I have been in the process of “becoming me” for most of my life. That statement in itself seems odd, because if I’ve been a certain way most of my life, would that not make it me? I think what I mean is, ever since I can remember there were things that were different about me, from the fact that I hated finger painting or getting messy in any way, to the fact that spending hours in my bedroom alphabetizing my books was a little slice of heaven.
But did I own these oddities in myself? In high school did I rant and rave about spending my weekends with my parents quietly cross-stitching or raising valid points in online forums about the book I just read? Hell no! I did all I could to hide that side of me. I gave up reading for a good part of my teens in order to fit in. I stifled myself and forgot who I was.
What, you might be wondering, does this have to do with food or weight? Well, the fascinating thing about the human body is that it doesn’t lie. We may be trying to hide our true selves, but the body doesn’t hide so easily. While I was busy stuffing down who I really was, I symbolically also stuffed my face with a lot of processed junk after school. I gained weight, especially around my belly, and my dislike of myself grew even stronger.
I went on my first diet around age fifteen, and that eventually spiraled into very disordered eating and obsession with my body and weight. In a weird way, the eating disorder became a way of expressing myself that felt safe. It was the only way I knew how to cry out for help as I drowned in a loss of self.
Shortly after I discovered that I could change my body, I also changed my outward appearance to the world. I became so tired of trying to get people to like me that I completely changed directions. Did I then become me? Of course not! I became emo. Yep, I was suddenly drawn to wearing guy’s baggy jeans and tons of plastic bracelets up my arm, T-shirts with emo-bands, and saying unexpected things to get a reaction from people.
While this was probably an improvement over not having any personality in order to please everyone, I still wasn’t being the real me. I was being what that stereotype dictated me to be. I even told one class on the first day of school that I liked to play with fire for fun! Yes, the girl who hid her face from every crash of fireworks at age three for fear of being burned suddenly went pyro. I don’t think so.
The body doesn’t lie. Throughout my misfit antics I was still alternating between binge eating, starving myself or purging. I think in order to treat the body so badly for so long, by necessity we turn off, or at least way down the volume of our emotions. It happens often in very sensitive people I’ve noticed, where emotions can become so intense that when we don’t know how to deal with them and still function, we switch them off.
Unfortunately, you can’t discriminate between turning off only the uncomfortable emotions and leaving the nice ones alone. Either they’re all on or all off. That’s what I did – just shut the whole thing down. And that went on for years. I was surrounded in a dim haze of watered-down feelings to protect myself.
My shut down emotions led to a whole host of things in my life that might have turned out differently, had I fully been in touch with what I was really feeling. But I’ll save all that for another day. The important thing is that I not only began to realize how shut down I was, but I also started accepting how I really felt about things. What I really liked, hated, and stood for, without all the judgment that used to come along with that. It’s the judgment along with the intense feelings that leads us to ignore and suppress. It’s like coming out of a deep sleep to realize you’re back in your own bed, cozy and familiar.
If you’ve experienced anything similar to rediscovering yourself, you know that it doesn’t happen all at once. The challenging part is staying aware of the inner judges and critics you have that tell you things like “What do you mean you like that music? And why don’t you keep up with the latest fashion, you look like you’re from 2003!?”
Once you recognize that these critics aren’t the real you, but pieces of the culture or family or peers you’ve picked up over time, then you have to learn to get by without them being your leader. What I mean is that these inner critics will likely never go away completely, but you can choose whether or not you listen to them.
I will warn you, one of the biggest traps of these critics is that when you fail at disregarding them, they will turn around and scream at you: “You’re such a loser, you can’t even ignore your inner judges!” or “I’m so stupid, how could I let these voices control me so much, look what they’ve made me miss out on!” But these are just critics in disguise.
There’s a good reason you’ve developed these critics. At one time they were there to protect you, to help you fit in with others. They likely served you at one time, but now they’re past their expiration date. Time to ignore them like Shawn Mendes’s songs. (Yes, I’ve learned the real me HATES his songs!) As a side note, I originally typed “sorry” instead of “Yes” in the parentheses, but really, we don’t have to apologize for our natural likes and dislikes!!
So what’s happened to my body and eating once I’ve started to wake up and accept the real me? I can say I’ve finally embraced normal eating! I will have another article to explain what exactly normal eating is, but basically it’s not worrying so damn much about what and how much I eat. No restricting calories, no rigid meal plans, no starving myself or purging or binging – and my weight and body are just where I want them to be! My body has been allowed to be what it’s meant to be, because it mirrors my inner world, which is finally allowed to be true.
If you liked this post or want to share a little bit about your own story, let me know in the comments!