No matter how many times I may look in the mirror and find what is wrong with my weight, sometimes what I really need to look at is what I can improve on in myself–who I am, how I represent myself to others, and how I can improve my relationships with friends and family. I seem to forget how I relate to others when I have put so much emphasis on the relationship with myself–which certainly needs to be strong, but I do want to avoid limiting myself to just my experience.
I’ve begun to notice this downfall of mine more and more over the years, but it took a good friend of mine to be honest and point it out. While the mirror has been so blurred and confusing in terms of physical weight, this wake-up call was a whole new weight for me to bear—and hearing it a second time never made me feel so mentally heavy and paralyzed.
I did not cry. And for me, that’s saying something, because I cry a LOT. I think the lack of tears was due to the realization that I was finally told something that I had been thinking about for some time now, but just needed someone to firmly point it out—and not in an accusing way, but simply as an observation.
This observation confirmed my discomfort. The honesty hit me hard, but it also brought a sense of relief. I was thankful it took someone close to me—someone who I value their thoughts and opinion—because it made the wakeup call that much stronger. I only wished I hadn’t acted that way for someone I care about. Luckily it may help save me in future relationships with friends and family, and help me to conduct myself in a way that is more fitting to the kind of person I want to be and the kind of person other people want to be around.
It’s painful, especially as a perfectionist, to hear where I am not so perfect. To hear something that doesn’t measure up to the kind of person I want to be makes me realize how blind I have been. Automatic response? Panic, self-loathing, a resolve to work harder and fix it immediately. But I know there can’t be an automatic fix, and that simply being more aware of this part of me and allowing myself to gather and accept feedback from others is critical in my growth. I don’t want to change everything about who I am of course, but I do want to work on something that I know doesn’t represent the person I want to be. It is in recognizing our imperfections that we learn to become better people.
The good thing about all of this is that it’s yet another thing that will help me move on from the eating issues because it allows me to avoid focusing so much on my appearance, and more on how I conduct myself in front of others and avoid limiting myself and my views. Eating disorders are limiting, and so is the perfectionist who refuses to see what keeps her tied down. I love myself and want to continue to grow, and I will love myself enough to recognize what I want to fix—not because I feel I should change for others to like me more, but because of how I feel I should change for myself.
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.