I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel unworthy of love and connection with others. The guilt in the pit of my stomach never allowed me to embrace the idea that I too am worthy of acceptance, love and validation.
Even at 39 years old with an incredible support team, I feel shame and guilt receiving a compliment. When my therapist praises my progress and gives me specific reasons why I should be proud of myself, I feel the need to hide.
I feel selfish accepting the love she gives me. It feels undeserved.
Although she can see my body shrink and my facial expression change, she repeats herself. She does this with the hope that it will sink in, that the behavior of acceptance will one day by the norm.
Step 1 – recognize it
The difference now, is that I recognize that behavior.
I know that I have a choice to accept the words coming from the people that love and care about me the most. Though I still don’t always believe it, it’s beginning to be engrained in me that it is okay to be proud of myself.
We are all deserving of love. The challenge is to embrace it rather than pushing it away because of fear, guilt or shame.
I have come to realize that we all care about the well-being of others. And caring about others includes learning to love myself and acknowledging my own worth. I need to accept that others care about me just as I care about them.
Step 2 – believe it
For years, knowing my eating disorder loved me was enough. I never believed I was worth any more than that. I lived beneath the walls of my shame, guilt and self-deprecation. But that is NOT enough. That is NOT all I am worthy of.
All of us are worthy of accepting love without feelings of guilt and shame getting in the way.
I grew up believing that feeling joy when receiving a compliment meant I was selfish and a narcissist. It took so long to realize that accepting help and love from others doesn’t make you a bad and self-centered person.
Yet, it is still a daily struggle for me. I still have ED’s voice screaming so loud sometimes. The voice says that I’m not worthy of what I have worked so hard to deserve.
But that’s recovery. It’s both messy and beautiful. And the first step is to realizing that we all matter. (Yes, even you ?)