Jenny's Journey Part 7 - Respecting Myself

Written by Jonathan Kattenberg on November 3, 2020
Est. Reading: 5 minutes

How I learned to respect myself.

I can remember the exact moment when I thought “wow, my body is actually quite amazing”. 

I was on a 6-mile run in the hills, and it was the longest one I’d managed to that date. I had, for the first time in my life, respect for my body and what it was capable of doing. 

 Writing this now is actually reminding me again of my “wow moment”. I’m not sure if it’s because I really did hit rock bottom last year. I was unable to do anything for myself, I was so physically weak, my body was really on its way out, and now I was running!! I’m not going to say I “bounced back”, far from it.

Another chance. 

In the early stages, I had to have a rest from sitting up watching TV. It was a slow process, and I never thought I’d walk again, let alone run. 

I remember celebrating with the nurses when I was able to walk to the toilet unaided. Thinking back, this actually scares me, how little I could do. 

Had I been given another chance? 

I used to exercise because I had to, it was an addiction, but now I was enjoying it. Now I had this newfound respect for myself, I began listening to what my body needed (i.e. rest, more food), as I’d ignored that for decades.

These thoughts influenced me to fuel my body, which is a completely opposite mindset to when you’re in the grips of anorexia. I’ve just realised now that I abused my body, took it for granted. 

We only get one, if you look after it, it will look after you. Sorry body. Sadly it is a vicious cycle; 

  • feel rubbish
  • don’t care about yourself
  • no respect
  • merely surviving
  • cover-up and hide
  • recluse 

Which creates low self-worth, low self-esteem, low confidence and you wake up and do it all over again. 

Negative thoughts and coping methods.

I paid too much attention to my negative thoughts. The more I “fed them”, the more it became like a snowball effect, and a small thought turned into a massive issue.

I did a lot of work with Walking With My Bear around my confidence and self-esteem (as I’ve mentioned before) as it’s never really been there, I suppose. What confidence I had was quite literally knocked out of me in past relationships. 

I came across as confident, but that was the drink. Sober, I was a train wreck, so drinking was my go-to coping method. 

When you are that low, you don’t care, and my body seemed to be the last thing I was bothered about. You cannot start respecting your body until you start looking after it.

So how do we make a start towards gaining body respect? 

I find having a “tool” at hand helps me to deal with potential situations that may trigger your old, unhelpful ways of coping.

It’s a slow process as is everything in recovery, sadly. But I promise you it’s worth it. Start small and think of it as an investment in yourself. 

Do little, nice things for yourself (even if it’s brushing your teeth better or moisturising – I even found this hard at first) you won’t feel the benefit straight away. Still, the more you do, the better you feel. 

Go for a short walk or sit outside, slowly build yourself up. Don’t run before you can walk, I wanted to be able to do things yesterday, but it doesn’t happen like that, accept that, or else it sets you up to fail. Then you end up beating yourself up because you’ve not achieved what you expected. 

If you are unfortunately at rock bottom, it took you a long time to get there and a lot of practice. It makes sense then that this process will take time, too, both mentally and physically. 

Your mindset won’t change overnight. 

But when you start getting there, you achieve peace with yourself.

Once I started eating better and listening to hunger cues, I had more energy. I was getting stronger, getting mentally happier and therefore had more interest in everyday life. 

Your food intake is massively important for physical and mental reasons.

Slowly I started enjoying things and slowly pushed myself to do more. It felt good to be living. Fueling your body with healthy food is so important for physical recovery and fueling for your brain and mood recovery. 

80% of your serotonin levels (the happy hormone) comes from your stomach. Nutrition for your mental health is very underrated. 

Your body’s been through hell and then some, that’s why it takes time. “Working” on yourself and self-care is not selfish, you are investing time into living a happy and fulfilling life.

Are you able to monitor the times you feel negative about yourself? 

I was reading over the notes I took during some of my sessions, and the following may be of some use. 

I once sat for 60 seconds and wrote down any thoughts that popped into my head. They were all negative and critical about me. 

How much time did I waste being critical of me? 

I must continuously be beating myself up. Next to each thought, I had written down, I applied the method of asking if the thought was true and was it appropriate? 

You invest so much time into saying these things to yourself, that you genuinely believe them. However, when it’s written down, you can see them for what they really are – false, inappropriate statements with no evidence to back them up. 

These negative thoughts do us so much harm when they are irrelevant and not worthy of rising to or acting on. 

Focus on what you value, the important things in your life.

Focus your energy on positive things in your life and appreciate what you have, not what you haven’t. 

It’s all about the here and now not what’s happened (because you cannot change the past) and you can’t predict the future, but you can influence it, so take action. 

Focus on the day and don’t compare yourself to what you used to be able to do. 

I did this a lot, and once I accepted that the progress was going to be slow, I became happy and content with the small steps I was achieving. 

Something is better than nothing.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back soon. 

Jenny x

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