Being brave and taking risks: a common theme in recovery

If you’re reading this with a couple of seconds to spare, take a moment to ask yourself:

When was the last time you did something brave?
What did it feel like before you did it?
What did you feel like after?

When we think of “bravery”, often an image of a courageous warrior about to go into battle appears in our heads. But what does it mean when we are brave?

Pippa Richardson, our Yoga and Body Awareness Therapist, recently shared her copy of Teen Breathe’s “Be Brave” booklet with us. Within it they say: “bravery isn’t about being fearless…bravery is when you recognise that you are afraid but do it anyway.”

One of the most powerful lessons in recovery comes when we recognise that the eating disorder keeps us living in fear, as opposed to living with bravery and love. What does this mean?

Eating disorders arise when we have lived through an experience – or lots of different experiences – that have taught us that we’re not safe in our day-to-day lives. They develop as a means of keeping us feeling safe and in control when otherwise we’d feel overwhelmed with fear and anxiety. They “mask” our ability to connect to our fear by focusing our attention on other, more tangible things such as weight, calories or clothing sizes.

When we live in fear – either consciously or sub-consciously – we are questioning our place within the world. But when we decide recover from our eating disorder, we’re bravely admitting that we have a problem and that it might be bigger than we are. Secondly, we’re acknowledging that we have developed patterns of behaviour that have become so ingrained they’ll require gradual incremental changes to undo.

This process isn’t linear. Challenges arise throughout recovery journeys in all different aspects of our lives. It can be tempting to revert to old behaviours that bring about a false sense of comfort and safety. Being brave means to acknowledge that we’re undergoing these challenges, no matter how scary they may be, and acknowledge that we can take steps (right now, however small!) to overcome them.

When these challenges arise we are faced with two options: evolve or repeat. If we evolve, we acknowledge the place that we’re in and decide to work from it towards a place of loving intent. If we repeat, we’re exacerbating our reliance on that negative pattern of behaviour.

When we decide to evolve, we’re telling ourselves that we’re worth recovery. For someone suffering with an eating disorder, sometimes merely having this belief in our self-worth is brave.

Next time you’re faced with a challenge, ask yourself: am I going to evolve or repeat? By asking this question we move from a reactive state (basing our response on fear) to a more mindful state where we can step back and assess what the right step would be. This is bravery.

Some other ways you can reinforce feelings of bravery:

  • Create a vision board of your favourite brave quotes
  • Set reminders of encouraging quotes on your phone
  • Write a letter to your future, recovered self and consider what you need to do today
  • Watch Brene Brown: The Call to Courage on Netflix and prepare yourself for happy tears!

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