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Comparison and Social Media

Comparison and Social Media

We live in a world where validation from others is consistent. Instead of forming an opinion of ourselves based on our own sense of worth and value, we look to outsiders in hopes of feeling assured. Social media has created a space where praise and accolades are given and ultimately expected with each individual post and interaction. 

One of my favorite quotes by Lindsay Kite reads, “When your empowerment is based on others’ physical appraisal of you, it can be taken away as freely as it was given.” (Lindsay Kite, 2020). Whether it’s Tik Tok, Instagram, or any other form of social media, we often rely on others to define our worth, and we then use it to decipher how capable we are in the real world.

Give yourself permission to set boundaries surrounding social media use and consider how each of the following may encourage you to take back your power:

  • Mute or Unfollow- Instead of following pages or individuals who hinder your growth in recovery, you deserve the right to unfollow or mute free of guilt. 
  • Take time off- If you find yourself mindlessly scrolling, comparing yourself to others, or relying on outsiders to decipher your worth, it may be time for a social media break. 
  • Post without alterations- Your body is worthy of acceptance without any photoshop or editing. 
  • Delete comments- You have control over your own page. If someone makes a comment that objectifies you, makes you feel uncomfortable, or discusses your body in any way, you have the power to delete said comment.
  • Post without limitation- Challenge yourself to post pictures for your own enjoyment and because you want to savor the memories, not for the recognition of others. 

Comparison through social media is harmful and unreliable. We are comparing others’ best moments to what may feel like are our worst. Comparison consists of dwelling on the past or encourages anxiety as we think about the future. With so little time to be present, we begin focusing on others’ lives more than our own. When in recovery, we owe it to ourselves to look beyond comparison and take into consideration how social media is impacting beliefs we have about ourselves and the world around us. As we look inward and differentiate between what is helpful and what is not, we reclaim the power that is often given to others.

Leaps of Faith in Recovery

Leaps of Faith in Recovery

In one of my all-time favorite films, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the hero, the rugged adventurer-professor Indiana Jones, is faced with a set of tasks he must complete in order to find the Holy Grail and save his father’s life. In one task, deep inside an ancient canyon, his path leads him to a statue of a lion, which stands at the edge of a wide, seemingly bottomless abyss. Across the chasm, he can see that the path continues toward his destination. A clue tells him, “Only in a leap from the lion’s head will he prove his worth.” Leaping from the lion to the other side of the abyss is impossible–the distance is far too wide for any person to jump without falling to their doom. Indiana Jones realizes that the only way forward is to take a leap of faith–to step away from the safety of solid ground and toward the void.

Talk about a recovery metaphor, right? 

There are so many points in recovery when a leap of faith is required. Stepping away from the familiarity of your eating disorder and into the vulnerable space of recovery can feel like standing at the edge of an abyss–terrifying. But, just like it was for Indiana Jones, the way forward often requires just such a step. Staying in your eating disorder ultimately keeps you stuck and barred from the rest of the journey ahead. 

So how do you take that leap of faith? What does that look like in real life?

First, you need to be honest with yourself. There is likely a part of you that knows what your next recovery leap of faith needs to be. Maybe the leap is starting therapy to get help with your eating disorder. Maybe the leap is being honest with your dietitian about eating disorder behaviors. Maybe the leap is getting rid of your scale, or deciding to commit to not counting calories. Whatever that next step iis, it’s probably something challenging, even intimidating or frightening–otherwise it wouldn’t require a leap of faith! If you can be honest with yourself about what your next step in recovery is, you’re that much closer to being able to progress. On the other hand, if you’re not being honest with yourself, you’re likely to stay stuck.

After honesty comes action. In The Last Crusade, Indiana Jones decides that in order to save his father, he has no choice but to take the leap of faith and step from the lion’s head towards the dizzyingly deep abyss. He gathers his courage, closes his eyes, and takes a deliberate step forward off the edge of the cliff, not knowing what will happen next. It is only then that he discovers that there was a bridge over the chasm after all, a bridge invisible to him until he took a step forward and found his footing. Without that step of action, the way forward would have remained unseen. In order for you to find your footing in recovery, you have to take action. 

