Q: Self worth – How have you learned to love yourself more?
I believe that self exploration helps us to find our self worth. Without knowing ourselves on a deeper level, we can’t learn to appreciate who we are.
I thought that after admitting to my mom that I had an unhealthy relationship with food, everything would improve. I thought I had gotten it all out, that I would just move on and lose weight again, get back on track, and try to forget all the bingeing that had been a result of restricting for so long.
A close friend finally got more out of me. But that was months after talking to my mom. It was when I talked to this friend that I realized there was a lot more pent up emotion than I thought. But I figured our conversation was the end of it all at last.
“It’s not like I need professional help or anything.” I can’t tell you how many times I said this each time I found myself explaining what I was going through. Talking certainly helped, but things weren’t improving like I thought they should. I tried to “fix” myself by going on yet another diet, closing myself off from the world, diving into more and more books about nutrition and blaming myself for going “out of control” when I felt the sugar cravings and yearning for food dominate everything. I lost so much time in my life that could have been spent elsewhere–hanging out with friends, writing, and enjoying my college years.
It has been a long journey to self acceptance. I reached a new chapter of my life with each talk and with each new journal entry, but the process sped up when I met with an eating disorder therapist and dietician. My voice, the true Rachael, was coming out at last.
The process took longer than I, or anyone (besides my therapist), probably ever expected. It wasn’t until this past summer, nearly a year after seeking professional help, that I realized I needed to be okay with where I was at my with my current weight and move on with my life. There would be no “I will live life when I am X pounds” anymore. I had to accept that. I had to accept me, just as I was, in that moment, as if I would stay that way for the rest of my life–even if it hurt.
Once I had accepted myself, I felt I could move on with my life. But something was still holding me back. I had to speak with my parents more openly about where I was in my life with food. I could not move on until they were on board, too. It took a few talks before we were on terms with everything. My dad proved to be a challenge, as the eating disorder world was a mystery to him. But by communicating more with my parents and friends, I was finally able to accept where I was and how they could support me.
I hadn’t realized how far I had come in accepting myself until one day I realized that I didn’t need a number on the scale or the number of calories to determine my day. I felt a sense of freedom of not knowing. Those days were far and few between, but they are becoming more frequent.
This is such a gradual process that you may not see or feel it at first, but over time you heal. One day you may look back and realize how far you have come. There will be small revelations here and there throughout the process, as well as ups and downs, but there is no “secret” that will have you feeling bad one day and cured the next.
Beyond Eating Disorders
I think with anything, whether it be an eating disorder or any other traumatic experience in life, self acceptance, or accepting a new change in your life, takes time. Allow yourself to heal, grieve, and find ways to be kind to yourself. For me it meant taking away the scale, not allowing myself to look in the mirror from the neck down (this is a hard one, but I find the less I do it the less negative thoughts float through my mind), writing, and talking it out (which meant being open with friends and family no matter how embarrassing it felt).
Not everything will be smooth once you find self acceptance. The most important thing that my therapist told me is that I will learn to accept myself, but being happy with my body will take the longest to happen. Once I accepted that possibility, it was easier to find other parts of myself to accept before I accepted my body.
I am not satisfied with my body, but I am more so than I did before. I still compare myself–I think we all do–but I am much more confident with who I am because of everything I’ve learned about myself. And honestly if it hadn’t been for this eating disorder, I don’t think I would have done as much self-reflection as I have these past few years. It has made me into the stronger person that I am today.
Self acceptance to self worth. It’s a process.