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Expecting Others to Treat You Better Than You Treat Yourself

I often have conversations with clients who complain about how others treat them. Sometimes it’s Mom or Dad who critically point out their flaws and have nary a nice word to say to them. Or a spouse who has ridiculously high standards they can never meet. Or friends who aren’t supportive, kind and compassionate.

And yet, this is exactly how these clients talk to and treat themselves. They’re hypercritical of themselves, see themselves as inadequate and defective, and speak to themselves in the most unkind, judgmental ways. If this happens to you, I’d like you to stop and reflect if this seems fair: You’re asking others to treat you better than you treat yourself. Why is that? Why should they do that? How is it that you expect them to be nicer to you than you are to you?

Once you start treating yourself better, you will find that others do the same. This will happen in two ways. First, because you’re valuing yourself more, you won’t allow others to mistreat you. When your self-talk is positive, your expectations of how others speak to you will be higher. I don’t mean you’ll only talk yourself up and never let anyone criticize you or give you constructive feedback. I mean that you will be kind and fair and compassionate with yourself and expect that intimates will follow suit. Second, because you treat yourself well, you’ll want to surround yourself with people who treat you with respect and shower you with care. You’ll tire of anyone who doesn’t and start attracting people who are more accepting of your faults and find you lovable in spite of them.

Many dysregulated eaters are waiting around for folks to treat them better and think that then they’ll be nicer to themselves. Well, they’ve got the process backwards. Why should others treat you well when you don’t seem to care how you’re treated? Putting up with mistreatment gives them the message that you don’t care that it’s happening to you. When the message is that you love yourself and expect compassion, kindness, empathy, and fairness from yourself, others will get that you want it from them too.

It’s time to stop focusing and complaining about how others treat you. If they treat you poorly, speak up or let them go. By showing them how you want to be treated—by treating yourself well—they will self-select in or out. And, believe me, you won’t find folks mistreating you for long. When they see that you won’t accept it, they’ll usually mend their ways or look for someone else to mistreat. Moreover, emotionally healthy people will be drawn to you because they know that you are emotionally healthy.