Eating disorders are boring. Sure, in the beginning the ED offers you the illusion of excitement and satisfaction — in exchange for your soul. At first there is the thrill of eating in a "new" way – whether it be bingeing on your favorite foods ("Oh, this tastes SOOO good!"), or it might be rigidly controlling every morsel ("I'm in complete control."). The high comes from thinking, "I can do what I want." It's an f-you to the rest of the world.
This alternate reality that the ED creates feels safe at first. After all, when you're living there it insulates you from the rest of the world. In that space you don't have to feel the uncomfortable emotions that are inherent to life. You don't have to feel mad at your friend or let down by your spouse. You don't have to feel guilty for lying or disappointed for being let down. Instead you can immerse yourself in your relationship with your BFF – the ED.
Pretty soon, however, you find that "protecting" yourself from all of these negative emotions also blocks you from feeling positive emotions like joy, bliss, and gratitude. You're living in a food-and-weight-obsessed haze. You're living in a jail.
In this jail you are under the rule of ED. Nearly every thought, every action is controlled by him. What initially gave you hope and made you feel safe, is now making you feel trapped. You see other people living life all around you and wish that you could join in.
It's time to break out of jail.
It's time to be fully present in this world as your True Self. The ED has you focus on your flaws, leaving you feeling like you are never enough. ED holds you to the impossible standard of perfection, and anything less is a failure. If perfection is your goal you are never going to win. That's because perfection is a mirage – it's not real.
Think about people you are drawn to, those who you make you feel comfortable and at ease when you are around them. Are they "perfect?" Of course not (because nobody is). And my hunch is that you are drawn to them because of both their gifts AND their flaws. There is something attractive about a person who is authentic and honest about their shortcomings, but not in a way that is self-defeating. These people are also aware of their strengths and the things that they can offer the world. They see that it is their unique DNA that makes them deliciously, imperfectly wonderful.
Most people are afraid they have nothing special to give. They think there's nothing distinctly valuable that they can offer. Most people don't want to ask for attention, because they're afraid nobody cares. Even when people do want to rise above the fray, they are terrified by the prospect of what to do with attention once they've successfully earned it.
Your most fascinating traits are your valuable traits. Too often, these traits are the first to go in favor of blending in or avoiding criticism. Yet when you dull your edges, on some level you're giving up.
Sally Hogshead, How the World Sees You, pg. 3-4
We were taught in grade school to water down our personality. To line up, score high on the standardized test, to follow the rules. What Sally calls "dulling your edges" – THIS is what the ED is wanting you to do. The ED wants you to mold your body into a size and shape that fits society's definition of beauty. The funny thing is, it's a moving target. Look back over the centuries of women's fashion and you'll see what I mean. It's like chasing the finish line of a race that is never going to end. That's another part of what makes the ED appear exciting on the surface, but boring in the long-run, like deja vu. We buy into the marketer's hype around fashion, beauty and fitness trends. You may think that you're too savvy to be influenced by this, but it's nearly impossible to escape. Simply by existing in society you are exposed – through your interactions with other people, when you go to retail stores, scroll through social media, or watch TV. The things our brain sees over and over again are perceived as the norm. And we were trained at a very young age to conform to this norm and threatened with punishment for deviating. In 3rd grade, if you were to get up and go to the bathroom or outside for a walk in the middle of class without raising your hand and asking for permission, you would have been sent to the principal's office.
The days of assembly lines and cookie-cutter education are coming to an end as technology continues to infiltrate and redefine our daily living. You now have more power at your fingertips than any generation of human beings. It's time to get in touch with your voice and your gifts and your passions.
When you are enthusiastically pursuing your passions, there is little room for the ED.
We get what we invest in. The time we spend comes back, with interest.
If you practice five minutes of new, difficult banjo music every day, you'll become a better banjo player. If you spend a little bit more time each day whining or feeling ashamed, that behavior will become part of you. The words you type, the people you hang with, the media you consume…
The difference between who you are now and who you were five years ago is largely due to how you've spent your time along the way.
The habits we groove become who we are, one minute at a time. A small thing, repeated, is not a small thing.
Seth Godin, Who are we seeking to become?, Seth's Blog 4/21/17
Some questions to journal about:
- What is the last time that you felt really excited or intrigued by something? (Something completely unrelated to food, exercise, health, appearance).
- What are the ways that others would describe you? Is this congruent with your True Self? Or are you presenting a false self to the world, one that the ED tells you to present?
- What personality traits would you use to negatively describe yourself? Can you flip these into positives? For example, if you would describe yourself as shy and socially awkward, this could be flipped into mysterious and interesting. Or if you would describe yourself as impulsive and reckless, this could be flipped into action-oriented and fearless.
- What are your strengths? It's time to start capitalizing on these as your assets. I could spend all day long training to become an Olympic pole vaulter, but it's never going to happen. Working relentlessly to improve my weaknesses isn't going to make me world class in that arena. But if I take my strengths and use them to my advantage and work to make them even stronger, it's like a snowball – you gain momentum and exponential impact.
Unsure what your strengths are? You can take a test to find out. I've personally taken both Sally Hogshead's self-assessment on How to Fascinate (I'm the "Wise Owl") and the DISC profile (I'm a high S and C). Both were spot-on and yielded excellent feedback and suggestions on how to use the information in my everyday life. It's also really cool when you can use it to better understand other people and their set of strengths.
You see, by breaking out of ED's jail and finding your passions in life, there just isn't room for ED anymore. The need to recover and to ditch ED becomes urgent. ED's leverage over your self-esteem diminishes when you find your personal power within.