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Last week I was talking to someone with an eating problem who joked about treating her dogs better than herself. She described feeding them exactly what they wanted and her joy in loving them unconditionally. My first thought was how common her attitude is among dysregulated eaters who often treat family members, friends, and, yes, pets better than themselves. Maybe you’re one of these people who are caught in a vicious cycle of devaluing yourself which leads to disordered eating which erodes self-love which perpetuates more disordered eating.
The process of putting all your good feelings into an “other” and holding all the bad ones inside yourself is called projection and stems from discomfort with feeling lovable and worthy. Think about it: Why would you treat an animal better than you? You’d only do it if you didn’t think you deserved as much as Fido or Whiskers. I’m not suggesting that you mistreat your pets; I am saying that it’s time to question why you shower so much love on them and so little on yourself.
If you want to become a “normal” eater, you have to feel you deserve to be one. Worthiness does not come from extraordinary success, exceptional talent, or being perfect. You are deserving and worthy because you are human. No matter what you think you’ve done, no matter what your parents told you or made you believe—that you’re stupid, won’t amount to anything, shouldn’t expect good things to happen to you or last, aren’t allowed to fail or make mistakes, can’t be less than perfect, or don’t deserve to succeed and be happy—by virtue of being born, you are deserving. If you still can’t accept that, how do you account for treating Fido or Whiskers so well—what do they do to deserve such royal treatment. When you get down to it, not all that much.
It can be scary to think well of yourself. Maybe when you tried as a child, you got laughed at, put down, or scolded for boasting. Maybe you finally gave up and accepted that you’re worthless and unlovable. Now, having fledgling positive feelings about yourself is unsettling and strange. After all, people may not agree or may challenge them. Never mind: they have their own agendas. You’re deserving; take it from me.
You may need to put oodles of effort into believing you’re deserving and into treating yourself well because you’re transforming your self-concept. It won’t happen overnight (Does anything worthwhile?). A good place to start is the next time you feel a surge of love for your pet. When you do, remember to grab some of it for yourself!
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