Repeat After Me. I Am Enough.
A couple of days ago, a student came up to me after class. She looked at me, lifted up her shirt, grabbed her lower belly with both hands, pulled it forward, and tightly squeezed her fingers deep into her flesh. “Look how fat I am! I am disgusting! I hate my body!”
My heart broke into a million pieces and dropped deep into the pit of my stomach right then and there. I flashed back to being 12 years old and standing in front of the mirror in my bedroom, completely naked, using a magic marker to draw dotted lines along the parts of my body I dreamed about someday having liposuctioned. Once, I took a knife to my stomach thinking I could actually cut out some of the fat (thank god I was smart enough to not go through with something so ridiculous!) I remembered the hundreds of hours of self-hating, angry, defeated, rageful internal hate talk that I wasted so much energy on, so many days of my precious life being taken for granted all because of my obsession with not looking good enough.
The next day another student came up to me and said, “You know, you never looked different to me. I see some of these women at the gym and it’s so obvious! You didn’t look anorexic at all!
Um, thanks? This came as both a strange compliment, a surprise, and a hurtful stab. Partly this is because, as you know, I’ve recently taken my gentle, bruised heart and laid it out for all to see. It makes perfect sense that I’m in a sensitive place, but there’s so much more to this. You see, when I started recovery, when anyone is in recovery, it felt like all eyes are on you. It felt like everyone around me was constantly judging how my body was changing. It felt like EVERYONE knew I was gaining weight. Whether it was just my brain playing evil tricks on me or not, I could feel people looking at me (friends, family, strangers) and thinking I looked different, but not saying anything because they were just being nice. It felt like being 12 years old again, hating every part of my body, wanting to cut it off and scream and wail in a fury of disgust, except this time, I couldn’t “fix” it. I couldn't go backwards. Imagine your brain being stuck on a loop- a broken record if you will of “mean girls” slander. I was trying to grow. I was crawling into the darkness to find some sense of what, at the seed of my soul I knew to be true.
When I realized I needed to heal, it was because I knew I wanted to be a source of love for the world around me and that, unless I loved myself in all my forms, the beautiful, the shameful, the joyful, the sadness, the fat, the rolls, everything, there was no way I could authentically give love to others. I could no longer starve myself because my body was literally not allowing it to happen. I could not longer diet, restrict, “just have a smoothie for dinner”, or “juice fast” for a few days to get “back on track” because I was recovering from a life of doing ALL those things ALL the time. This isn’t just about feeling guilty for eating two pieces of cake, or having too much pasta and physically feeling like crap because of it, this is a mind game. It’s about shame and the need for control and perfection. It’s about being in a constant state of feeling “not...enough” and only having freedom from that feeling when you starve.
What I’ve learned is that being true to yourself, being vulnerable, authentic, and real, is about loving and accepting yourself in every single fucking way. Loving myself means softening up on negative self talk, it means having compassion for myself when things don’t seem to be going right, it means being okay with my body no matter how my weight shifts. Today, I probably ate my weight in pumpkin peanut butter brownies... did I ruin my life? If you’d talked to me six month ago the answer would probably have been, yes. But guess what, today, it’s a hell no I did not ruin my life! I have a tummy ache, yes, so I won't do that again (haha!) but my life is not over! I am experiencing the gift of Fall and will eat all the pumpkin flavored everything Fall has to offer! It means looking at my belly rolls (everybody has these!) and smiling and being so fucking grateful that I have this vessel that helps me experience life’s joys and allows me to give love to the people around me. It means having that cupcake and taking a hot bath when I’ve had a rough day. It’s treating myself the way I would treat my daughter, my sister, my best friend. Can you imagine telling your best friend she is fat and ugly? I would NEVER say the things I’ve said privately to myself to another living soul! Never! You know why? Because it’s cruel. It’s abuse. It’s wrong on so many levels. It’s also not true and it’s MEAN. It means showing my deeply broken, child self that she is also worthy and deserving of love. So much of what we do and think is shaped by parts of our past that still need healing. Loving yourself is an unconditional act and that choice will ripple into every single part of your life.
From the perspective of someone recovering from any ED, saying that you can, “see women at the gym who are anorexic,” is probably not the most compassionate of things to say, but I get it. I get it because if you haven’t been there, there’s absolutely no way you will be able to comprehend this experience. I also get it because last year, I was one of those people who didn’t get it.
The world is not black and white. People are not just anorexic or obese or pretty or ugly. We are beautifully complex and unique. No one person is going to have the same exact body type as someone else and it is insane not to recognize that. We are gifted this beautiful fucking vessel so that we can walk, play with our children and nieces and nephews, pet puppies!, hang out with our best friends, pick up forks and flowers, give and get kisses, have sex!, buy dino kale, win at Scrabble, drink Kombucha, etc. I urge you to stop the negative self talk, the comparing your body to anyone else's, and do away with any sadness about the way you are in this exact moment. We talk to ourselves more than we talk to anyone else. Think about it. We live in our heads! Ask yourself if the words you secretly speak are words you would use with the people you love. We don’t have that much time on this earth. Start loving exactly who you are in this moment. Every. Single. Part. Deserves. Unconditional. Love.
“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be, and embracing who we are.”- Brene Brown