It was the spring of 1996. I had been searching for a new job after quitting my “lucrative” position in concessions at Tinseltown (Cinemark movie theatres) in Grapevine, TX. I was a junior in high school, living at home with my mother, one older sister and two younger brothers. It was necessary for me to work, not just for monetary reasons so I could buy what I wanted, but work also served as a way to focus on something other than my chaotic life.
After a few weeks of unsuccessful searching, I walked into the Jason’s Deli in town during open interviews, and was offered a job. The featured image is me on my first day of work in their uniform. I didn’t last there long. After two weeks, I walked out after being talked to like a piece of trash by my older male manager. Mom always said I should find a new job before quitting the one I had, but I didn’t care.
Looking at this picture, I remember how I felt about myself back then and feel distraught at my perception. I was beautiful, but I felt ugly. I’m sure before this picture was taken I spent a good hour preparing, and I vaguely remember my mother insisting on a photo for my big day. I was always camera-shy, still am in many ways, but I had zero reason to be.
My rock-bottom self-worth during this time in my life was reflected in what I saw in the mirror. Nobody could have convinced me otherwise, and because my perception was unchecked, my subconscious did exactly what I was telling it to do – fulfill my thoughts. It hurts to write that, it hurts to admit that I was on a self-destructive path to become what I thought I was. Except now, with more clarity about self-love, acceptance, and care, I know that what I have become is worth being loved. I suppose at the time, I felt someone of my current size, weight, and shape would be considered otherwise, but it’s not true.
So many people with eating disorders feel they are incapable of being loved if they are not an ideal size, but of course the focus on weight and size is just a distraction from what is really going on inside. When we are born, we are completely dependent on other human beings to take care of our every need. If even one critical need is left out, it affects our growth and development, and even if we receive all the nurturing and love we need as infants and adorable toddlers, eventually we grow older, become more lanky, chubby, or featured, with blemishes that start to appear on our faces, deeper voices that speak in grammatically correct sentences instead of our cute baby talk, new odors emitting from our bodies, and a desire to find our own path, not completely dependent on our caretakers. All of these changes can influence a chasm developing between ourselves and loved ones, and if not properly navigated, it is easy to feel alone, alienated and even abandoned.
I know my self-image was effected by this process, and I also know that I had no real way to counteract the feelings I developed. My only “healthy” coping mechanisms were church and prayer. I truly believed they were the only way out of my depression, yet what I was being taught was that I ultimately wasn’t doing enough if I didn’t consider myself happy. There was always some fault to work on, to overcome, and if I wasn’t humble enough to accept that, than I deserved how I felt.
This picture was taken 18 years ago. Only recently have I come to understand the importance of not allowing the negative voices in my head to affect what I see in the mirror. I may not look like what I did back then, but we all age, we all develop wrinkles, our metabolism slows, and our skin loses its elasticity. This is the life process, and it is critically important to not let that process crush who we are capable of being.
In that light, please be kind to yourselves. If someone wants to take a picture of you, smile brightly and know that they see you so much more kindly than you see yourself. If someone gives you a compliment, take it in and say “Thank you, that means a lot to me”, and reciprocate the love. Love is what will heal us. Please don’t fall into the trap of believing something else will. No amount of dieting, or other forms of self-harm is going to get you where you want to be, and if it does in some superficial way, I’m 100% positive that you’ll be left scratching your head wondering why you don’t feel better. Love starts from within, and when allowed in yourself, is so much more easily spread to others.
When we are open to being loved, it is so much easier to do things for ourselves that will edify and uplift us. Yesterday, I went on a run without one thought of how many calories I was burning, or a fantasy of how many days a week I would have to do this to lose “x” amount of pounds in “x” amount of time. I went on the run because I wanted to feel the fresh night-time air, listen to great music, and spend time with my niece. Any effects otherwise will be natural and easy. This is how it should be, and I intend to keep it going.
What will you do to spread love within yourself? I would love to read your comments. My blog doesn’t have much traffic yet, but I’m going to keep writing and for anybody inclined to comment, feel free to say whatever is on your mind. No matter where you are in your path to self-discovery, there is always a beginning, and time, patience, love, and forgiveness are on your side.