Growing up, I was always a “textbook perfectionist.”
At four years old, a year prior to starting school, I cried into my older sister’s math book because I couldn’t yet master multiplication. Baby steps were not in my vocabulary.
I told myself had to do all the things and I had to do them perfect – or else I was a failure.
I played sports, sang, acted, danced, played piano, painted, and wrote poetry – but in my mind I was never good enough. My inner critic came out at a young age to tell me I was never good at anything. “Failing” at anything was catastrophic in my mind.
Enter: my eating disorder, obsession with fitness and goal to shrink myself
“Finally,” I thought “I’m good at this.”
Being leaner, shrinking myself and being the “fitness obsessed” one became so ingrained in who I thought I was. As that happened, I became further disconnected from who I really was.
In reality, nothing was ever good enough for my eating disorder. I was never fit enough, lean enough, I never felt good enough – no matter how hard I tried.
Living in a constant state of catastrophe was more than exhausting.
But recovery terrified me for multiple reasons. Mainly because I had no clue who I was without it. I felt defined by my eating disorder, defined by my body. I felt as though all of my worthiness banked on my body and how diligently I abided by my eating disorder’s perfectionistic rules.
Who am I if I don’t have this? Who am I if I am no longer deemed as the “fit” one? Will people still accept and love me? Will I EVER begin to accept and love myself? Where will I fit in?
Recovery = discovery
It took me a lot of reflection, and a few relapses to realize that I wanted freedom from my eating disorder more than I feared truly finding myself.
So, I had to reframe how I looked at recovery.
I looked at this as a discovery. I even made a list of new experiences I wanted to have without my eating disorder (from baking bread – my biggest fear food – to jumping off of cliffs in Greece) and things I wanted to “re-experience” – things that brought me joy but that my inner critic told me I wasn’t “good enough” to stick to.
I asked myself – what makes life meaningful to me?
Realizing time and time again that a full life does not include constantly seeking validation of my body. A full life is free of obsession and perfectionism. And I am worthy – struggles, successes and all.
Truthfully, almost three years into recovery, I’m still continually uncovering more of who I am. Connecting with yourself through this process can be challenging, scary and uncomfortable.
But every new experience and every new discovery is a step further into who you are without an eating disorder.