3 Ways to Quit the Self-Esteem Game


1. Stop monitoring your “self-care.” Sure, it’s wonderful to take a cinnamon bubble bath, read the Witches by Roald Dahl, knit toe socks, and otherwise nourish yourself, but self-care is a side-effect of enjoying God and glorifying Him, not the goal. Self-care is the fruit, not the tree.

2. Stop sweating to win. Guess what. There are people better at life than you. There will probably always be someone better than you. And even if you are the world-proclaimed champion of this-or-that, you’ll always be terrified that people will realize that you’re just you. So jump out of the game now. Stop faking strength or hiding strength, be honest about where and who you are, and start doing what you do for the glory of God rather than the glory of you.

3. Read Job or the first few chapters of Hosea. God is not comfortable. The self-esteem game pursues what you need for your recovery – a faithful significant other, a cookie, or alone time. But Jesus doesn’t preach healing through comfort and happiness, though He does promise healing. When we submit to Jesus, our lives fall apart. Old routines split like plastic grocery bags, spilling treasured dreams like eggs in the middle of the parking lot. But it’s only through the process of losing ourselves and our comfort that we are forced to rely on Jesus, and it’s only in His arms that we find healing.

Why isn’t self-esteem the answer?  Here’s what I think.

What do you think about high self-esteem? Is it really necessary for recovery, or is there a better path toward healing? Spark the conversation with a comment!


Aloneness (Response to a Video)

This is a beautiful video. I love how she treasures solitude and embraces silence. The practice of aloneness is easily crowded out by lists and assignments and the feeling of unwantedness that often comes attached to aloneness.  But if I release fear and allow myself to be alone, I make space to not just act, but to listen.

Often being alone means I’m free to binge/purge/cut/otherwise engage in stupid behaviors. But do I use bulimia to hide me from the intimacy of solitude? Am I afraid of being alone because I’m afraid of facing myself in all my messiness, and worse, being naked under the piercing Light of my Creator?

In the Bible, worship practiced in solitude is contrasted with religious pomp, which today could look like running VBS, singing on the worship team, leading a bible study, going on mission trips, and joining all the camps and conferences and retreats that come your way (Matthew 6:1-34). But when you close your door and strip away all performance, you are able to be humble and still. 

I have begun to walk alone in the mornings, and I have been called to be single for this time in my life, and I have not yet found my “group” at college, and I am glad in all of this. Not because I’m “happy in my head,” but because I’m joyful in my soul, for my stillness has become an openness to Jesus, and my solitude has become a quiet sanctuary for worship.

I want to continue to practice being alone with my God, my holy sweetness. To stop barricading my heart with noise and fall still and open.

How do you feel about being alone? Answer in the comments!


I am learning to say enough.

When chattering calories surface, I say enough. When I crave another handful of chocolate chips, I say enough. When I am walking through a store and start gathering odds and doodads, I put them back and say, I have enough. When I feel overwhelmed by college looming on the horizon, I say, I am enough because Jesus is more than enough.

Enough is not a bald desert, it’s a content simplicity. I am not hungry, so I will not eat the rest of my apple. I am hungry, so I will eat a brownie. I need a coat, so I will buy a snazzy maroon pea coat at a thrift store. I don’t need a car, so I won’t buy one.  I watched a movie yesterday, so I won’t watch a movie today.

As I say enough, I clear space in my life for what really matters – bringing God glory and enjoying him forever.

But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. – Psalm 131:2

What do you think? Have you learned to say “enough?” Tell me in the comments!

The Three Pitfalls of Intuitive Eating

1. Slavery to hunger. Every time your stomach feels a pang, you drop everything and fix yourself a snack, terrified that leaving hunger unwatched will push you into a binge. You eat a little beyond the full point, because you’re afraid of starving yourself (understandable, especially if you’ve suffered with anorexia or anorexic behaviors in the past). You obsessively check in with yourself – am I hungry? Am I hungry now?

2. Slavery to the rules. You wrote the rules all over your kitchen, freezer, pantry, bedroom door. You chant them to yourself before you eat. And when you break them, you feel so guilty that you say, “I can’t even do intuitive eating. I’m a failure” and give up.

3. Slavery to fullness. You use the stop when you’re full statute to skimp on your meals. Instead of eating until you are satisfied, you take the minimum bites to ease your rumbly belly. You feel hungry, but you tell yourself you’re not sure if it’s “real hunger.”

Life happens. You’re at a birthday party, or you’re watching a movie and munching popcorn and milk duds, or you forgot to plan and ended up without lunch. It’s okay. Remember the definition of normal eating? Trust your body to make up for lapses.

You’re still figuring this out. You’ll make mistakes. Just examine yourself, recognize the pitfalls you’ve tripped into, and crawl back out again. You’re okay. You can eat normally, and intuitive eating can help get you there. Believe in the process and persevere.

Do you struggle with any of these pitfalls? Have you found a trick that helps keep you on track? Let us know in the comments!

Gumption and Fingernail Clippers

Approaching the end of my comfort zone is like approaching a 10-foot, prison-grade barbed wire fence with fingernail clippers. Not toenail clippers, fingernail clippers. Run a 5k? Teach a creative writing class? Teach an art class? Get a job? Go to a rigorous liberal arts school? Sell a short story? Ha. I’ll just go trim my nails, thanks.