Once you’ve been honest with yourself about what your next recovery step is, that next step needs to become a reality, not just a good idea. Remind yourself that you only need to take one step at a time. You don’t have to get through recovery in one flying leap; in fact, you can’t. That seemingly impossible leap of faith is actually a series of steps that must be taken one at a time. With each step in recovery, you can gain confidence that making it to your goal is possible, even if it seemed impossible before.

So, two invitations for you. 1) Go watch Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It’s just a dang good movie. If you know, you know. 2) Do a bit of soul-searching, and get honest with yourself about what your next “leap of faith” in recovery is. As scary as that honesty might feel right now, it will help you find the path forward toward the life you deserve.

A voice From the Circle

A voice From the Circle

Anna Packard PhD and contribution from a group psychotherapy client

When my clients graduate therapy, I always ask them to write a “This I believe essay” as a final assignment. The purpose of this assignment is to put into words their healing transformations or pivotal changes in their journey. I want them to explore what they now believe about themselves, in recovery, as they move forward with their lives. One of my former group clients gave me permission to share her, This I believe Essay, on our blog. I hope you will take a few minutes to read this journey in her words:

I Believe in the Power of My Voice

Being diagnosed with an eating disorder was one of the most painful moments of my life. With the diagnosis came an end to my life as I knew it. Within a few days I was on a plane headed home and sent right to therapy. “My mind was sick,” they said. My voice was drowned out by the competing voices of my therapist and my eating disorder. I felt broken, shameful, and alone.

As part of my treatment, I joined an eating disorder process group. My first day of group was overwhelming, to say the least. I did my best to memorize names and piece together the lives of my new friends. They all looked so comfortable, and I felt terrified. I didn’t want to speak. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to do it wrong. The words that came out of my mouth felt insincere and forced.

That feeling lingered for a while as I adjusted to life with therapy.

As the weeks went by I settled into my new group persona. I sat on the edge of the circle and listened intently. I’ve always been told that I’m a good listener. I could easily spend most of the time silent, and that didn’t bother me. While my mouth might have been quiet, my mind was always racing. I think deeply and I feel deeply, but that’s a side of me many aren’t privileged enough to see.

Whenever I would share something, everyone seemed so interested. I remember one of my first groups I broke down in tears, and when I looked up I saw faces full of emotion and love staring back at me. These people really cared. I knew this was a safe place if I wanted to open up. Although, it would usually take others asking me questions and pushing me to share more before I would tell my story. To be honest I was usually surprised that people wanted to hear more from me. I wasn’t sure I had much more to give.

Years later I sat in my same chair on the edge of the circle. We were processing something, I don’t even remember what, and soon it was my turn to share. I had been reflecting on my experience in group and I found myself saying, “I’m just not comfortable staying quiet anymore.” It wasn’t until someone pointed it out that I saw the power in my statement. I repeated, “I just don’t want to sit here silent.”

Of all the powerful moments I’ve had in therapy this was one of the most profound. I had found my voice. I didn’t want to be the quiet one all the time. I had learned that there was value in what I was feeling and there was power when I spoke about it. I could express love and compassion, sadness and pain, or happiness and excitement. It was freeing. Finding my voice didn’t change who I was. I still listened deeply, and thought intently, but I didn’t have to do it all alone. Group gave me belonging, and with that belonging I found my voice. I believe in the power of my voice.

From Anna: As a group psychotherapist, I love how group helped facilitate her healing journey and also served as a bigger metaphor on her path. I love how her healing involved showing up for herself, taking up more space, and finding her voice, inside and outside of group.

Group is a passionate part of my work as a clinician and at Balance Health and Healing. We currently offer three eating disorder process groups for those seeking recovery from ages 14 to 60+. I am excited to announce that we will soon offer a new experiential group focused on body acceptance! This group will start this fall. If you have questions about group or believe group may help facilitate your journey, please contact us! I am happy to geek out about all things group and hope I and group can join you on your journey.

Reference link: https://thisibelieve.org/guidelines/

The Power of Play

The Power of Play

When was the last time you played–really played and had fun? Maybe it was recent; maybe you can’t remember the last time. Either way, let’s talk about why this therapist is coming to realize just how important play can be.

A couple of years ago, I decided to try winter hiking. I did a little research, collected some winter hiking gear, and ventured out into the snow. On one hike, I found myself alone at the trailhead. The freshly fallen blanket of powder covering the trail ahead of me was untouched, completely free of any human footprints. I had the trail to myself. I hiked up, admiring the almost surreal landscape of pristine snowdrifts, frozen streams, and tree branches adorned with glistening icicles.

