When Your Eating Disorder Makes Your Body Feel Like a Prison
They often say that in order to find true love, you must fall in love with yourself first. They make it seem as if those of us who feel like damaged goods are undeserving of another’s affection until we can pull ourselves out of the hole we’ve fallen into. What no one tells you is how to fall in love with a self you don’t identify with. To them, you might appear one way, when inside you are fighting a battle that you fear you’ll never win. What do you do when your body is a prison and your bones have thrown away the key?
For as long as I can remember, I have never been satisfied with the image reflected back at me in the mirror. Too fat. Too pale. Teeth too crooked. Breasts too small. Eyes too big. Face too ugly. I am older now and able to understand that the image my mind conjures up is not 100 percent authentic; those shapes, shadows and lines are all the distorted product of the mind I was born with. However, understanding can only go so far to quiet the insecurities of the mind, making each glance in the mirror a dance with a shape-shifting reality.
I vividly remember the day when I looked into a mirror at my childhood friend’s home and decided that I had to pick at least one feature to like of all the ones my brain told me to hate. I remember deciding that even though I felt they were too big, my eyes were pretty and that I would stick with that trait as being my best one. The heartbreak I feel whenever I see another young girl scrutinizing herself in the mirror is agonizing. I want to shake her out of the nightmare world she’s ensnared within and tell her to wake up and see things how they really are. I want to smash the mirror with her, until the tiny pieces form a beautiful mosaic of jumbled colors and shapes, each unique and wonderful because of its differences. I think the world we live in today does an excellent job of telling us everything that is wrong with us, while seldom recognizing us for our achievements.
Often the first thing someone compliments us on is appearance based. Your smile. Your eyes. Your hair. Your body. Your firm handshake. Don’t they realize that behind all of those tangible pieces of ourselves is the mastermind behind it all? Without our mind, our beautiful smiles wouldn’t know when to smile. Our eyes wouldn’t sparkle with love and admiration. And our bodies wouldn’t serve us in all the ways we dream about. Your body is important, there is no doubt about the value of this space we inhabit, but please know that your body is there to house your beautiful soul. A soul so many people are dying to meet.
I was 18 when I finally started treating my soul with the respect it deserved. I had spent so many years focusing on perfecting my body that I had forgotten about the soul that was starving, too. I cannot change the thoughts flowing through your mind, but what I can do is share mine with you and hope that you find a common thread, linking us together in this vast community of people trapped inside a place which does not always serve them.
I am not the fat on my stomach. Or the stretch marks on my thighs. I am not my crooked teeth or less than spectacular curves. I am a soul waiting to take flight, to break through the barriers of who we are told we are supposed to be.
You are the only one who can decide you are beautiful.
It is up to you to then share your beauty with the world.
Whatever you do, do not tell yourself you are trapped in the image you see reflected back at you.
Your body is only a prison when you perceive it to be.
You are so much more than the skin and bones you aspire to be, so be free.
And let your soul stretch to its fullest potential, regardless of the marks it may leave behind.
For every mark, scar and roll on your body, a story is waiting to be told.
You are not your eating disorder.
And your body does not have to be your prison.
This piece was originally published on Thought Catalog.
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If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.
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