It’s not unusual for people with eating difficulties to have problems with self-care in other areas as well—drugs, alcohol, hurtful/damaging relationships, or simply treating yourself poorly. It’s common for folks in their teens, 20s and 30s to struggle with issues of self-worth and self-care due to rebellion against family or culture or from plain ignorance and poor role modeling. In fact, it’s often a rite of passage into adulthood; improved judgment comes with experience and maturity.
What of those of you who continue to harm yourself into your 40s, 50s and beyond—drinking, drugging, eating, smoking and treating your bodies as if they were disposable? In these decades, you’re no longer struggling to form an identify. Yours is solidified, but your values and actions regarding self-care haven’t evolved from your early years. You may climb a career ladder as high as you can go, but you probably never feel deserving of your achievements. A part of you is still a young child who was mistreated and devalued and you haven’t shed this negative version of yourself and moved on.
If you’re stuck in old, rigidified patterns of self-neglect and self-harm, you may feel hopeless that you can ever do anything about it. Or you may be so used to having a smoker’s cough or a food hangover that you assume you’ll always have bad habits. You may feel so overwhelmed with all you have to do to change that you don’t know where to begin. My guess is that you may have an underlying depression or biochemical imbalance which is making it even harder for you to do right by yourself.
The only people who are unable to change are those who give up trying. The first step is to acknowledge that you don’t treat yourself very well and could do a lot better. The next step is to get help in making change. Find a book that encourages you to change your habits, talk to a friend or family member, seek out a therapist, or join a self-help group. Try to understand why you treat yourself so poorly. Do you want only to live in the moment? Go out of your way to give yourself pleasure and avoid pain? Think it’s too late to change? Believe that dying young is your destiny?
Keeping the status quo is the easy way out—for now. In life, the only choices are pleasure now and pain later or pain now and pleasure later. If you’re having trouble with self care, you’ve been taking the former route and need to make a switch. Try imagining how you good you’ll feel as you start to take better care of yourself. You’ll be joining all the millions of people like you who were slow learners and late bloomers!