RheasOfHope

one girl's thoughts on life, mental illness, eating disorder recovery, and hope.

When you’re inundated with body shame March 31, 2017

no wrong way

Two images stare back at me from my computer. The one on the left portrays a sad, frumpy larger version of the person—so sorrowful you can almost hear Sarah McLachlan in the background. The one on the right displays a happy, half-naked thinner version–who most certainly has an amazing life and personal jet by now. These images typically have many exasperating hashtags, list the number of pounds lost/goal weight, and describe how much they hate the person on the left. I don’t even know this person, and yet I’ve fallen victim to their expertly- curated Facebook life and their thin-ideal proselytism. These images awaken the demon of insecurity that lives deep within us, and stirs the spirit of body-shame.

These before and after transformation photos are meant to sharply juxtapose the fat, unhealthy version of that person with the thin, happy version. These photos prey on our insecurities, and desire to fit into the cultural thin-ideal. This pervasive thin-ideal convinces us that—when we attain the perfect body—we will gain health, wealth, love, and happiness. It impresses upon us the idea that the thinner body is a “good body” and the larger body is a “bad body”—and, through the transitive property of equality in mathematics, the person living in the “bad body” must also be “bad.” When presented with these transformation photos that perpetuate the thin-ideal, the culture of body-shaming and normalization of self-hatred is perpetuated ad nauseam. This perpetuation has a cost, however, and that cost is self-destruction, self-condemnation, and devaluation of those of us who do not fit the ideal.

Society criminalizes and fears fat at the same time—leading fat to become the last socially-acceptable form of discrimination. The prevalence of weight-based discrimination has increased 66% from 1995 to 2006 (NEDA). This is likely why 42% of girls in first through third grade want to be thinner (NEDA), and 81% of ten-year-olds have a fear of being fat (NEDA). This is also likely why the dieting industry rakes in $64 BILLION annually—outearning the wedding industry and the baby product industry. Society conditions us to second-guess any of the confidence we’ve developed about our bodies and question how someone—with our less-than-perfect body—can be accepted looking the hideous the way we do. How much we weigh, eat, exercise, etc. is nobody’s business but our own. Our bodies belong to us—not to social media, not your friends or family, not your doctor, no one. The phrase “Compare and despair” comes to mind—thank you Jenni Schaefer.

Here are the facts: THERE IS NO “PERFECT” BODY and YOUR BODY ISN’T SOMETHING TO BE “FIXED.” Contrary to what society shoves down our throat every minute of every day, there is no perfect body. Have you seen the lineup of female Olympic athletes from the various events throughout the years? Each of them represent the peak performance level of their sport, and yet every single one of them has a different body size and shape than the woman standing next to them. Not to be outdone, men from various nations recreated a similar photo. Health, like our bodies, comes in all shapes and sizes. Thin does not always represent a healthful body, just as fat does not always represent an unhealthful body. Health cannot be measured on a scale or through the flawed mathematics of body mass index.  While weight can certainly be an aspect of health, it is not a sole indicator. Health is also measured through mental and emotional wellbeing, effective relationships with others, meaningfully contributing to society, and myriad other aspects. There is no one right way to have a body!

Olympic women

There is no one right way to have a body!

Olympic Men

Remember, your weight does not make you any better or worse than anyone else. When we focus so intently on our perceived flaws, we will never be able to see the remarkable, astounding aspects of our bodies. There is more to life than food or weight—don’t let it become the central fixture around which your life revolves. The answer to our body and self-acceptance isn’t found in a fad diet, a new exercise trend, a pill, a cream, a tea, a detox regime, a cleanse, constricting shapewear, expensive exercise equipment, shakes, or anything else the diet industry/thin ideal perpetuators use a propaganda to convince you that you’re worthless while further lining their pockets with cash. As the amazing body-positivity activist Sarah Vance says, “Loving yourself isn’t going to come from changing your body.”

