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Most of the disregulated eaters I’ve treated over the years have felt seriously defective. This perception of being deeply and permanently flawed often drives dysfunctional eating, weight obsession, anorexia, bulimia—and perfectionism. Truth is, until you recognize and eliminate your erroneous sense of defectiveness, you won’t be able to resolve your eating problems. Letting it go is a major part of healing and recovery.
A belief in your lovability and self-worth comes from how you were treated growing up. If you were treated fairly and compassionately, you will value and be fair and compassionate toward yourself. You’ll recognize your faults and try to do better without aiming for an impossible perfection. If you weren’t treated with compassion and respect as a child, it’s easy to grow up to feel unworthy and unlovable, and to come to believe that you are, at core, so defective that no matter what you do, you’ll never be okay. Your misperception of not-okayness, is neither real nor based on evidence. The real problem is your perception that there’s something intrinsically wrong with you. Get rid of it and you’re fine—as fine as the rest of us mixed bags. It’s no cliché that if you think you’re okay, you will be, and if you think you’re not, you won’t be. It’s the truth.
It’s your mistaken sense of defectiveness that drives your desire to be perfect, producing all-or-nothing thinking—“I’m not perfect, so therefore, I must be defective,” or, alternately, “If I do everything perfectly, no one will see that I’m a total mess.” Forget perfect, which none of us is. Aim for better, improved, more skilled, good enough, but be very wary of the wish to be flawless. Paradoxically, that desire will just kick you back to square one and your misperceived defectiveness.
In fact, look to develop a core belief that whatever you want to change (within reason), you will. Hate the fact that you’re shy? Then work on becoming more outgoing. There are a zillion other qualities you might dislike in yourself—you talk too much or don’t stand up for yourself enough, aren’t as smart as you wish to be, have trouble reaching your goals, aren’t great at holding onto money, fear taking risks or are too impulsive. Think about it: each of these behaviors is changeable. If you want to change, get to it.
You’re going to have to trust me on this, that is, the fact that you’re not defective. You’re worthwhile and valuable to your loved ones, yourself, and the rest of the planet. Now, go on out and act that way and eventually you’ll believe it yourself. Really.