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Be Brave: The importance of courage in eating disorder recovery

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One of my personal ‘anthems’ is Brave by Sara Bareilles. In the song, she addresses the impact of shame, negative self-talk, and the importance of communicating to others what you feel or think. Similarly Dr. Brene Brown, a research professor, who has studied courage, shame, vulnerability and empathy has expressed the importance of “speaking your truth” and “owning your story” as key elements for courage. However, it can be difficult to tell others how you’re struggling and how many thoughts about food and your body dominate your mind. You might worry that others will judge, or simply not understand. However, when we keep our negative feelings and thoughts to ourselves they tends to fester and grow.

Brene Brown (2015) also states that bravery is found in “asking for what you need”, “setting boundaries”, and “reaching out for support”. Telling others what you need carries the risk of rejection, but it also carries the potential benefit of being better understood and supported in the way that benefits you the most. Maybe you need someone to sit with you at mealtimes, or perhaps you need someone to distract you and push you to get out of the house and to a movie. We all need different things, which makes it hard for others to guess what helps you without you telling them directly.  Saying no or setting boundaries helps protect and empower you, but it carries the risk of losing (albeit likely unhealthy) relationships. It can be helpful to view your ED as a relationship in your life with which you need to set boundaries, and if you're ready,  to end. You’ll feel some feelings of anxiety and resistance when you challenge the way your ED controls your life, but you will also grow stronger. 

All the elements of bravery and courage include an element of risk and facing fears, yet all these will help you in your recovery from your eating disorder.  Share your story with someone you trust and who will be compassionate, tell others what you need to help you in your recovery, set boundaries with your ED, seek support and “Be Brave”.

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- This website lists several supportive resources in the Waterloo-Wellington area under the ‘Services’ section.

Learn more about the research and work of Brene Brown in the book Daring Greatly (2015) and at https://brenebrown.com/

Carrie Pollard, MSW RSW