How Negative Body Image Impacted my Twenties

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WHEN I was 20 years old I was severely depressed. I was eating around 900 calories a day and running around three miles, telling myself if I could just get under 120lbs, I would be happy; I would be confident. I could start living the life I wanted to live. I was obsessed with the gap between my thighs. I wanted there to be as much distance between them as possible. I’d avoid my mother’s dinners, convinced they would ruin a shape I was working so hard to control. I would sleep into the late hours of the afternoon sometimes approaching the early hours of the evening, both a symptom of my depression and the lack of nutrients I was giving myself. I stopped menstruating for months; I fainted three times. None of this mattered to me. All that mattered was my pursuit to decrease the number on the scale.

I began restricting for the first time after my sister died in 2006 when I was 16 years old. So much had changed in my household. My parents sunk into their own depressions, too consumed with their own grief to notice how little I had started to eat. I’d only allow myself fruit, run around my neighborhood and end the day with 100 sit ups in the darkness by my bed, too ashamed of my body to do them in the light. If a day passed and I felt like I’d overeaten, I’d panic and skip two of three meals the next day. I was fascinated by how easy it was to drop pounds. How my dedication to eating next to nothing for just one day paid off instantly when I’d wake up and weigh myself the following morning.

This cycle continued off and on through the end of high school. I’d go through periods where I wouldn’t think about my weight to periods where all I could think about was my weight. Still, in the comfort of the house I had grown up in, surrounded by friends in the town I had lived my entire life, my eating restriction happened mostly in spurts around the time near big life events (prom, graduation). It wasn’t until after my parents lost their jobs and we got evicted from my childhood home that my sporadic restriction became a full-fledged eating disorder.

In 2009 my mother, sister and I relocated to Florida where I became completely obsessed with controlling my weight. A few months after moving to Florida, I had been the one to discover and break the news to my mother about my father’s infidelity, ending all hopes of a reconciliation between them. Our new life was a life of uncertainty. My mother’s depression worsened along with her health and my locus of control felt like it was shrinking day by day. In the depths of my depression fueled by a hoard of sudden life changes, I clung to the one thing I had success controlling in the past – my weight.

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Nothing to Prove.

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The need to prove myself has been something that has plagued many of the relationships throughout my life. Instead of coming as I am to foster relationships founded in authenticity, many times I have found myself pursuing relationships that don’t quite fit and in turn, I have found myself in an endless saga in which I continually seek the other’s approval. This has looked different in different relationships. In some it has meant overextending myself to make sure they know I’m dependable, or likable or that I am “good”. In others it has meant overexplaining myself and my actions to ensure that I fit in and I’m not judged.

For much of my life this felt like a normal relationship balance to me. Sure, there were times when it felt like some of the people I continued to seek relationships with didn’t quite understand me… and sure, maybe sometimes I felt myself overthinking before contributing anything in fear of how I would be viewed… and yeah, sure, there were the other times in which I’ve felt pressured to contribute or to explain myself, because maybe if I can make them understand, then they’ll like me … But was any of this really that big of an issue?

Did it matter if I felt misunderstood?

Did it matter if I felt out of place so often?

The answer is yes, but I didn’t realize how big of an issue it was until I encountered a situation in which I found myself hurt by the people I kept trying so hard to prove myself to.

I was angry. I was embarrassed. I was hurt. I felt both rejected and disrespected. But mostly, I felt annoyed with myself, for ending up there in those emotions despite everything, despite all of my efforts.

Here I was after having tried so hard to keep myself safe in these relationships. Here I was after trying so hard to say the right things and to be the person that I thought people needed and wanted. Here I was after having held so much back to be accepted.

Here I was after having tried so hard to prove that I am worthy and that I deserve love.

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Your Feelings Matter

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Something I’ve been focusing on lately is really allowing myself to feel and becoming my own source of validation for those feelings. Too often I have found myself looking outwards for validation that my feelings both matter and are warranted in a situation.

Don’t get me wrong, feeling validated is important. Everyone likes to feel like they are being heard and seen but when validation becomes something you need to justify your feelings, that is when seeking validation can become problematic.