So how can we grow to love and accept our bodies—as they are in this very moment—in a world that is constantly conspiring to do the opposite? I’m no expert on body-positivity. In fact, I’m still working on it myself. What I can do, however, is recommend the celebration of a day of body love as a place at which to start. On this day, for every negative comment you say about your body, consciously counter is with a positive. Write a letter of gratitude to your body—sure it will be weird, and it will be worth it. Wear an article of clothing in which you feel great. Compliment yourself and others on their character, not their body or appearance. Respect your body’s needs: if it wants to move, move; if it wants to rest, rest; if it wants to eat, eat; if it wants a massage, get a damn massage. It’s your body and you know its needs better than anyone else. Having needs is not a weakness—though society will actively work to convince you otherwise—and denying ourselves of our needs is not the strength we are lead to believe that it is. I also recommend participating in some body activism projects. I’ve joined some body positive groups on Facebook, and blocked a TON of friends who consistently post body negative updates. I also turn around magazines that objectify bodies by promoting the thin-ideal—if people can’t see them, they can’t buy them or fall victim to their propaganda. If you’re feeling exceptionally brave, you can post body positive post-its on those magazines or on diet products. Be bold.

I leave you with this: appreciate your body, it is yours and you get only one. Your body is a masterpiece of creation and there is no other body out there like yours…none. Live your life on your terms in your body, and appreciate all the wonderful things it does for you.

 

 

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

 

When you have a security blanket January 29, 2017

 

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The Eager Beavers: I’m in the first row, fourth from the left in all pink and saddle shoes

I’m twenty-nine years old, and I still sleep with my baby blanket. My mother bought it for me when I was four–for my first day of the Eager Beavers preschool class at West Chester Church of the Nazarene. I had high anxiety about being away from my in-home daycare, and moving to a “big girl school.” My mother thought that having this blanket would remind me of home while I was at school, but I mainly think she purchased it so she wouldn’t have to deal with my pre-K anxiety. She then emblazoned my name on the back with puffy paint, and I’ve held on to it ever since. It’s not like I took it to college with me or take it on work trips, but I take comfort I knowing that it is in my bed. Having that object from my past grounds me in some way, and it’s reassuring that no matter where my life goes, the blanket will remain the same. Perhaps my eating disorder has functioned in the same way?

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Who wouldn’t love a blanket with a teddy bear being carried away by balloons?

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faded, but my puffy paint name is still there 

My eating disorder developed around the end of second grade. After relentless bullying all day at school, I would come home seeking refuge in copious amounts of food—sneaking food out of pantries (hiding the evidence of my consumption by shoving wrappers in the couch, under my bed, or slipping them between the cracks in our wooden deck), eating dinner leftovers all night long, and even eating out of the trash if I couldn’t find anything. I always knew that no matter how bad things had gotten at school that day, I could console myself that evening with food. Binging was my security blanket when the other kids teased me, when they passed notes of cows labeled “Rachel,” when they drew on my clothes on the bus, when they prank called my house during slumber parties…binging was always there to comfort me. This binging continued for the next ten years—searching for security, safety, and reassurance in food.

In college, repulsed by my appearance and in an effort to reinvent myself in a new setting, I sought security in food…or rather a lack of food. I quickly spiraled into restriction, and have never binged again. However, after about a year and a half of restriction, it no longer provided that soothing sensation I felt I needed. My malnourished brain—remembering the feelings of refuge

I received from my blanket, binging, and restricting—decided the only logical answer was to continue to manipulate food through further restriction in addition to compulsive exercise. I temporarily found the comfort and safety I sought. Restriction and over-exercise felt like my teddy bear blanket wrapped around my shoulders—protecting me from the world and comforting me through life. Yet the feeling never lasted. I would engage in behaviors, feel safe for awhile, and then sense the need to engage again to regain the feeling of safety—it was an endless cycle of fear, behaviors, safety, fear, behaviors, safety.