After hiking up for a while, the snow became too deep for me to keep moving forward, since I only had boots, and no snow shoes. I turned around and headed back down the mountain, still with the trail completely to myself. The snow was so fresh, it felt like I was floating down the mountain, with puffs of powder flying up around my feet with each step. Spontaneously, I got the urge to run downhill. So I did! I ran, kicking up snow, feeling the spray of powder on my cheeks as I went. I found myself grinning, stretching my arms out to my sides as I ran, involuntarily laughing as I skidded and slipped along, my heart pounding and my lungs filling with cold mountain air. It was pure fun. With the trail to myself, I felt totally free to do what felt good, which apparently was to run down the mountain laughing like a little kid. 

Call it corny, but I felt SO ALIVE! By the time I neared the trailhead, a few other hikers were starting up the mountain. I slowed to a walk, but couldn’t stop myself from grinning ear to ear. I am not a naturally peppy person (like, really not), so it surprised me a bit to find myself so giddy, so energized, and so spontaneous. That, my friends, is the power of play.

My experience of cavorting down the mountain hasn’t turned into a typical occurrence, but it did provide me with an “aha” moment about the importance of adding play into my life. I’m finding that play can be a valuable element of maintaining mental wellness.

Kids, naturally, are the experts when it comes to playing and having fun. Research on play indicates a myriad of benefits for kids, including stronger development of social-emotional and problem-solving skills, more mental flexibility, and increased resilience against the effects of stress. Play has also been shown to help kids manage anxiety and worry, reduce the likelihood of experiencing depression, and foster creativity. Kids don’t care about the research, of course; they play because it’s fun, and because it’s natural.

Figuring out how to play as a grown-up has its fair share of challenges, but I’d argue that play is just as needed for adults as it is for children. Especially as we manage mental health challenges, the impact of world events, or the ever-present stresses of daily life, we could all use some of the benefits of play. When it comes to emotional wellness, play should be just as much a priority as any other form of basic self-care. Here are a few ideas to help you add more play into your grown-up life:

  • Move your body in fun ways. Dance while you clean up your kitchen. Skip instead of walking to the mailbox. Lay on the carpet and stretch in whatever way feels good.
  • Go outside and do what a kid would do. Sit on the ground and make a log cabin out of sticks. Roll down a grassy hill. Jump in a puddle, for crying out loud!
  • Play together with someone–your partner, a roommate, a friend, a niece or nephew. Make up a game together. Learn a Tik-Tok dance. Watch a movie with the sound muted and make up your own dialogue.
  • Ask your body, “What fun do you want to have?” Maybe your body wants to jump and move around. Maybe it wants to sing. Maybe it wants to flirt with your partner. Maybe it wants a spontaneous, delicious bite to eat.

Play can be like a rocket booster in times when we feel like we’re dragging ourselves through life. Those moments of true fun can feel elusive, but I believe there’s power in intentionally adding play to our lives. I hope you’ll find your “Running Down a Snowy Mountain” moments as you explore the possibilities of play!


References: The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children. Pediatrics September 2018 

Embracing Body Kindness

Embracing Body Kindness

Take a moment to notice how you feel about your body or what others might have said about your body. Think about the primary messages, both positive and negative, you were given about your body from family, friends, your community, media, images, doctors, church, culture, or other areas. 

Did you notice how often we receive negative messages about our bodies? Sometimes these messages may influence how we view ourselves and our bodies; leading us to judge or feel ashamed of our bodies. I know because I still struggle with eating too much in fear of gaining weight (a message I received as a child).

However I have learned through research and experience that developing body kindness can be impactful to our healing and increase our confidence and self-esteem. With such great benefits, let’s take a moment to talk about body kindness.

Body kindness is reframing judgment and shame into self-care and compassion. Body kindness is the act of creating a better life by being good to yourself. 

Body kindness is a self-care mindset and while self-care may sound simple enough, it is often difficult to execute. Fortunately, there are many different self-care practices you can do in all areas of your life. And each step you take is moving you towards body kindness. Here are a few examples of what self care can look like.