When I first began recovery, my comfort zone was as spacious as a hamster cage. Walking downstairs was a challenge. Just eating dinner with my family every night exhausted me to the point of isolation. I was scared of everything. And I was so, so tired, both physically and emotionally.

I remember when an adventure was a choice to go to the store. Smells, people, food, I braved them all. I was proud, and I deserved it. I remember when wearing shorts was a magnificent joust with bulimia. When writing a short story left me trembling and pale. When calling a friend left my heart pounding and my emotions reeling. But clip by clip through the barbed wire, I reclaimed my gumption.

This summer I accomplished all of that scary list, from the 5k to putting down my deposit at New Saint Andrews College. I am no longer exhausted, my body and soul are healing. Curiosity sweetens my lips. I am filled with joyfear for the future.

Clip by clip by clip, I’ve sprung the fence of my comfort zone. Now I’m walking into the open field, vulnerable and irrepressible. I kick off my shoes, breathe the perfume of dandelions, and blow a thousand terrifying wishes.

God & Spilled Milk

I use God like I use Perfect Recovery.  I am spiritually illuminated by a book, retreat, or sermon, so I launch into a New Life with Jesus. I construct bible reading plans, fasts, prayer time, and accountability groups.

I create a different identity and a different life that are much more worthy to lay at the feet of the Creator God of the Universe. I create a new self empowered with multivitamins and the Lord’s Prayer instead of surrendering who I am in the moment. I create an alternate life jammed with new good habits and purged of old bad ones.  I use spirituality like make-up, highlighting the best and concealing the worst.

Then I spill the milk. After all my spiritual perfection, I accidentally reveal the real me – bulimic, cutter, needy, greedy. And I immediately pull away from God. I can’t meet him when I’m ugly. I only want intimacy with him when it makes me look better.

God has so much more for me (and you!) than that. He already knows me keeled over the toilet, a toothbrush jammed down my throat. He already knows me with a knife tugging through my skin. He already knows me stumbling across porn on tumblr and lingering too long. He knows me. I can’t hide from him by refusing intimacy with him.

But if I look up to him in that ugly moment, something new happens. I confess where I am, what I’m doing, what I’m looking at. And his sweet forgiveness rushes in to wash me pure, his strength moves my fingers to make a different choice, his conviction slices through self-deception and gives me the clarity to cry out and run in the opposite direction.

I become too wrapped up in my Savior and His adventure with me to hate myself. It’s just not about me anymore. It’s about Him.

If anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing messy. And a relationship with God is so worth doing.

Transformation & Spilled Milk

Photo by Dan Pupius

It’s your first shot at recovery. Or perhaps it’s your hundredth. Perhaps you’re crawling out of a long relapse, bloated and hungry and tired of lying to yourself. So you create a Recovery Plan, perhaps with bible studies to complete, friends to call, exercises to finish, and books to read. You wake up glittering shining on Day One, committed to Intuitive Eating or Josie Lenore. You’ve reblogged “No Binge August” and written “1 Days Since Purging” on your mirror. You’ve tattooed the eating disorder recovery symbol on your wrist. This time, you won’t mess up. This time, no milk will be split.

Until you do. And milk goes sprawling across the table.

Then you’ve ruined your Perfect Recovery. You’ve messed up again. You tried your hardest, so you must just not be strong enough for recovery. You did your best, so you’re obviously not good enough. You’ve been in your disorder too long, you’re carrying too many scars, this recovery thing is not for you. So you leap back into your disorder. It’s all or nothing. Either you do it perfect, or you don’t do it at all.

Perfect Recovery is just another extension of your disorder. It’s crushing black & white thinking disguised as something wholesome. But it’s not wholesome. It will drag you down just as surely as vomiting, bingeing, and starving. You’re trying to create a Perfect Self with all the right answers for the therapists and for herself – just like your eating disorder is trying to create a Perfect Self with control, beauty, and strength. Both are destructive.

My friend said something crazy last night when I confessed to my perfectionistic ways. He said, “If anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing messy.”

What? You mean recovery is worth doing up to my elbows in spilled milk? Even if today I binged, yesterday I cut, and my head is a whirlwind of lies? It’s worth it to just keep going? To confess my failures and move on into fresh success, then stumble again, confess again, move on again? To accept my disordered, goofy, clueless, flibbertigibbet self as I really am – broken, needy, and hungry for truth?

It’s only in that place, when I accept that I am desperate, incapable of perfect, that I can give all the Transformation power to Jesus. I can’t transform me. But he can. Jesus sees me down to my core. I can’t fake it for him like I fake it for myself. He knows that I can’t squeeze and bludgeon myself into perfection. He knows that six months out, I’ll still have a rumbling stomach for Perfect, Skinny, and Power. And he takes me anyway.

I’m no longer in control. I’m no longer worshipping my own Perfect Self. I’m where I’m supposed to be, open handed, centered on Jesus, letting go of myself. And that’s when healing happens. That’s when recovery happens. Because I never had the power to make them happen in the first place.

Release perfect. Get sticky. Anything worth doing is worth doing messy.