Though I don’t remember the exact date, I do remember that in September of 2009, I thought I could find comfort via continued food manipulation in the form of purging; in addition to my already severe restriction and over-exercise. I could never find, however, the feeling I was seeking—my behaviors were never enough for my eating disorder to be satisfied. Yet I continued to manipulate food in search of this comfort that had eluded me since early elementary school.  No matter what happened in my life, my eating disorder’s siren lure reminded me that I could turn to restricting or purging to get me closer towards the peace I desired within me.

My eating disorder has been with me for the last twenty-ish years–making false claims of serenity and security—and unlike my baby blanket, the safety is promised came at a cost to me. In early recovery, my eating disorder convinced me that if recovery felt too risky, I could restrict or purge to remind myself that the security provided by the eating disorder was still nearby. Restricting and purging felt like my security blanket—if the job of a security blanket is to slowly kill you. Know that eating disorders are not security blankets, they’re not Band-Aids, and they don’t “fix” the parts of life that are not pleasing to you. True security comes from recovery—being able to handle life’s unpleasant moments healthfully and effectively in order to produce a more desired outcome. This is not an easy task, however. Retreating back to the perceived safety of the eating disorder often seems like the only thing I knew how to do. The more practice I had with recovery, and the more skills I gained made this process easier. Know that you do not need an eating disorder to feel secure and loved for who you are. My one year of recovery has provided me with more security, serenity, comfort, and reassurance than either 20 years of an eating disorder or a crummy blanket could ever offer.

 

Psalm 46:1-3

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

 

 

When you find yourself in a ditch February 3, 2015

I waited helplessly as 6,500 pounds of plastic and steel spun around me; waiting for the sudden stop of the crash, waiting for the sickening sound of the truck as it makes that stop, waiting for the punishment that I knew was coming. But how did I get here?

Just hanging out in the ditch

Just hanging out in the ditch

The morning started out as any other morning—I was running late for work because I had decided petting my cat was more important than taking a shower or putting on clothes. By the time I got out to my car, I was already fifteen minutes late…and then I found out that the freezing rain from the previous night has iced my doors shut and completely entombed my car. Crap. So I slid back into the house to grab the keys to my mother’s Tahoe (which had spent the evening tucked within the safety of our garage).

Despite the fact that I have been driving for twelve years in Ohio winters, I decided that getting to work on time was a priority, and did an unreasonable speed of 35 miles per hour down the road. That’s when the truck and the road had a slight disagreement with one another. A patch of black ice completely derailed my morning.

I did not even see the ice, but I know I hit it. The Tahoe immediately fishtailed towards a line of trees, big trees. In an effort of self-preservation, not to mention Tahoe preservation, I overcorrected by spinning the wheel to the right. The truck lurched to the right quickly, but just as quickly started to rotate in a circle. Time began to slow down, and my brain felt like it completely shut off while the waiting time began. I am not entirely sure what happened next other than that the truck entered the ditch rear-end first with the front tire still on the road.

This incredibly accurate Microsoft Paint rendition of my accident.

This incredibly accurate Microsoft Paint rendition of my accident.

As soon as I heard the crunch of the car in the ditch, a primal scream came from somewhere within me. I have never, in 27 years, heard that sound escape my lungs. I opened the door to try to leave the car. However, because I am five-two and the truck is 6 feet tall and in a ditch, I found myself on my knees in the ditch. I pounded my fists into the embankment. I lost a glove somewhere, but I didn’t care. As the snow seeped through my dress and leggings, I heard the hissing of the tires as they deflated. Hot tears burned my freezing face. My breathing was so shallow and rapid I did not think I could stand up.

A man in a purple suv-like car pulled over to ask how I was doing. I couldn’t find my phone; I had lost it in the crash. Still crying and hyperventilating, I managed to choke out that I needed him to call my dad. The man invited me into his car and talked to my dad when I was unable to get out any words. After the call ended, however, the man had to go. Not wanting to risk further injury by getting back in the car, I grabbed my phone and wallet, and stood in the driveway across the street to call AAA.

While I was on the phone, the old man who lived in the house came out to see what a frantic young woman was doing pacing his driveway in sub-zero temperatures. His golden retriever bounded up to me and made me momentarily happy. The man, Charles, invited me in to sit by his fire. I thawed by the fire with Phoebe’s golden retriever head (she would not let me stop petting her) in my lap waiting, again.