Move your Body:

  • Attend a yoga/pilates class
  • Go for a run
  • Play a sport

Have fun in your body:

  • Laugh
  • Play with pets
  • Try something new
  • Spend time in nature

Work from the inside out:

  • Allow yourself to feel and express all of your feelings
  • Repeat mantras “my body deserves to be nourished”  “I accept myself as I am today even if its not perfect”

Creative Outlets: 

  • Listen to music
  • Write in your journal
  • Draw
  • Bake something

Positive Social Engagement:

  • Talk to a positive friend
  • Join a support group
  • Learn to say no and not over-commit yourself

Connect to Calm:

  • Meditate 
  • Drink more water
  • Rest of sleep
  • Read

Remember your needs are important and taking care of yourself allows you to replenish the energy you need to go about your life. Self-care is about taking time to try different things and find out what feels good to you—something that you genuinely enjoy doing, and that fits with your lifestyle and your values.

Body Kindness is not ignoring reality but making better choices without shame. Body kindness can help us reframe the messages we have received about our body and will invite self-compassion into our lives. Beginning a daily practice of self-care will help you in developing greater body kindness. I personally have tried to speak to myself differently and to treat my body kindly and I know this has helped me AND it can help you on your own personal journey. 

Cheering you on!

Living Beyond Body Image

Living Beyond Body Image

One of my favorite ways to spend my free time is boating with friends and family. For as long as I can remember, I have looked forward to the carefree days on the lake with nothing to worry about aside from how long I can surf the wake and the downloaded playlist that will be on repeat all weekend long. As I grew older I became aware of my body and the unrealistic expectations that society was trying to force upon me. Instead of solely feeling excited, I had other feelings cropping up. Although the excitement didn’t disappear, it was accompanied by feelings of vulnerability and nervousness. Instead of living candidly like my inner child wished I could, I felt limited and distracted by the way that I was taking up space and the way that I looked in a swimsuit. One of my favorite quotes by Lindsay Kite reads, “Having positive body image isn’t believing your body looks good; it is believing your body is good, regardless of how it looks.” (Lindsay Kite, 2020). Knowing that your worth isn’t defined by the way your body looks, opens doors from the unrealistic box society tries to force us into.

Have you ever felt unworthy of an experience based on the way you perceived your body? As I think of all of the memories I would have missed out on if I were to give in and avoid certain experiences based on these uncomfortable or unknown feelings, I would have missed out on so many of my all time favorite days and events. When I think of all  of these core memories, I think of the word free. And having the freedom of not limiting myself based on the unrealistic expectations society tries to enforce upon me, requires vulnerability. As you think of your personal experience and your experience surrounding your healing journey, I want you to consider journaling about each of the following questions:

What does it mean to be vulnerable in my healing journey? 

What does freedom surrounding body image look like to me? 

Am I allowing my perspective of my body to limit my experiences?

Am I allowing myself to feel all emotions that are being brought on by my healing process or am I suppressing specific emotions in effort to avoid feeling uncomfortable? 

When we look back on our favorite memories, we are often thinking about the way that we felt, not the way we looked. Making an effort to work through uncomfortable emotions provides a pathway towards a life full of freedom and experiences that we may otherwise miss out on. 

Lessons from my Relationship with America

Lessons from my Relationship with America

I was the grumpiest one at the parade. Maybe the only grumpy one? Everyone else was smiling and laughing, all decked out in their red, white, and blue outfits. But I was having a hard time celebrating America this year. 

The last month has been heavy for me. The mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas broke and angered my heart. I was then deeply upset by the overturn of Roe V Wade and what that means for women in our country. This year, I felt like I was living in a country I didn’t recognize. 

I left shortly after the parade was over, even as my friends and my children all clamored to go to the local fair to play games and eat corn dogs. I knew I needed to engage in self-care and re-set before rejoining the day-long festivities that is our country’s birthday celebration. 

I went where I knew I would find refuge: the mountains. As predicted, after a few hours of hiking, I felt grounded and ready to enjoy the evening with family and friends.

As I hiked, I thought through my emotional experience with everything happening right now and had some important insights for myself. 

I picture our current America like a dysfunctional family. There are absolutely parts that are not going well, parts that harm people, and those things need to change. There are also many things that continue to go right. I do experience so many freedoms and live in a land, community, and country that I love. I showed up for a protest rally right after the overturn of Roe V Wade. Could I also show up and celebrate my country’s birthday as well? I asked myself to hold this complexity and nuance as I started to cook for our BBQ celebration. 

