Anorexia, I’ve lost touch with my own self-identity. Although letting go of the eating disorder often feels like I’m letting go of a part of myself, the truth is, it was never part of me, to begin with.
Anorexia was, and is, a parasite feeding off me; it doesn’t belong anywhere in my mind, on my body or within my soul. By holding onto the negative thoughts and emotions it increases the chances of relapse in the future.
Cheering myself on is no small feat. I’m still finding out who I am as a person, and how to root for myself. With practice, time and determination I know it’s only a matter of time before I get there.
2. Don’t be ashamed to talk about it!
If people ask about your recovery or your illness don’t be afraid to tell them. You don’t need to be embarrassed or hide from anyone.
3. Learn to say NO!
I’m still learning to say this word when I mean it. For years I’ve been a chronic people pleaser. This meant than when asked to do something, even if it compromised my me, I felt like I had to say yes. I didn’t want to be on the other end of their disappointment so badly that I would take on more and more until it was counterproductive.
Saying yes all the time can lead to added pressure to take on more and more tasks until we’re overflowing. Look after yourself and your own needs first.
4. Stand up for yourself.
When people hurt you or break your trust it’s not your fault despite what you think. If someone is challenging you and your opinion, hold fast and don’t back down. You’ve as much right to your opinion, your emotions and your trust as anyone else does. Don’t let anyone away with anything or you’ll soon begin to feel like a doormat.
I still struggle with this to a great extent. Confidence and being assertive (not aggressive) have always been very difficult for me, but I’m learning and trying to change that as best I can.
5. Spend time with the people who matter.
The people who are supportive to you and matter are key. They’re the ones who’ll be there for you in your darkest hours (and if they aren’t then they aren’t your people, sorry). Spending time with them means no apologies, being honest and nothing but support all round.
6. Do something you enjoy and that makes your soul breathe.
Relax, read a book, paint, watch a good show on Netflix, go to the movies, etc. Whatever makes you happy and content go for it. Life is too short not to have fun.
Don’t expect confidence to happen overnight; don’t even expect it to happen by the end of the week. The road only unfolds for us in we put in the time and patience.
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