My father came about twenty minutes later. He was livid, to say the least. After he yelled at me, lectured me using curse words still unknown to many in the Western hemisphere, and scolded me for taking the truck in the first place, the tow truck arrived. With the Tahoe gone, my dad had to take me to work. I still had to go about my day as if the accident had not happened.

But why do I tell you this story? Why would I willingly share my inability to drive? It’s not for sympathy or money or whatever. It is because of my recovery. You read that correctly, my recovery.

In the past when things would go wrong, I would feel the need to punish myself through my eating disorder or through self-harm. After my first car accident (in college), I falsely believed my eating disorder was comforting me through the resulting chaos the accident caused. But it isn’t just big events, like car accidents, that my eating disorder falsely lead me to believe I needed punishment for; it could be simple things like forgetting a student’s name, getting an A- on a test, or putting my clothes on in the wrong order…it all ended the same way–my eating disorder.

However, now that I am actively seeking recovery, all of that has changed. I’ll be honest, my first thought upon falling to my knees in the ditch was that I would have to punish myself through restriction or purging. I have learned, though, that I do not deserve to be punished. Eating disordered behaviors only make matters worse in the long run. Restricting or purging would not make the accident go away, they wouldn’t repair the truck, and they wouldn’t make me happy. Eating disordered behaviors would NOT make me feel better; in fact, restricting and purging would make me feel worse, more chaotic, and less in control. Mistakes happen and I do not need to be punished for making one. So, what did I do? I heard my eating disordered thoughts telling me to engage in behaviors, but I picked up my self-esteem and my missing glove out of the ditch, and chose to ignore the them. That is what recovery is all about; choosing recovery over and over again. It may not be easy, but it gets easier each time I practice self-care and recovery-oriented choices. Recovery is always worth it–always.

Proverbs 18:10

The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.

 

When you see the magic eye December 29, 2014

 

Like every child growing up in the early 90’s, I was obsessed with magic eye photos. I spent hours tucked in my room staring cross-eyed at photos, attempting to see the magic hidden peace sign or flower or whatever. I would get frustrated when I tried to show them to my father; “Look harder!” I would urge when he, inevitably, could not see the magic photo. Somehow I could shift my gaze to an area beyond the photo, allowing me to see the magic photo hidden within the designs.  I prided myself on my ability to see even the most difficult of magic eye photos; there was not a magic eye I could not conquer. I thought that it was so cool that I could see things that others could not while we both looked at the same thing.

 

Magic-eyes

Can you find the hidden magic photo in the fairy godmother’s explosion? hint, it was what the pumpkin became after a little magic was added.

 

Eventually, however, the popularity of the magic eye photos waned, and my skill set of cross-eyed photo viewing was no longer necessary, useful, or popular among my friends. My afternoons of magic eye book reading freed up and I was suddenly left with a lot of time on my hands.

 

My eating disorder is a lot like the magic eye photos…only significantly less cool.

 

The goal of the magic eye photo is to get us to see things that others may not be able to see. The objective is to shift our vision in order to view the magic hidden photo embedded in the repeating designs. ED’s goal is to get us to see things, think things, and do things that others may not (and should not). ED wants us to see, think and do what she wants; she completely shifts our vision to match hers. However, the outcome of shifting our vision from our own viewpoint to ED’s is not the ability to see a cute photo of a monkey holding a balloon. The outcome of shifting to ED’s point of view is sickness, pain, personal hell, and sometimes death. By allowing ED to shift our vision, we are allowing her control of our lives. We are basically handing our control to ED on a silver platter.  But I will let you in on a little secret ED does not want us to know, WE are in charge of our lives. No matter what ED says, remember this: ultimately, we are in charge of our own lives-for better or worse, we are in control. When we are able to shift our views away from ED and back to ourselves, we regain many things: the control we gave to ED, our lives, our health, our happiness and our hope. Each time we acknowledge ED and choose recovery, we practice this shift in vision. It is through this practice of recovery and vision shifting that we are able to take back our lives.

