I get it, I get it! I take selfies, and I take lots of them–more than I ever even put on social media, to be honest. And I understand that selfies get a bad rap for suggesting self-absorption and infatuation with oneself. People assume that when you take a ton of selfies, it is a sign that you can’t stop looking at yourself, you think you are prettier than everyone else, or that you are trying to feel prettier due to low self-esteem.
I get it.
But here’s my take: selfies can be art, just as writing about oneself is considered art in the form of memoir. I love being able to use my own face with different lighting to convey different emotions. I love that I can portray my feelings in a form other than words, and in the same way as writing, connect with others on the level of human emotion and experience.
I understand that I am not a perfect human (this whole website is about my mistakes and downfalls, after all). I understand that I am not drop-dead gorgeous or “worthy” of a modeling contract (or however that works). But I do like how I look, and that should be totally okay. I will embrace what I appreciate about myself, but more than anything I value selfies for the reason that they are a nice way to represent, appreciate, and share oneself in a manner different from words.
“Just be happy with what you have.”
“At least you don’t have cancer.”
“Don’t look so grim.”
What all of these phrases are really saying: Your feelings are trivial.
I know most people mean well when they say things like this. The problem is, these people don’t realize that such phrases do more harm than good to help those who are suffering emotionally or physically. I often smile and nod when faced with these careless phrases, but everything inside of me screams, You don’t get it, do you!?
Assuring someone that another person always “has it worse” or that they should appreciate what they have does not ease the pain; it makes the person feel guilty for feeling what they feel, and often people push the pain down further instead of acknowledging that it’s okay to feel this way. It’s okay to feel emotional because then you can deal with it. If you keep pushing your emotion and feelings aside, then you are just fooling yourself—and for many of us here, taking it out on food (or other modes of self-harm).
Yes, “things could be worse.” If your mom died, you could say the same thing. Both your parents could be dead, right? So why be sad if “just” your mom passed? You silly girl, you have so much more to life! Perk up a little!
“DON’T LOOK SO GRIM.”
I always want to encourage positivity, so this is not a plea to complain about the woes of your life all over Facebook or bombard your friends with every little thing that goes wrong in your life. But we should acknowledge our feelings and be okay with letting someone know we are struggling.
I feel that many people don’t understand the crux of a difficult circumstance lies not in comparison to a worse circumstance, but in recognizing the emotion someone feels. There’s a difference between being negative and being real. It’s not as easy as changing the frown to a smile. That’s putting a Band-Aid over the situation. How many times have people said they wear a mask to hide the true feelings beneath? It’s because our society perpetuates this! By telling someone that they shouldn’t feel the way they do by comparing their situation to something “worse” tells them that their feelings are not justifiable.
I find this struggle very similar to the emotional complexities of racing. Telling someone who is depressed to “just be positive” or telling someone with an eating disorder to “just eat right and exercise more” is much like telling someone to “just run faster” to win a race. These phrases don’t often do much for the situation at hand.
We need to look at the psychological component, to help and support someone to handle the stress and difficultly of a race. Coach them. Give them a hug after the tough days and tell them they are allowed to feel upset and frustrated. We can’t tell them to improve without giving them a chance to vent and learn from their frustrations. My mom always gave me solid advice that it is okay to wallow in self pity and pain after a bad race for a day or two, but once that time passes, you have to pick yourself back up and move on. And I agree—because once you face your emotions and let yourself think and ask for help, you can move on.
We need people who can listen and hug and cry with and for each other, because that is how we break down the walls to rebuild again rather than trying to build on a rocky, unstable surface—
The pain beneath.
Don’t hide your pain. Feel it, embrace it, talk about it, and then yes, when you’re ready, leave it for good at last.
Most of you who read this blog already should know by now that I deal with an eating disorder, but it has taken me so long to completely come to terms with it. I have gone through denial and back-and-forth internal dialogue for so long, trying to understand and place a meaning beyond my thoughts, actions, and feelings around food. It wasn’t until now that I realized that only when I admit my demons will I completely release them.
I know, I know, I have the “eating disorder” phrase all over my website and I have basically admitted to the eating disorder for some time now, but it has taken me a long time to own up to it. I began to notice how shy and tentative I was about bringing it up with friends and family. People have asked me these past few months what my book is about, and I’d start talking about how it detailed experiences in college with racing and learning about myself—always skirting around the big “eating disorder” phrase. Heck, when I first started this blog I felt mortified to post about it on my Facebook page. Seeing the phrase “eating disorder” next to my name to announce to the world what my blog would be about scared me to no end. I didn’t want to seem like I was showcasing it or trying to make people feel bad for me. But I realized recently how feeling shy and tentative about the eating disorder makes me powerless to it.
Many of us who struggle with food see the topic of eating shameful and difficult to bring up (heck, I couldn’t even say the word “calories” out loud in my anorexia athletica stage), but we DO need to talk, and I know I am fine talking about it now once we get the conversation rolling.
So yes, I HAVE AN EATING DISORDER. It sucks, and it’s a struggle, but no one goes through life without a struggle. We can either let it destroy us, or turn it around and make it work for us—to make us into the best, strongest people we can be.
I am continually healing and growing. I have made good use out of the life lessons the eating disorder has given me and will continue to use it to help others as well as to help myself.
So—I guess this is directed especially toward the people who know me personally—ask me about my eating disorder. Share your thoughts. I will talk. I will speak. I will be open—because I want to, need to, and I am fully willing to.
I have an eating disorder.