This complexity parallels so many of our relationships. Whether that’s community, family, friendships, or even our relationship with ourselves. 

It’s easy to let the scales in these relationships tip one way or the other. Maybe we focus too much on what is going wrong. Looking hard at what isn’t going right, is important. We need awareness to shine a light in dark spaces in order to know what needs to change. But only  focusing here can leave us depressed, overwhelmed, and helpless. In the week after the Supreme Court Roe V. Wade overturn, this is exactly how I felt. On the opposite end, maybe we look too much on the positive. And yes, you can look too much at the positive. This may feel comfortable, but doing so negates growth. 

Every relationship is complex and dynamic. Indeed, every human is complex and dynamic. This is part of why I love my job so much. I love witnessing and supporting humans in all their complexity. I believe strongly in my personal responsibility to hold myself, others, and relationships, in that complex nuance. 

That balance is chronically hard to achieve, and I absolutely don’t do it perfectly.  Because of that, I try to hold myself lightly in the journey. After the parade, I gave myself space to feel my sadness and distress around the state of our country. And as I allowed myself that space, while simultaneously taking care of myself, I was able to come back to the place where I could hold my own dialectical experience: the joy and pain, together. 

When I was too tilted into my distress, I fantasized about moving to Canada. I felt helpless and angry. Re-centered, I still hold my anger and distress, but I also feel compelled to show up in proactive ways. Because this is my dysfunctional family after all. When I hold my love for my country, simultaneously with my distress, I want to claim my country and advocate for change. 

 I want this lesson to deeply internalize to myself as well. When I get too down or critical about myself, I feel depressed, angry, trapped, and helpless. If I can hold myself in my complexity, which includes pretty great parts of myself too, I want better for myself. I want to show up for myself in proactive, healthy, compassionate ways. 

We are all complex and dynamic. We are all capable of growth and change. As we journey, I hope we can all hold ourselves with compassion, honoring and holding that complexity, looking hard at what we need to change, and loving ourselves enough to show up in all our dysfunction. 

At War with Yourself

At War with Yourself

Do your mind and body feel unified? Or are you constantly at war with yourself? 

A few years back I attended a yoga class that shifted my understanding of my relationship with my body, and I’d like to share that shift with you. 

​I was very new to yoga and thought it would be a fun hobby to get into. I found a spot in the back left corner of the studio and glanced around the room observing others as they prepared for class. A few moments later, our instructor had us sit at the front of our mats and tune into our breathing. She helped the class set the intention to connect with and be grateful for our bodies that were enabling us to practice yoga that day. 

As we began moving through different poses, I found myself becoming deeply emotional. I couldn’t understand where it was coming from. I felt my throat choke up as I tried to swallow the feelings down and blink away the burning in my eyes. This continued for the entirety of the class as waves of emotions passed over me, but I only partially succeeded in pushing them away. 

The class ended with a meditation lying on our backs. As I laid there, I had a realization that completely changed my life. I realized that I had been at war within myself for as long as I could remember. The subconscious war of my mind and my body. 

My body welled with emotion again as I recognized the pain I had put myself through for so long. The constant disappointment I had placed on my body as it failed to meet the expectations of my mind. This disconnection screamed at me as if my body was finally able to communicate how wrong I had been! I had been fueling an intense and gruesome war within myself and it needed to end.

I have thought so much about this experience and how to mend my relationship between my body and mind. We live in a world that distracts us from inner connection. If we aren’t careful, we allow feelings of hatred, unworthiness, and disappointment to become the foundation of our relationship with our bodies. As I have sought answers, I’ve recognized how common this separation is within all of us, big or small. 

Dr. Melissa Smith often talks about “Laying down your weapons of war”. To me, this means recognizing that we shame our bodies for not meeting our mind’s expectations, and shame our minds for not meeting our bodies expectations. 

We desperately need to view the shame, the should’s, and the disappointment within us as cruel weapons against ourselves, and LAY THEM DOWN. 

When we acknowledge the war we have created between our minds and bodies, we can begin to grasp just how vital connection really is. We are not meant to live with a constant war inside of us. Our minds and bodies were created to work together, to be unified. As we do this, we enable that connection to spread like wildfire in our life. This means greater inner peace, sense of self, meaningful relationships, and an overall increase in quality of life.