I am in an unhealthy relationship with myself. And it permeates into so many crevices of my life. On some level, I’ve known for sometime that the way I see myself, the way that I value myself, is unhealthy. And yet I don’t change.
I’ve been reading Tara Brach’s “True Refuge” (https://www.amazon.com/True-Refuge-Finding-Freedom-Awakened/dp/0553807625) recently, and I’ve been trying to focus on the following two tenants:
- Everything that happens, everything that occurs in the world is utterly, completely and naturally devoid of emotion. Each occurrence, whether it be a death, a divorce, an illness or a change in employment, each occurrence is just an occurrence-a thing that has happened in the world that we just happen to inhabit. WE-the humans-attach emotion and feeling to these occurrences. We internally decide if a new job brings pain or joy or that a divorce is the right move or a disaster. So in other words, we are in control of how we respond to life’s occurrences. They are not innately sad or hard or joyful. They are just things…that happen…in our world.
- There is a process that we as humans follow, and for me at least, I have subscribed to it unknowingly for the past 33 years. This process begins with a feeling. The feeling can be a twisting in our stomach, a pounding in our head, a speeding up of our heartbeat. It can also be a surge of serotonin-a burst of sunshine in our soul. Whatever it may be, the feeling occurs and is inevitably followed up by a thought. After the thought, comes the action. Here’s an example.
I got out of the shower yesterday morning and caught a glimpse of myself in our full-length mirror. I had a visceral response. A feeling in my stomach of discomfort. Of a big tangled ball being pulled apart slowly at each end. This feeling drifted up into my heart which began to beat faster. From there it moved into my chest and I felt that all too familiar feeling of anxiety. Of regret. Of shame. Next came the thoughts.
“You look fat.”
“Your stomach is saggy.”
“Other people who’ve been pregnant look better than you.”
“Why aren’t you skinnier?”
“You work out so hard, you try and eat so well, what a joke. You’re an impostor.”
And then most importantly,
“You aren’t good enough.”
And then, the action. Even though I am a smart woman and I know that what I am about to do is wrong, I do it. I will skip breakfast. I will skip lunch. I will allow my blood sugar to rise (this surge causes your body to eat it’s own fat, you lose weight but you also slowly kill yourself). When the evening rolls around and my head is pounding from hunger and my energy is depleted, I will find myself standing in the pantry, stuffing food down my throat to try and raise my low blood sugar, to try and fuel a body that has worked out, worked a full day and is now expected to entertain and care for two perfect, beautiful little children. Children who mean everything to me. Children who lived inside of this wrinkly, stretched out stomach. Children who fed off these breasts. And I think about how I would feel if my daughter thought she was fat or ugly or worthless. It would kill me I know.
How do we break this cycle? We know-we really really really fucking know that we are incredible. That we are superheroes that grew people inside of us, that produced food to keep those people alive. That somehow these bodies wake up and work out and drive to work and work a full day and drive home and clock-in for the second job and love and care for the people in our houses. These bodies bend over and pick up crayons and legos and wash counters and feed dogs, and wipe butts and wash clothes and kiss boo-boos and band-aid scrapped knees. These bodies are the most important bodies in our children’s lives. These bodies are absolutely perfect in the eyes of our children. Why why why can’t we hear this? Why can’t we remember this as we gaze in the mirror at our various “imperfections”? Why can’t we fucking believe this?
Truth is, I don’t have the answer.
I am only just now beginning to understand the problem.
At least you don’t look like Mr. Burns.