In my post on Tiny Buddha, I talked about coming to the realization that I am a people pleaser. One of the ways I’ve seen this play out in my relationships is through the discounting of my own feelings. Whenever I’ve felt a strong reaction or emotion to a situation in one of my relationships, I’ve talked myself out of these feelings. I’ve lessened the importance of these feelings. I’ve dampened them and, on most occasions, neglected to even mention how I’ve truly felt. But during my journey into true self-love this year, I’ve seen just how damaging this can be.

Just recently I was in a situation where I felt very angry and hurt. I hadn’t felt this way in quite some time, and immediately I found myself questioning what I was feeling. Should I be mad? Was the reasoning behind my anger valid? Does it even matter that I am upset? I went into this questioning without even allowing myself to simply feel this feeling, without even allowing myself to acknowledge my anger. I went to friends and asked them if I should be mad. I went to my husband and asked him if I should be mad. I went to my sister… and the list goes on, I went searching for permission to feel what I was feeling.

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Feeling The Love: 29 Years to Self-Love

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Twenty-nine has been the first year of my life in which I have been able to experience true love and acceptance of myself.
This is the first time in my life I have ever made caring for myself first and honoring all of me a priority. At the beginning of every year I journal about all the things I want to accomplish in the year to come. I write out all of the goals I want to reach, accomplishments I want to achieve all in longs rambling lists and paragraphs falling into one another. In the past my goals have always been more materialistic in nature – things I can see, things I can touch. I’d write about how in X year I want to buy a new car or save X amount of money. I want to run a 5k in this amount of time; I want to travel here. I want to go there… all goals I would know when I reached them. Goals I can cross off my list once I got there.

As I journaled by a lake on the first day of 2019, for the first time I found myself at a loss. I was feeling emotionally full and I didn’t feel the typical excitement to start the new year I usually felt. For starters, I felt unusually tired. The walk to the lake I sat in front of had been taxing despite being a distance I usually run with no issue. I felt drained. The year hadn’t started with the same kind of fanfare and celebration previous years of my life had. When I laid my blanket next to the lake and pulled out my journal to write, I felt oddly empty. I couldn’t think of specific things I wanted to do. I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to accomplish. I wrote this in my journal, confused by my own of lack of enthusiasm. As I continued to write, I found myself getting more and more agitated by my own lack of focus.

Why couldn’t I think of anything I wanted to do this year?

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It’s Always Spring: a message to life’s “late bloomers”

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Sometimes it has seemed like everyone around me is always a step ahead and on my worst days it still feels like I keep falling further behind. Growing up I always had a clear idea of exactly where I would be by the time I was (x) age. I wrote these ideas out in great detail in my journals for years, but somewhere along the line what I planned and what life had in store for me stopped aligning. I would watch my friends getting their first boyfriends before I could even glance in the direction of someone I was interested in. I would watch my peers move onto college campuses, graduate and be accepted into graduate programs before I would even take my first college class. I see my peers creating families, buying houses and kicking ass in their careers while many areas of my life still feel like one big question mark.

The way my life ought to go was sold to me in a very specific package by parents who were more traditional than they were not and having surrounded myself with people who happen to share the same values, it is sometimes difficult to let go of what my life should look like. On my best days I tell myself exactly what I would tell a friend who is struggling with this: ‘Don’t compare your life to others. We all walk different paths.’ And I wish I could say that I live in this mindset all the time, but I haven’t. There have been the days where I feel like I’ve wasted time. There have been the days where I’ve felt like I can’t catch up. There are even days when I feel my efforts just aren’t enough.

The funny thing about this that I’ve realized is that when I start to question my life, this is the only time it feels like I’m doing something wrong or that it doesn’t measure up. But what am I trying to measure up to? Standards set by everyone but me. I think in life we have been given so many pictures and ideas of what life should look like that we get confused about what life is. Life is a j o u r n e y – a very singular one at that. We are all working our ways through such different stories; we are all creating unique, singular scripts. We. Are. All. So. Different.

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