I Had An Eating Disorder, And It’s Taught Me The Importance Of Self-Perception
As I look in the mirror for what must have been the twentieth time today, I still cannot seem to shake the feeling of dissatisfaction that settles heavily inside me. Here I stand, 30 pounds down in just over a month, and all I see are the same imperfections that have plagued me my entire life. My butt is slightly too large for my body. My abs could be more well-defined. My thighs are too muscular. The list of grievances goes on. I don’t know what to do anymore. Starving myself isn’t helping me achieve the body of my dreams, and I don’t feel any better about myself. The inner demons are still running rampant. Friends and family have taken notice.
It’s not natural for a 12-year-old-girl to drop 30 pounds over a month. It can’t be healthy for a little girl to work out for 3+ hours a day while eating barely enough to survive. How did we get here?
Flash-forward eleven years and that girl is now a 23-year-old college graduate. She’s gained the weight back and is now able to acknowledge what she was too ashamed to admit before. That girl had a serious problem, and had she continued down that path, she very well could have lost her life.
As with many other mental health disorders, anorexia is extremely difficult to overcome and may plague the affected individual for years of his or her life. In my case, I struggled for the duration of my middle school career and to this day, I am still affected by my body dysmorphia.
I’m sure many can attest that growing up in the 21st century is hard. In this day and age, much of our culture is dictated by digital media and influenced by pop culture. Like many young girls and boys, I had famous people that I idolized and aspired to be just like. I couldn’t help but notice a trend in the people I loved and respected; They were all very petite and in impeccable shape. In grade school, I was a bit curvier than most and couldn’t help but notice that I was shaped much differently than my heroes. I looked to these girls in the limelight and noted this as the “norm” and the expectation of what I should look and be like. To stray from that in the slightest indicated that I was the abnormality and didn’t fit the mold of what’s perceived to be “attractive.” My confidence took a turn for the worst.
But, here’s the thing. When I was battling my eating disorder, I didn’t take a lot of things into consideration. I was worried about short-term gratification and how being skinny would make me feel, but I didn’t consider the ramifications of what it would mean when I quit starving myself and attempted to return to an organic, healthy lifestyle. Hurting yourself isn’t a means to an end. At the end of the day, you won’t feel happier with yourself. Instead, you will continue to raise your expectations of yourself and continue striving to reach goals that are not at all realistic. Self-love and personal growth need to stem from the work you do to develop and improve your mental well-being. Abusing and berating your body only serves to make you feel worse, as well as worry your peers. Those who love you and care about you notice what you’re doing to yourself. Worse yet, sometimes your own self-neglect makes them look twice at themselves in the mirror.
I still catch myself making comments about my weight from time-to-time. I’ll have a day where I feel bloated and make a “fat” comment around friends who are attempting to lose weight for health reasons. In their eyes, it’s trivial for a 125-pound girl to complain about something she’s seemingly never had to worry about a day in her life. This makes them feel worse and may even breed animosity down the road. It’s important to be considerate and aware of such things because your lack of self-love can produce a domino effect in regards to who and what you are impacting.
I’m in a better place now than I was. Though I continue to struggle with fluctuations in my weight, I am now more self-aware and I do things for me that make me feel good on the inside. This has helped me count my blessings more and stress less. I know it sounds cliche, but a few things that have helped me are: exercise, eating well, surrounding myself with good people, and rediscovering what I’m passionate about. By taking care of my mental health first, it helps me bolster how I feel about myself. When I am being more mindful about what I am doing with my spare time and am putting in my body, I am in a much happier and more positive state-of-mind. This confidence and freeness shine through to others and truly brings the “fake it til you make it” mantra to life.
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