 

However, this shift in vision (from ED’s to our own) is not always easy.  You may have noticed I used the word practice in reference to recovery. Recovery takes practice…a LOT of practice. No recovery is perfect either (so you can omit the phrase “practice makes perfect” from your vocabulary). I have never heard of anyone recovering from their eating disorder in one day or on the first try; it will take practice. Recovery will take hard work and it will take time, but it is possible. It is important to remember to have grace and patience with ourselves through the process. Just as I did not learn to view magic eye photos on the first try, neither did I learn recovery on my first try…or my second…or even my third. However, I have never given up. No matter how long is takes me or how hard the work is, I know that I can never give up.  Eventually I will be able to view recovery as I do magic eye photos, as second nature. I cannot wait for the day when recovery becomes second nature. Recovery is real and I am shifting my vision to get there, and you can too.

 

 

1 Peter 3:3-4

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.  Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight

 

 

 

 

 

When “mental illness” is a Halloween Costume October 28, 2014

“What are you supposed to be? Pocahontas?” my friend asks over the buffet of festive treats at our annual Halloween party.

Over the din of the chatter, I reply back, “No, Mrs. Peacock. You know? From Clue? The board game?”

 

Admittedly, I was wearing a dark teal dress, black blazer, feather earrings, a boa made of gold rope, and feathers in my hair…so Pocahontas wasn’t too far of a leap; especially since I am proud of my Cherokee heritage (even though Pocahontas wasn’t Cherokee). But none of that is actually relevant to this post.

 

It was not until I started thinking of this year’s Halloween costume that I realized just how offensive our most “common” or “popular” costumes are. Women typically wear one of, or some version of, the following: sexy bumblebee, strip-tease Minnie Mouse, seductive dentist, sultry princess, and slutty baseball player…the list of body-exposing costumes is endless. Meanwhile, on the male front, men typically wear some sort of funny ensemble. Despite the provocative nature of the women’s costume and my jealously at men for being able to wear whatever they want, those costumes do not bother me as much as a few others I came across in my search for this years costume.

 

The classic “mental patient” costume. Renditions of this costume include:  straight jackets covered in blood (and for women these straight jackets are low-cut to reveal breasts and short in length to show legs), orange prison-like jumpsuits, hospital gowns that declare the individual as “property” of such and such insane asylum/mental ward, axe murders, sweatshirts that warn others to “approach with caution”, handcuffs/restraints, and Hannibal Lecter-type masks…to name a few. My only response to these so called costumes is “What the hell?”

 

These costumes only serve to perpetuate the myth that those with mental illness are frightening—people we should fear on a daily basis. Furthermore, they maintain the stigmatization attached to a mental health diagnosis. By donning the costume of a mental patient, we are reinforcing the societal view that those with mental illness are lower-class citizens and are somehow less than everyone else (so much so that they have become comedic fodder for Halloween). By dressing up as an individual who suffers from mental illness, one is perpetuating the myth that those with mental illness are a danger to themselves and others, that those with mental illness should be “locked away like a prisoner”, and reinforces the negative belief that those with mental illness are someone to fear.

 

These horrific costumes reinforce the already existing negative connotations associated with mental illness, and are a direct result of a lack of understanding and knowledge of mental illness…not to mention a lack of respect for those diagnosed. Why is it socially acceptable, if not encouraged, to “dress up” as a person suffering with a mental illness? Why is mocking mental illness a costume? A quick Google search will reveal that there are no cancer patient costumes or AIDS patient costumes or Cystic Fibrosis patient costumes or dialysis patient costumes…etcetera. However, a quick search of mental patient costumes yields almost 7 million results; many of which are relevant results.

