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What You Need to Know About Self Esteem and Eating Disorders

by Guest Blogger on July 25, 2012 · 2 comments

Self-esteem is essential for a healthy, happy life. It helps us care for ourselves. It helps us give and receive in healthy relationships. It helps us set and achieve goals. Without self-esteem many issues can befall us, including eating disorders, unhealthy relationships, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. Without self-esteem, our lives will not be all they have the potential to be.

Much of our self-esteem is formed in childhood and adolescent years. Messages we receive from parents, peers, teachers, and other people in our lives help to form the perceptions we have of ourselves. A child who receives supportive, positive messages about his or her abilities, behavior, dreams, and feelings will eventually develop healthy self-esteem. On the other hand, a child who receives inconsistent or confusing messages will not have the resources necessary to develop a strong foundation of self-esteem. I consider this to be a tragedy. A child in this position will have a much harder time developing and maintaining self-esteem in the face of all the obstacles we face in life. This child may also have the added strain of devastating symptoms of low self-esteem: poor body image, lack of clarity about goals and dreams, unhealthy relationships, and even unhealthy and/or risky behaviors.

I unfortunately was the child lacking a solid foundation of self-esteem. I grew up in an alcoholic home, which bred chaos and challenges at every turn. Many of the messages I received as a child were conflicting: I often was told that I need to speak up more in class, but at the same time was told that I shouldn’t talk too much because it might burden others. I was told that I should speak up when I have a problem, but later the same day told that now is not a good time to talk. I never knew from one day to the next if I would come home to a happy father or a drunk father. I never knew if my mother thought I was competent and strong, or if she thought I was never going to amount to much of anything.

By age 15, I was diagnosed with anorexia. I had lost all control of the storm raging around me, and withdrew into my illness. It took years of constant medical and psychological care to get me to a place of relative health. But as soon as I had overcome the active anorexia, I began having panic attacks. Once I conquered those, depression set in. It seemed no matter how much progress I made, it was replaced by a new issue. I had one unhealthy relationship after another. I had no self-esteem.

I can’t pinpoint any great epiphany that started me on the road to developing healthy self-esteem. As I get older, getting my needs met is more and more important to me. My teens and early 20s were pretty miserable as I clung to anyone or anything I thought could save me from my problems. I grew tired of feeling awful about myself and eventually started to explore ways to develop my self-esteem. I began repeating positive affirmations to myself, paying attention to my accomplishments, setting goals for my future, and expecting to be treated well by the people in my life. Slowly I have come to this new level of self-esteem: I am not where I want or need to be by a long shot, but I am healthy. I am taking care of myself in many ways. I am hopeful for the future. For a girl who didn’t think she’d live to see age 30, that’s a big deal.

I wanted to write this blog for Ashley and Your Super Awesome Life because I want people to realize how important it is for children and teens to develop healthy self-esteem early in life. Had I been able to do that, I might have avoided anorexia altogether. At the very least it would have been easier to recover. Now, as an adult, I must work twice as hard to hold on to my fledgling self-esteem as I navigate life’s obstacles. The work Ashley is doing is tremendously important. She is providing invaluable resources for parents and teens, and I encourage anyone reading this to take advantage of the tools Ashley offers here at Your Super Awesome Life. Everyone deserves to have a super awesome life, and the journey starts when we are young.

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Carolyn is Co-Founder and Director of Content and Quality at You Part Two. Carolyn was born and raised in Portland, Maine and has also lived in California and Texas. Currently, Carolyn is a PhD student at Saybrook University in San Francisco. She also writes grants for a non-profit organization based in Killeen, TX.

Carolyn was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at the age of 15. She has since recovered but continues to struggle with intrusive thought processes and unhealthy habits. Carolyn has developed a wealth of knowledge about eating disorders and the path to recovery through her personal and educational experiences. Carolyn plans to complete her PhD and become a psychologist so that she may help individuals who suffer from eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.

Carolyn lives with her family in the Washington, DC metro area.

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Alisha @eatingdisorder5.com October 10, 2012 at 5:00 am

Hello Carolyn,
You have discussed great topic, now these disorders create very big problems for us. Eating disorder effects our eating habits and on our body if not treated on time. People may suffer from eating disorder such as binge eating disorder, night eating disorder, compulsive eating disorder and selective eating disorder. Thanks to share the nice post.

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