I was recently asked by Arielle Lee Bair to write a guest post for her blog on Confidence. Here it is:
“Self-love lies as the ground of love; but the paradoxical passion of self-love when at its highest pitch wills precisely its own downfall.” -Søren Kierkegaard
“A high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.”*
Synonyms: conceit, egotism, vanity, vainglory
“Belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance.”*
Synonyms: faith, reliance, dependence
(*definitions found at: dictionary.com)
When Arielle asked me to write on confidence I realized that when it comes to recovery it is difficult to discuss confidence without also discussing pride. See, in recovery there are two voices in your head – your destructive, Eating Disorder voice (commonly referred to as ED); and your constructive, Recovery Voice (this represents your true self).
Confidence – that’s Recovery language; but Pride, well that’s ED language.
And when we are fighting off our inner demons, our sense of self is typically not at its highest – and this is when we have the greatest opportunity to develop confidence; however, this is also when we are most vulnerable to developing pride.
Why is ED so bent on us developing pride? Wouldn’t he prefer we remain insecure?
Yes and no. Yes, ED would prefer for us to remain insecure; however, it is possible to be insecure while also being prideful. According to the definition offered above, Pride is based on a “[disproportionately high] opinion of one’s merit or superiority”, and in recovery this causes more harm than good.
Pride does not tell you to persevere on the hard days because it would never admit to having a ‘hard day’; it does not tell you that you are worth more than the way you are living, because it sees the way you are living as just fine; it does not tell you that you can have a better life and that others can help you get there, because it does not need others. Instead, it tells you that the hard days ‘weren’t hard at all’, that the way you are living is no worse than anyone else, that your life is just fine, and that you most definitely do not need to seek the help of others – you’ve got this covered on your own, right?
These are all lies. Lies that keep you in denial. Lies that keep you chained to ED.
Before I entered into recovery for my Eating Disorder, I was insufferably proud. Despite my lack of confidence, I still believed I knew better than everyone else, that I didn’t need help from anybody else, and that there were a whole lot of people far more screwed up than I was. And even when times got hard (and even downright frightening), I didn’t seek out help – because I was better than that, because I was ‘stronger’ than that.
Little did I know that this Pride was only keeping me weak.
And it wasn’t until I got the strength to let go of my pride that I was able to move forward in recovery and gain my life back.
I was completely defeated – lying on the couch crying, weak, and hungry – and I knew I had nothing to lose, unless I stayed where I was, then I had my entire life to lose. And I realized it was my pride that had taken me to that place. That place where no one, and I mean no one, knew what was going on.
So slowly I began letting go of my pride. I told my professor, and then I staged my own intervention (yup, no jokes). And as I sat there in my living room, surrounded by family and close friends – most of who hardly knew the severity of what was going on – I said: “I don’t want to stop. But I want to want to stop. And I need your help.”
They stayed with me for three hours that night – praying for me, listening to me, and encouraging me. And it was in that moment that the pride I had been holding on to so tightly began to disappear and confidence moved in to take its place.
Confidence told me that I did deserve better than how I was living. It told me that I had been wrong, but that was OK, because now I was on the right path. It told me that I could recover, and that I was worth it, too. And most importantly, it let me know that it was ok to ask for help.
Along with my pride also went my vanity.
See, with ED I fluctuated between seeing myself as ugly and horrible, to seeing myself as All That. Vanity led me to the scale, tape measure, and mirror dozens of times a day. Vanity led me to compare myself to every other girl in the room. Vanity took away my True Beauty.
But now (despite what some may think because of all my Instagram headshots!) I am not vain, but I do have confidence. I love myself for who I am, and the way that I am. I have learnt to accept my body (which was not easy, but was SO worth it). Now, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have my moments of insecurity (I am, after all, only human), but it is this newly found confidence that is able to shout even louder than these lies and shoot them down before they can settle in.
And so my question for you is this: are you proud, or do you have confidence?
If you are letting Pride control you, you need to realize this is what ED wants. So start fighting back, because YOU are strong, YOU are beautiful, and YOU are worth recovery…and you CAN do it – be confident in that!
Here are some ways you can begin letting go of your pride:
- Be honest with yourself when you are having a rough day and reach out to someone
- Tell your counsellor/therapist about your recent slip-ups/relapse
- Develop self-awareness: don’t stay in denial of the existence or severity of your struggles
- Share your struggles with a trusted friend or family member and receive their support – remember, this doesn’t mean you are weak, this means you are strong and confident enough in yourself that you know accepting help from others doesn’t threaten who/what you are
- Avoid things that feed into vanity: stop comparing yourself to others, stop obsessing over your appearance each morning before you leave the house, stop thinking you’re ‘All That’ – because you know when the pendulum swings the other way, you’ll be calling yourself ugly. Instead, see yourself as Beautiful (inside & out)
Here are some ways to begin developing confidence:
- Allow others to build into your life and show you who they see you as: beautiful, strong, capable
- Accept compliments, and believe them
- STOP weighing/measuring yourself. Just stop. NOW. There is no reason to do this unless it is under professional supervision (and then you may even be able to request to not be told what the numbers are)
- Spend time looking at yourself in the mirror. Really. But not in the way you used to – look in the mirror and point out all the things you LOVE about yourself. But the minute EDs critical voice begins to whisper, WALK AWAY
- Write down things you love about yourself & inspiring reminders and post them on ALL of your mirrors, your fridge, your door etc…
- Listen to music that gives you a sense of worth, confidence, & strength. Some of my favourites: “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera, “Hello” by Christina Aguilera, “The Voice Within” by Christina Aguilera, “Skyscraper” by Demi Lovato, “Believe in Me” by Demi Lovato, “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World, “Concrete Girl” by Switchfoot.