 

 

Is it any wonder that two-thirds of adults with mental illness do not seek treatment (NAMI statistic)? Who would want to seek treatment for mental illness if they believe they will be mocked openly and freely each time Halloween comes around? This Halloween, I ask you to really consider the motives behind the costumes chosen for you, your children, your pet, or a loved one…do they mock a certain demographic of people, do they perpetuate myths pertaining to a particular group of individuals, do they bring shame/stigma on this group, etc? If any of those answers are yes, pick a new costume. Oh, and mental illness is NEVER a costume

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My friend, Steven (the ninja), and me (Mrs. Peacock) taking some cheesy photos in our costumes. Photo credit to my wonderful friend Mandy.

 

Ephesians 4:29-32

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

 

When you discover what is louder October 17, 2014

“You don’t have to get rid of your eating disorder voice in your head. In fact, you can’t” my head popped up from my fervent note-taking at that point in my Recovery Recharge Retreat with Thom Rutledge and Julie Merryman.

Then my thoughts started swimming, “I can’t get rid of my eating disorder voice?! Why the hell am I even here if I can’t recover? Why did I pay all this money to hear Thom say I can’t get rid of my eating disorder voice?”

But, then (thankfully), Thom explained his previous statement, “You cannot get rid of the voice of the eating disorder, yes. But that doesn’t mean you can’t recover. You must make the voice of recovery louder. When you start recovery and even, sometimes, in continuing recovery, your eating disorder’s voice may be very loud in  your ear trying to get you to engage in behaviors for one reason or another. However, what you need to learn in recovery, is not how to get rid of that voice, but to make the voice of recovery louder so that it drowns out the voice of the eating disorder.”

Thom went on to explain that the brain cannot encode negative; meaning, the more we tell our brains not to focus on our eating-disordered the thoughts, the more we will think eating-disordered thoughts. The example he always uses is not to think of your left hand. Whatever you’re doing right now, don’t think of your left hand, or how it may feel different from your right hand. Don’t image it feeling like its getting lighter and lighter to the point that it’s lifting off the table. Now, don’t think of a pink elephant. How many of us, honestly, thought about our left hand or a pink elephant despite being told not to? I’m willing to bet a majority of us–myself included. This is what Thom means when he says our brains cannot encode negative. By constantly reprimanding ourselves for having eating-disordered thoughts, we are  rehearsing the exact thoughts we want to be rid of. Instead, by acknowledging the eating-disordered thought for what it is, and then replacing it with a louder, recovery-oriented thought, we are rehearsing recovery and implementing recovery-oriented thoughts over the eating-disordered thoughts. The consistent rehearsing of the recovery thoughts will help reinforce the recovery thoughts as our default thoughts, until, eventually, the eating disordered thoughts don’t even come to mind. We do not have to focus on getting rid of the eating-disordered thoughts then; we must focus on adding recovery-oriented thoughts and the eating-disordered thoughts will disappear on their own.

In thinking about what should be louder in my recovery-oriented thoughts, I came up with these:

What is louder than my eating disorder:

Life: I plan to live a life of service, love, teaching, kindness, giving and of Christ-like actions

Hope: I have hope that I can live life ED-free (side note: Hope is my favorite word ie: Cherokee tattoo on my wrist. A word of caution though, Hope is an action word, not a passive word. We can hope and hope for recovery as much as we want, but unless we put the action of recovery-oriented choices behind that hope, nothing will happen)

Writing: With ED’s chokehold loosened on my life, I have been able to rediscover my love of writing. I have been featured on NEDA’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week’s blog roll twice and have recently learned that I have been selected for Melissa Fabello’s MarginalizED Voices Project (where I might actually be part of a published work!)

Photography: Much in the same respect as my writing, my creativity in photography has reemerged as ED has lessened. I’ve photographed weddings, babies, seniors, lots of nature scenes, cityscapes and  my cats

There are a LOT of other things I am discovering that are louder than my eating disorder voice…but, seeing as how I don’t have the time nor the energy to write them all (much like you don’t have the time, energy or desire to read them all), I decided to put my iPhone to work to speak for me.

