Where it all began
When I was in elementary school, I used to fake being sick. I’d tell the nurse I wasn’t feeling well so I could call my mom and go home. I did this over and over, and no one questioned it.
My teachers didn’t see how I cried in the hallway, they didn’t the girls who would walk behind me in class and snap my training bra through my shirt. They ignored the way other girls would laugh as I tried to answer a question in class, but my stutter kept the words inside me. They didn’t see the time I came back from recess with a bloody nose because one of my classmates had punched me in the face.
Maybe they didn’t see because they weren’t looking, or because they didn’t have the education to be able to identify it as a problem. Or maybe it was because I wasn’t fighting back. I stayed silent. But regardless, I didn’t feel worthy enough to stand up for myself, and so it continued until my parents pulled me out of that school.
…But that wasn’t the end of it.
As I got older, I bullied myself. I told myself I wasn’t good enough. I compared myself to everyone else, to strangers on the street, to models in magazines, actresses, to my friends. I compared myself to this fictional perfect version of me, one who was thinner, smarter, more beautiful, better. I bullied myself through high school, through college. I told myself that the boys I liked would never like me back.
“I convinced myself that I had to be someone else, someone different, in order to be interesting. I told myself that who I was was disgusting.”
As my eating disorder began to take form, this internal bully grew stronger and stronger. It burst into a thousand splintered voices hunched at the back of my mind like ghosts. I would see women on the sidewalk and I’d compare their thighs to mine. I body checked everywhere, before I got into the shower each morning; in bathrooms at restaurants; in storefront mirrored windows; in my bed late at night — wrapping my fingers around my upper arms just to check, just to know how big and horrible they were.
These mind ghosts were there whispering in my ear as I tried on lingerie, as I got dressed every day, when I bought my wedding gown. They screamed at me when I ate past my calorie limit, telling me I didn’t have any self control, that I didn’t deserve the luxury of eating, or shopping, or washing my hair. They told me that who I was was less important than following their rules.
Instead of being on the outside, a voice I could rationalize as someone else’s hurt projected onto me, it was internal. My own lack of self worth. My own shame. My mind ghosts were with me all the time, lining my insides like spiked wallpaper, and I couldn’t move without feeling them.
You are so much more than your outer packaging
Going to therapy, and finding the body positive and self-love community on Instagram helped me realize: I can tear that wallpaper down. I can exist without it. My mind ghosts may haunt me, but I am real. I am flesh and blood and spirit and soul and love and power, and they are nothing compared to me.
It can be so difficult to see outside of the pain we’re living in, past the weight of others’/society’s expectations of us. But it is possible. Self-love isn’t something you just do. There’s no switch you can flick where suddenly all those years of self-deprecation and criticism just go away. There’s no magic wand you can wave to make the comments and criticisms of others’ disappear.
“You cannot hate yourself into loving yourself. Believe me, I’ve tried.”
It’s a learning process. It’s a journey. It’s recognizing, in small, everyday moments, that the opinions of others don’t change who you are. It’s knowing deep in your heart that who you are is so much more than your outer packaging, and that your soul is beautiful and worthy of love simply because it’s yours.
Being a part of the body love community has taught me so many things, but some of the most life changing are:
You are not alone. No matter how isolated you feel, I promise you that there is someone else out there feeling the same way.
You have the power to change. Every morning that you wake up is a miracle, and whether it’s a small step or a giant leap forward, you have the strength in you to break the cycle.
Talking about the things we’re scared / ashamed of takes the power away. Shame is so often the number one thing holding people back from getting help, and the more we expose the things we feel are so great and so looming, and shine a light on them and really examine them, the smaller they actually become.
Perfection doesn’t exist. Humans are by nature imperfect, and that’s what makes us so interesting. Literally no one is perfect (not even that person you think has it all).
Inside each and every one of us is a spirit waiting to be loved entirely. It knows that what you’ve been through has been hard. It knows that you’re trying. And it’s waiting for you.
Follow Gina on Instagram @nourishandeat