For a very long time I thought that because I am neither extremely skinny nor starving, that I did not have enough ‘experience’ to be able to discuss the extent to which weight, food, and body image controlled years of my life. I had convinced myself that because I was not restricting the point of exposed bones, amenorrhea, or starvation and because I wasn’t binging and purging on a regular basis, that I wasn’t troubled enough to begin talking about the topic.
Essentially, I had convinced myself that because I failed at being someone with an eating disorder that ticked off all the clinical diagnostic criteria – that I couldn’t speak to anybody about it. The tiny person in my head who feeds on negative thoughts cursed me for not being good enough to suffer from a fully-fledged eating disorder. Oh the irony.
I recently spent the evening with a wonderful friend who made me want to open that space in my writing for the thing that’s been taking up the majority of my attentional control, and more so my energy.
I feel brave enough to attempt to explain how I have felt over the past few years, primarily to reach out to anyone else who has had the displeasure of these feelings but also to free the space in my mind that these feelings occupy. Specifically, I feel brave enough to discuss how a preoccupation with being desirable, beautiful, and perfect by other people’s standards has robbed me of so many beautiful moments in the past few years of my life.
I want to write about how much time I wasted wishing I was strong enough to exert the self-control it took to starve myself, about how I spent hours in my bathroom angry and crying at myself for not being able to restrict my calorie intake enough to reach unattainable standards of ‘beauty.’ I want to explain how the resentment caused by this seeped into every facet of my personality, how every achievement was undermined by ‘yes, but you still can’t starve yourself.’
I want to write about how I spent birthdays, New Year’s Eves, Easters, and normal days in-between with my fingers down my throat. I want to tell you how it is to be bent over a toilet with raw knuckles, a sore throat, and sick in your hair. I want to tell you how contradictory in nature it is to try and reach perfection with such imperfect methods. I want people to know how ugly it is to spend all that time in a bathroom, when you could be making memories with your loved ones.
I want to write about how sad it is to think back on all the conversations I had with my mother, my baby brothers, and my friends that I only half participated in because the majority of my attention was spent on how overweight and flawed I felt. I want to write about how much I want those moments back, that if I were given a chance to go back I would fully immerse myself in those interactions, without a second thought to my weight or body image.
I need to write about how some things really do taste better than being skinny, or moreover than being perfect. I want people to start questioning when and why skinny became synonymous with perfect. I want to take that thought process one step further and to ask why we’ve all become more increasingly concerned with perfectionism itself. I regret so often the amount of times I censored my authenticity in order to appeal to an unattainable idea, because the more you try to be perfect, the less you behave as yourself.
I look around at the people I hold close to me and I never doubt their worth despite the fact none of them are perfect beings.
The people I hold close to me all have one thing in common; they are never trying to be something they are not, they aren’t preoccupied with the unattainable, they are just being themselves.
I don’t want this stream of thoughts to be exclusively of a sad nature, because the fire of disapproval and insecurity that lives in my head feeds off sadness.
Instead, I want to make the point that there are so many other things in this world to be concerned about other than how many pounds you weigh, or the size of your jeans, or how big your breasts are, or how skinny the pretty girl on the internet is.
I want to point out that weight has absolutely nothing to do with self-worth, that these are two completely separate concepts that do not need to intertwine. I need to point out that nobody should contribute to your self-worth. That no matter what your size or shape, if you are someone capable of anything that resembles kindness, happiness, love or hope, that you are more than worthy of love.
Your weight, the way you look, the number on the scale, the amount of miles you run a week, the amount of times you say no to food you love, the things people say about you – they do not define you.
It is so much nicer to allocate all of your attention to the loved ones in your life, so much nicer to eat good food with your best friend without worrying about calories, so much nicer to be intimate with someone without worrying about how your stomach looks, to try on the dress you think is pretty without fretting over the size.
It is so much nicer to live your best life, to do the things you love, to just exist without constantly relating everything to your body image and food intake.
The dialogue I want to begin is one of self-acceptance, of believing in things that are bigger and of more sustenance than the way we look. It is one of kindness and of a love that transcends superficial appearances. I want to start a dialogue that proposes we treat people based on the way they make us feel, and less about the way they look. A dialogue that proposes we treat ourselves based on how we make others feel, and less about the way we believe we look.
I’m sure if we started living in this way that we’d spend a lot less time hating ourselves, and a lot more time spent creating and spreading love, kindness and happiness.