 

Here are a few more things that are louder than eating disorders:

DREAMS FRIENDSHIP FUN happiness HEALTH HOPE
RECOVERYSELFCOMPASSON

 

LIFE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PEACE

 

Philippians 4:8-9

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

 

When thighs get pinched September 30, 2014

“Enjoy those cute, little chubby thighs while you can Marina,” I looked up to see my co-worker taking a pinch of a one-year-old baby’s thigh between her thumb and forefinger while patting her own thigh with the other hand, “Those thighs are cute now. But, when you’re my age, not so much.” My co-worker then turned to me with a laugh and a look of approval seeking. She did not get my approval.

 

After I contained my immediate reaction of wanting to scream at this woman for what she said to this baby and wanting to protect the child from ever hearing a nonsensical comment like that ever again, I began to think about the rational behind why I had such a strong emotional reaction to the situation. I kept circling back to the same series of questions:  Why is Marina not allowed to enjoy her thighs beyond her first year of life? Why don’t women my co-worker’s age enjoy or accept their own thighs? Would Marina be able to enjoy her body despite living in a society of self-deprecation? Is there a time frame to loving your body—does that have an expiration date?

 

We live in a culture where children, especially females, are indoctrinated from the minute they are born with the idea that they will never be good enough the way they are…they must lose weight (thin is never thin enough, until it becomes too thin and then she is ostracized), dress in all the latest fashions, be intelligent (but not too intelligent so as to make those around you feel ignorant), have the chicest hairstyle, constantly be in a relationship (but not with many different men over the course of time or then she will be considered a “whore”), have a lot of money (but not too much, because then she will look arrogant)…and so much more I cannot even list them all. But why? Why are we constantly inundated with the “never good enough” message? And, more importantly, why do we listen?

 

It is easy for me to say, “Oh, you are good enough the way you are. You do not need to change a thing. Everyone around you is so insecure with their own lives that they get a thrill out of putting you down. These simple-minded people think that through revealing your weaknesses they will be made to feel better. You must have confidence in yourself and in your strengths to not let this affect you. You are enough—don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise” Simple, see? That was very easy for me to say. And I 100% believe what I just said to be true. HOWEVER, despite the fact that I know the above statements to be true, I have still fallen prey to the shaming “never good enough” message monsoon. I have felt the shame of not being thin enough, well dressed enough, smart enough but also too smart, having “bad” hair, never having had a boyfriend, not having enough money, etc…and I allowed that shame to negatively influence my life through a sub-zero level of self-esteem, an over 15 year battle with eating disorders, self-harm, a shield of sarcasm to defend myself from “never good enough”, depression at not achieving “good enough”, and anxiety from constantly striving (and failing) to gain “good enough”. It is at the juxtaposition of what I know to be true and how I live my life at which I currently find myself. But, it is at that paradox where recovery begins.

 

Recovery and self-acceptance begin the moment we realize that how we are currently living our lives may be contradictory to what we believe to be true—at least, I know this to be true about myself. By reframing my “I’m not good enough” thoughts to fit what I know to be true about myself, I am better able to tune out the negative voices in my head. Thought reframing is, by no means, easy to do. However, it is a necessary step towards living a life that is more congruent with our values and belief systems about ourselves and others. In a world in which not only society, but my own eating disorder, constantly gives me the message that I am not enough, I gain strength in reframing each of those thoughts/statements to promote my recovery. By practicing thought reframing over and over and over again, these negative messages will have less of an effect on me, as I now realize in what areas we excel and will no longer be ashamed areas in which I do not meet society’s unrealistic expectations. I will never be the societal ideal: tall, thin, blond, white and blue eyed. I am not my appearance, my socio-economic status, my clothing, my hairstyle, my relationship status, or any other “not good enough” measurement set forth by our appearance-based society.  I am so much more. YOU are more. Together, we will show the world that, not only that we are good enough, but that we are MORE.

 

I know I have put up this video before, but I really love the message and felt it deserved to to posted again.

 

Galatians 6:1-10

 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.  Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else,  for each one should carry their own load.  Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.  Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. 

(bold italics are mine, not in the actual scripture)