Growing up, I was a pretty active teenager, riding horses every day and working around the farm, so I was naturally fairly fit and slender. Even so, I was quite conscious of my body and my appearance...as most girls are, I suppose. I would evaluate my body and always focus on the things I didn’t like, the things I wanted to change; pimples on my face, my thighs…I always wanted skinnier thighs.
I can’t pinpoint how it changed, but early on in Uni I started virtually starving myself. It was like I gained super-human control over my ability to not eat. I also became obsessed with exercise. My entire life and all my thought processes revolved around how I could eat as little as possible and exercise to burn the most calories. In my eyes, skinny = beautiful and beautiful = loved.
It honestly hasn’t been until the last few years that I have truly found freedom from this total control that food and my weight had over my life. I finally started to see all the negative effects that my obsession was having. Firstly, it was exhausting, that continual mental energy of working out how I’d avoid food that day without people realizing I had an eating disorder and trying to change me. Change would mean weight gain.
It was also hurting my friendships. I was jealous and threatened by girls who were slender, and disdainful of anyone who was even slightly ‘bigger.’ I think most of all though, I realised that the ultimate driving force in this obsession was my desire to be accepted, wanted, and loved. And I realized that I was never REALLY attaining that through my weight and appearance. Being skinny gave me a sense of control in being able to gain them, but I was never able to rest. I always had to work to make sure my weight didn’t go up.
I also realised that if I have to control and strive for people’s love and acceptance of me…then it’s not really the deep kind of love and acceptance that I craved. That we all crave?
For me, breaking free was scary, but I was also so exhausted and worn out from years of striving and control that I was READY for freedom. I wanted some peace in my life! I had to truly understand that I am a unique individual of infinite worth; that my appearance does not alter or define that.
I am loved unconditionally.
I am significant and valued.
I had to be aggressive in this, in thinking and speaking those things, and in rejecting the old thoughts that had ruled me for so long. But it has been SO worth it.
Thinking correctly about myself is still something I need to do. It’s easy to start comparing myself to all the glowing, air-brushed girls on TV and in magazines, or even the ones around me in daily life who I deem ‘more beautiful’ than myself. But then I remind myself that beauty and worth lies in every fibre of who I am; that we can’t reduce it to a physical thing. The temptation to gain love and acceptance from my appearance is an evil lie that promises security but never truly delivers. It always keeps me running on the treadmill to maintain other’s opinions.
I am beautiful because I have been deliberately, uniquely made, just as I am. Now and every day. Whatever I look or feel like. It’s settled. I am loved, I am beautiful, I am worthy. I am free!
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