I did this exercise on values in a group at the EDU last year and it taught me some things about myself, so I thought I would share it. People with eating disorders often say that they have no idea who they are outside of their illness. I think it’s really important to find out different things that make you *you* so that you can shove them in the eating disorder’s face when it tries to convince you that you are nothing without it 😉
In the group we were given this handout called ‘Choosing your values’ from a book called ‘Get out of your mind and into your life’ (which is a great title, hehe). It had a list of different relationships (e.g. marriage, friendship) and aspects of every day life (e.g. work, spirituality), and the idea was to write down what sort of person you would like to be in that area of your life and then try and distill your answer down to one key phrase. These were my answers, with my most important values in italics:
Loyal, honest, stable, loving, fun caring and cared for, sharing interests but also having personal space, friends as well as partners – balanced
Parenting (you don’t need to have children to answer):
Caring, stable, reliable, fun, coaching – encouraging but safe
Other family relations (daughter, sister, cousin etc):
Friendly, fun, supporting and supported – independent but belonging
Loyal, reliable, fun, fair, balanced, supportive, kind – spontaneous but dependable
Reliable, full of initiative, good problem solver, confident, public service, conscientious, organised – resourceful
Education and personal growth:
Intelligent, innovative, inquisitive, open minded, insightful, conscientious – willing to be challenged
Fun, interesting, creative, expressive, inspirational, productive, educational – challenging but relaxing
Enquiring, curious, understanding, whole – open minded
Helpful, useful, fair, a good influence, reliable, supportive – involved
Fit, athletic, strong, healthy, well balanced – resilient
The last and most important part of this exercise was to rate each area in two ways: how important it is in your life and how well you are living this value at the moment. This gave me and some of the others a bit of a kick up the butt, because it showed us how far from our real values our eating disorders had taken us. I want to be involved in the community around me, but I’m virtually a hermit. I want to be strong and resilient, but my physical health is appalling. I want to be challenged, confident and valuable in my education and career but I’ve had to drop out of university three times and I haven’t had even a summer job for six years. I want to have meaningful, healthy, fun and balanced relationships, but the only people I have regular contact with are my family and various mental health professionals. The first time I did this exercise it helped me start to separate myself from the anorexia – it’s clear from this that I am not my illness, because I value completely different things. If I were to answer this according to my anorexia’s values, it would go something like this:
Intimate relationships: alone forever
Parenting: no point answering, no menstrual cycle
Family relationships: self sufficient and closed off
Career/employment: too weak to function in the real world
Education and personal growth: excuse me, growth is a dirty word!
Recreation/leisure: obsession and pain
Citizenship: invisible and needless
Health and wellbeing: dead
Despite the fact that this exercise shook me a year ago, I still let the eating disorder lock these insights back up and consume me again. I’m not going to let that happen again.
If any of you guys wanted to try this exercise you are more than welcome to post about it, it’d be really interesting to read about what you thought 🙂
I had a pretty good day today. I started making a necklace for a friend who is in hospital at the moment, and that gave me an idea for keeping myself occupied for the next couple of weeks – I’m going to put on a bit of a competition 🙂 the ones that other bloggers do always look like fun! To enter, you just have to leave a comment telling me your two favourite colours (needed for the prize) and the main thing which motivates you in recovery (I wanted to write about that as well but it’s going to have to happen some other time this week, I think this post is quite long enough!). I’ll take entries for a week, then assign all the comments numbers and use a random number generator to pick two, and then I will make those two people a piece of jewellery in whichever colours they chose. You can link back to this post in your blog if you want to tell other people about this, but you don’t have to – I’m not doing this to advertise my blog, I just like making jewellery for people 🙂
Three good things about today:
1. Re-reading and re-doing the exercise on values – I had forgotten the impact it had on me the first time round.
2. Weird but very wonderful lunch: mashed avocado, beetroot and pea protein powder (Ellie, I found a use for it!), onions and grated carrot and courgette on a gluten free pizza base. I heated the pizza base and onions up in the oven and put the rest on afterwards. I love beetroot!
3. Getting my beads out for the first time in a while – I’ve been meaning to get back into jewellery making but the 2pm panic attacks have been getting in the way. I got in their way instead today 🙂