People PleasersThe more I work with people with eating disorders, the more convinced I am that eating disorders are shame-based. By shame-based, I mean rooted in a deep and pervasive sense of badness. While it looks different in different people, the basic cry is, “I’m not good enough”. Children develop these shame-based beliefs in many different ways. The following list exhibits different parenting behaviors that either inhibit or promote the development of a positive self-image in children:
|Promotes Low Esteem||Promotes High Esteem|
|Judgmental||Accepting of differences|
|Behaves like a victim||Demonstrates caring for self|
|Expects child to please||Recognizes child as separate|
|Angry/disapproving||Tolerates emotions/sets boundaries|
|Encourages perfectionism||Realistic, healthy standards|
|Compares and competes||Doesn’t compare/compete|
|Diets/body dissatisfaction||Healthy eating/body satisfaction|
|Depression/anxiety||Balanced in mood|
|Under/over exercise||Enjoys moderate exercise|
These are often the children who receive praise for being “such a sweet little girl” or “such a good student”. These are often the children for whom teachers send home raving reports of following directions so well and turning in every assignment. These kids cause almost no trouble for the basketball coach or with the neighborhood kids. In fact, they may need almost no discipline at all. They just seem to naturally do well at everything and choose the right and responsible path in life.
These are also the kids who are at the greatest risk for developing self-destructive coping mechanisms. Because they are so good at protecting others from distress, they turn it inwards on themselves instead. This is where the body dysmorphia and the eating disorder comes in. The body becomes a mold for perfectionism. It becomes a medium to achieve acceptance, achievement, and goodness. Part of the work of recovery is creating space for the outward expression of these suppressed feelings. One must develop a self-worth apart from pleasing others.
My last two posts have been on the underlying causes of why we do what we do in the area of food/eating. I think many use this as a crutch and spend a lot of time and energy trying to figure out "why". Some people know for sure what about their backgrounds is at the root of their suffering. I think I know and these last two posts have been spot on as far as my situation is concerned. I don't know about you. I have read some horrible parent/child relationships and think "no wonder that person struggles". I have also read of many overcomers who have gone through tough times but have come out on the other end victorious. Why does one person still binge and another doesn't? How can we want something so badly and then do things to keep it from happening? I think about this a lot. Jane over at "Keeping the Pounds Off" lost a bunch of weight and then gained it back in 11 months. Now she has it off again. Wow. I am on my third time getting the weight off. It is beyond me why I would work that hard to get the weight off and then gain it back regardless of the emotional things going on. It is what it is and we have to play the hand we are dealt. Sometimes I think I am not playing with a full deck, however :-) elevator doesn't go all the way to the top, lights are on but nobody's home, not the sharpest knife in the drawer, few fries short of a happy meal, few bricks shy of a load - just a little humor. Hope your Thanksgiving was all you hoped it would be and more.