Monthly Archives: June 2013

How To Be a Better Person

You don't have to run yourself into the ground to be a good person. Save some life for you!

You don’t have to run yourself into the ground to be a good person. Save some life for you!

I have this client who is really afraid that she’s not a good enough person. But here’s the thing, she’s a really good person. But she’s always afraid that she’s not good enough. She’s almost “too good,” she does everything for everyone else,  she covers other people’s shifts when she’s tired, she cooks dinner for her family every night despite having been on her feet for 12 hours (she’s an ER nurse) she takes in strays (people, pets, and projects), she listens for hours on the phone while her friends cry about the pain of life. She’s a perfect mom, friend and wife. She never says no to anyone. She is the President of the PTA, she does every cancer walk, AIDS run, she heads every committee, has big glorious parties, belongs to three different book clubs and she sacrifices her own needs for the sake of others constantly. She’s really that good. And she’s exhausted. She has explained to me several times that she’s not this good out of an altruistic sense. It doesn’t come easily to her. She feels that she has to be that good otherwise she’ll be abandoned, fired, divorced, rejected, cast aside. She wants people to like her and she believes that who she inherently is has no value so she has to constantly do and be better than everyone else to make herself invaluable and indispensable. She fears that without this quality, she would be nothing.

The title of my blog post is more irony, because I have seen in my practice that many people suffering from eating disorders have the co-occurring obsessive desire to be be good. To be better. To be better than anyone else. To be a precious commodity.

It is possible to be a really, really, really good person while still holding yourself and your health in highest regard. So how do you do that? How do you choose to be a good person without sacrificing your own self?

1. Set boundaries. Rather than saying “yes” right away, whenever you are asked to do something let people know that you will see and you’ll get back to them in 24 hours. Then, in those 24 hours, ask yourself the following questions.

a. Do I really want to do this?

b. If so, why do I want to do this? Do I want to do this for the accolades that I will get or for my own personal enjoyment? If it’s for the accolade, if you are trying to control or manipulate what other people are thinking about you, you should experiment with saying “no.”


2. Ask yourself this, “If I don’t do it will I feel guilty? If I do do it, will I feel resentful?” If it is a choice between guilt and resentment, go with the guilt. There’s no reason to do something for someone just to resent them afterwards. Sit with and work through your own guilt. This is about you and your need to be better.


3. Do things that are in line with your goals and desires for who you want to be. For instance, if you feel as though being kind and non-judgmental and holding yourself with integrity is important, then know that as long as you stick to that goal, you’ll be fine. Getting angry at someone and talking about them behind their back while still driving them to the airport won’t necessarily make you a better person. Telling them that you’re not able to and being an advocate for yourself will. Don’t worry, they will find another way to get to the airport. I promise!   You are invaluable and indispensable for who you are, not for what you do, so when you choose to be aligned with the qualities of high integrity, you just feel strong within yourself. You don’t need to constantly do for others to be better.


4. Always be kind. That doesn’t mean always do everything that people ask you to. It means being okay with people’s requests and being kind and compassionate when you tell them you cannot.

A Recovery Story

This wonderful recovery story was sent in to me this week.


Hi everyone, I am a community-based therapist in the Bay Area.  I have struggled with binge eating since I was an adolescent.  I have come a long way from the person I was at seventeen, and feel much healthier in my mind and body.  I still struggle sometimes, but have created a primarily healthy adult life.  The most valuable thing I’ve learned over the years is how to take care of myself.  My hope is to offer a perspective and some support that stems from a combination of my professional and personal experiences. 

When I was in my late teens, a very wise person told me “you just need to change the tapes in your head.”  Part of me wanted to run to the snack drawer in my family’s kitchen and inhale the homemade scones or cookies that I’d abstained from all week.  “Just change those tapes” I thought, “that’s it,” I muttered under my breath in a huff.  I was angry and sad and anxious, and in that moment at seventeen that advice felt like an insurmountable chore.  I had to lose weight first.  I had to go for a run.  Would I ever look like I did when I was sixteen?  I had to do get thin again.  My gaining weight was probably why the boy I thought I loved broke up with me.  It was clear that these were the exact tapes I was being told I needed change, but I didn’t see them as tapes.  These were true, and if I started thinking – a walk would feel good or my boyfriend and I weren’t right for each other or I was wonderful just the way I was – then I was only covering up the truth; lying to myself so I would feel better.

I’ve come a long way since seventeen.  Recovering from an eating disorder is absolutely a process that often involves several different kinds of support and levels of self-discovery.  However, just as this blog talks about the power of language – fat talk, thinking you have to do this or that – an important piece of recovery is changing those tapes, and it may be a good place to start.  Over the years, it has also become apparent to me that we too often privilege negative over positive thought.  This privileging can be attributed to the fear that focusing on positive thought means you are giving up or lying to yourself.  I have certainly been scared that focusing on the positives will mean the truth will come back and hurt.  But when we think about it, negative and positive thoughts are created in the same place, so why would we not give them equal voice?  And to take that step further, consider how negative thoughts impact your life…if I think, “I can’t have a good day unless I run” it doesn’t serve me at all, but instead I feel trapped and unable to gain consistent contentment in my life.  If I then think, “I will have a good day because I am strong and capable” that is no less true, and I feel empowered and competent.     

So, that wise person was onto something.  It took me a long time, and the forming of my frontal lobe, to recognize the power in what we say to ourselves.  I am certainly not immune to negative thinking, but I am better at stopping those thoughts or at least questioning why I am giving them power.  I encourage you to do the same.  If you have negative thoughts, pause, ask yourself where they stem from, learn from them, and then flip them upside-down.

Thanks for reading.

If you have a recovery story that you’d like to share here, please submit it to bingeeatingtherapy  (at) gmail (dot) com.