Social comparison, including body comparison, is rampant in our culture today. Body image disturbances are prevalent across the spectrums of age, ability, sexual and gender identity, racial and ethnic groups, and socioeconomic status. You’re not alone if you feel that your pursuit to “fix” your perceived flaws feels like you’re on a hamster wheel, endlessly scrambling to find the answer to feeling better in your body. Even if what you’re doing is improving your self-esteem on some level, without improved self-compassion, your internal experience is likely to continue to suffer.
Can the pursuit of high self-esteem create body image disturbances? Though counterintuitive at first glance, this theory is rooted in research suggesting that misdirected efforts to increase self-esteem may instead contribute to narcissism, bullying, prejudice, perfectionism, and social comparison. Sound confusing? Let’s dive into some definitions to better grasp this concept.
- Self-esteem is a global evaluation of self-worth.
- Self-evaluation involves social comparisons, using the lives and qualities of others as a gauge to measure self-satisfaction.
- Self-compassion is a way of relating to yourself and your experiences that embrace 3 core components: self-kindness, common, humanity, and mindfulness.
Self-esteem gone awry, then, heightens social comparison and perfectionism in a way that may aggravate body image disturbances. What would it look like to replace the pursuit of high self-esteem with an entirely different approach? Self-compassion offers an answer worth exploring here. With the goal of treating oneself with care, kindness, and understanding, self-compassion is a powerful tool to consider for cultivating unconditional self-worth and self-nourishment for people in eating disorder recovery. If someone wants to take an initial step toward a life with greater self-compassion, one place to start is to read best-selling book Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself and take the Self-Compassion Test.
How does one begin to explore self-kindness after a lifetime of self-criticism? Thankfully there are emerging and established resources that can help you as soon as you’re ready. Consider starting to spiral up with Body Kindness by Rebecca Scritchfield. Newly released books such as The Eating Instinct by Virginia Sole-Smith and Eat to Love by Jenna Hollenstein are both excellent resources to guide you as well.
Hungry for more on self-compassion? Kristin Neff, PhD is a pioneer in the field of self-compassion and the keynote speaker for the 2019 EDRDpro Symposium. Her webinar overviews three keys for replacing self-esteem with self-compassion to pursue a life of presence, love, and connectedness. You’ll hear about the most current research linking self-compassion with wellbeing, happiness, and improved health. Finally, Dr. Neff will share some invaluable tips for integrating self-compassion in your everyday life from her 8-week Mindful Self Compassion Program (www.centerforMSC.org). Ultimately, working toward self-compassion allows us to better care for and support ourselves, our clients and our loved ones.
Learn about the power of self-compassion and its relation to body image and eating disorders (plus 12 other amazing webinars!) by registering for the 2019 EDRDpro Symposium. Join us from March 1st to March 4th alongside hundreds of health professionals, dietitians, coaches, and counselors in this online conference that will transform how we view and approach eating disorders. 13 CEUs for dietitians but all caring professionals are welcome! More information and registration available at EDRDpro. (Eating Disorder Registered Dietitians and Professionals).