Loving yourself with a body-focused repetitive behavior like hair pulling, skin picking, and nail biting.

Loving yourself with a body-focused repetitive behavior like hair pulling, skin picking, and nail biting.

Cultivating compassion for yourself when your mental health is fighting against it. 

It can be difficult to show yourself love when dealing with a body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB). These behaviors have two parts: the cycle of actually doing the behavior, triggered by different stimulus and leading to the a reward (the satisfaction of pulling the hair, etc), and the cycle of shame. When you do your BFRB, it is a fleeting sense of relief that is quickly replaced with shame. How do you get rid of shame? Do the behavior more. It spirals and sinks it's claws in deeper. That's what makes these behaviors so difficult to manage, and makes it difficult for the people suffering with them to set aside the shame.

How your BFRB fights your self-love

The first step to embracing self-love with a BFRB is understanding that these behaviors are not your fault. They are a chronic medical condition and while there is no cure, there is management. The only thing is that management requires work. Thankfully, one of the things you'll have to learn on your management journey is self-love. Thousands of people have learned to manage. You can too!

The reason that it's important to understand a BFRB is not your fault is so that you can start practicing self-compassion. It can be difficult to forgive yourself after an intense BFRB session. As the first step, try to see the situation objectively and remove any bias. Ask yourself questions, like a scientist. What need did your BFRB meet? You were likely using it to self-soothe. Maybe you were feeling tired, stressed, or you were trying to focus. When you can understand that your body uses your BFRB to help deal with those states of discomfort, it gets a little bit easier to show yourself compassion.

Beauty, BFRBs, and self-love

Gratitude is part of the self-love process. As difficult as it can be for your hands, or for your hair, skin, or nails - it is a good practice to get into. Your hands might be restless, but they do so much for you, practically. Try to be grateful that you have them so that you can reach and grab onto the things you want. Your hair, skin, and nails might not be the picture-perfect version of what you want, but practice thanking them regardless. They are a part of you and very resilient, just like you! More importantly, remember that beauty is not skin-deep. There are so many more aspects about you that are beautiful, and deserving of thanks. What makes you proud? Your achievements in life, your hobbies that you love, or the relationships you've cultivated? Those are all things to celebrate. Gratitude is a fun daily practice to implement into your routine. Write a list of 5 things that you love, or that you're grateful for, and try to get creative. 

There are other ways to practice self-love in your daily life. Saying mantras that empower you, catching negative self-speak and replacing it with something positive, and choosing to spend time on things that fuel your spirit are a few more. 

How does self-love affect your mental health?

The more compassion the show yourself, the more comfortable you feel in your skin! When you can feel confident and at peace, that does wonders for your mental health - including BFRB management. The more you practice self-love, the easier BFRB management will get, and vice-versa. They are very tightly linked.

Find community support for an extra dose of love

It's important to remember that you aren't the only one dealing with a BFRB. As a human being, you're likely your own worst critic. It might be easier for you to support and encourage other people than it is to show yourself that same compassion. When you meet that other people that are dealing with the same issues as you are, and that they are extremely deserving of encouragement, it can become easier for you to give yourself that encouragement, too! There are BFRB-focused support groups, social media circles, and online communities to get involved in! 

(If you are a kid with a BFRB, HabitAware hosts virtual Kid Hangouts for you to meet other kids with BFRBs)

Remind yourself that YES! You are WORTHY of love!

YOU are deserving of respect, compassion, second chances, and kindness. YOU are a wonderful person with so much to contribute. You are capable and strong. Tell yourself so! If you need a self-love reminder, try the Keen2 awareness bracelet. It vibrates when you do your BFRB as your "self-care" alarm, prompting you to choose love and redirect your hands to a healthier self-soothing strategy. Keen2 has helped thousands of people learn to manage their BFRBs. 

Living with a BFRB can make it difficult for you to see the absolute gem that you are, but the management process can be a catalyst for a journey of transformation and self-love. You've got this. 

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Header image courtesy of Element5 Digital Photography.

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