How to cope with an identity crisis during recovery
For many people who have struggled with disordered eating or exercise behaviours for long periods of time, it is all too easy to get so swept up in these patterns, they become a foundational part of your identity and how you define yourself. So, naturally, recovery can pose a threat to the carefully constructed version of yourself you’ve created. If you’ve become used to thinking of yourself as an active, “healthy”, fit individual, having your exercise and food patterns taken away from you or challenged can feel like a direct threat to your identity. It can feel like suddenly everything you do and think of yourself as has been suddenly stripped away, and you’re left looking at a blank canvas…
So how do you cope with this identity crisis if it presents itself during your recovery?
1. Think of it as an opportunity.
Mindset is everything when it comes to a crisis of identity. While you might immediately feel panicked, lost, or overwhelmed by the loss of your sense of self and the routines and rituals you’ve come to define yourself by, shifting this mentality can make a world of difference.
Instead, think of this “blank canvas” as an opportunity rather than something to fear and avoid. Think about how you want the canvas that showcases you and your identity to look. What is important to you? How do you want people to think of you, and feel around you? What areas of your life can you give more attention and dedication to, now that you have more mental space and capacity to give?
Instead of fearing the discomfort that this identity crisis can bring, instead choose to look upon this as a chance to redefine and rediscover yourself, and the person you really want to be. You’re no longer defined or held back by the “old you”, or the behaviours and patterns associated with that version of yourself. This is your chance to be exactly who and what you hope to be. Seize that opportunity! Get excited!
2. Broaden your world.
In your quest to see this identity crisis as an opportunity to define the person you want to be, lean into the chance to discover new passions and things that make your soul smile!
While previously, food and movement may have taken up the majority of your brain space, time and energy, now you have so much more capacity to dedicate to other areas of your life!
So get curious… Try new things. Discover new hobbies. Spend time doing things that truly bring you joy and leave you feeling fulfilled. Spend time with the people who fill your cup.
This is such an exciting time, if you choose to see it this way. Challenge yourself to get out there, forge new connections and friendships, try the salsa dancing class and the pub trivia night, go out dancing with your friends. Lean in to anything which makes you smile and appreciate yourself and your life. Because you can.
If you can make the most of your newfound brain capacity, energy and openness, this is such an exciting time for you to open up your world beyond just food and exercise, and invite in the things which truly light you up.
3. Ask your loved ones why they love and appreciate you.
This one might feel awkward initially, but there’s never anything to fear or be embarrassed about when it comes to asking your loved ones for support.
Ask your friends, family and loved ones why they value and love you. We guarantee the answer won’t be, “Because you’re this size and shape,” or “Because you eat healthily,” or “Because you workout five times per week.”
Your loved ones appreciate you for how you make them feel! Ask them to remind you what it is that you bring to their lives, and lean in to whatever their responses may be! If they say you make them feel seen and heard, ask yourself how you can continue to show empathy and acceptance to those around you. If they say you make them laugh, how can you continue to bring humour to the lives of your loved ones by being authentically yourself?
Recognise your identity is shaped by so much more than the way you look, or how you eat and move your body… Even if you’ve been unaware of it until now. Asking for outside help to define yourself, your values, and what you hold most important is a great starting point to figuring out what you want to dedicate your energy towards – such as being a good friend, family member, partner, parent, whatever it may be!
The depth of connection you can achieve when you work towards full recovery is so beautiful – so choose to invest your energy and identity in meaningful places like this!
4. Push through the discomfort.
Of course there is discomfort that arises in challenging your own identity, and this mould you’ve created of yourself after such a long period of time. In breaking that mould, you leave yourself exposed and vulnerable, and that can be scary! But don’t let the fear or discomfort hold you back, or keep you trapped in the mould…
Be stronger than the discomfort, and choose to step outside your comfort zone. With vulnerability comes strength, connection, rawness and openness. And that is so beautiful. Embrace this opportunity to truly figure out who you want to be, and in doing so leave the person you were behind. Recovery gives you the chance to look to the future and embrace the vibrance and brightness it can offer – instead of being constrained by the past and the old expectations you placed upon yourself.
Embrace this chance wholeheartedly, and enjoy every moment of your identity crisis – it’s the first step in welcoming the new, happy, balanced, fulfilled version of you, and what a worthwhile step that is!
Right now, you have the chance to redefine who you are and what you want your future to look like – and that is SO empowering!
Remember your WHY – what you’re fighting for and working towards – and let that guide you when it all feels a bit too hard. Reach out, ask for help, and trust the process. It won’t happen overnight. But when you achieve full freedom, and you feel the joy and relief of recovery, you’ll be so thankful for the you in this moment, who committed to the journey and pushed past the discomfort to discover the person you truly want to become.
Need some support working through your own identity crisis, and staying strong and committed to your recovery journey? Join us in Recovery Club today for access to all the tools, strategies and support you need along every stage of your road to full recovery!
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Hi future friends, I’m Sarah King, an Accredited Exercise Physiologist and health coach.
Science, not trends is the foundation of my approach. By nourishing the body and mind with scientific facts we can build foundations for a life of realness, not just wellness.