Recognizing how destructive and ineffective your eating disorder is helps you step towards recovery. As you may already know, the work for ED recovery unfortunately does not stop there. Have you ever had the thought, “I know I need to move away from my eating disorder, but where do I go? What am I supposed to be moving towards?”
Who am I?
Disordered thoughts and behaviors tend to take up the majority of our energy. Most individuals who are in recovery, or considering it, experience fear or confusion around what is going to fill that void. Who am I without my eating disorder?
It’s okay if your disorder has served as your guide, and your identity. It’s okay to be absolutely terrified to change that.
Finding a New Compass for Your ED Recovery
I also want to plant the seed of hope that it CAN be different. I’ve learned through my personal and professional journey that you do not need to rely on the goals of your disorder to dictate your life. Instead, you can learn to use your true, authentic values to be your new compass.
Values – a New Compass for Your ED Recovery
Values are “a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life” (Oxford Languages). I like to think of them as the topics that light your internal fire. The things that get you really excited. Or what you feel a deep passion for.
I know you might be thinking, “I have no idea what’s important to me… I’ve let my eating disorder decide that for years!” There are many different ways you can begin to explore your values. You can try journaling, meditating on this topic, talking to others about their values, or using different guided practices. My favorite way is using a values card sort like the one found at https://www.think2perform.com/our-approach/values/new. Try to come up with about 5 top values to keep it simple!
The important part of this exploration is to separate what values are truly yours versus what belongs to the eating disorder.
Whose Values Are You Living By?
What shows up because you feel like you ‘should’ care about it, or perhaps your disorder has told you that it is important? For example, maybe whenever I get invited out with friends, that ED voice in my head reminds me we could spend that time in the gym instead. Through this I have labeled fitness as a top value in my life. You need to pause and really ask yourself, do you actually see more time in the gym as being more important than spending time with your friends?
PSA: Beginning to recognize how far your disorder has led you away from what matters can be really painful. It also can be what ignites that flame of authenticity and motivation in your soul.
Spend time reflecting on how you would like to be engaging with these core values one day.
Really paint yourself a picture of what your life can look like if you were to leave the eating disorder behind.
Maybe even set some goals for each value. You never achieve a value, you achieve the goals within them. Living a values-driven life is made up in everyday moments and choices.
How can you implement this?
Ask yourself, will this bring me closer to my values, or is it moving me further away? That is how you can start using your values as a compass for your ED recovery. Rely on them to help shift your energy towards recovery and realign with your authentic self.