I’ve been thinking a lot about the issue of “appearance” vs. “reality” lately.
All of the women I’ve met along this journey who have struggled with eating disorders, exercise addiction, body image issues and the like are all incredibly intelligent–scary intelligent. Top-of-the-class, running-a-business, creative-beyond-words smart. And yet it seems like we’re the ones most likely to fall prey to this ugly disease of the mind–in many ways, it feels like ED has outsmarted us.
In today’s podcast with Anne-Sophie Reinhardt of annesophie.us, we discussed this strange paradox, where all of these beautiful, smart, driven women get caught in the trap of self-sabotage, because they define their success not by the things they actually accomplish but by some nebulous, unattainable physical goal.
Ladies, stop me if you’ve heard this one:
I was salutatorian of my class. I took 5 AP classes in my senior year (and 6 AP tests). I was the president of the Children’s Community Service Club, the Vice President of the National Honor Society, the Captain of the Cross Country team, Historian of the Thespian Club, and a member of the award-winning school newspaper. I was curvy and in shape and strong. I also felt like a fat, ugly loser, so I ran twice a day, rolled my skirts, touched up my makeup twice a day in the girl’s bathroom, and wore heels on dress up day because they made me feel more in control of my own beauty.
I appeared to have it all going for me, but on the inside I was broken. I obsessed about my food and my workouts. I cried myself to sleep after school dances, because I “wasn’t thin enough to have a boyfriend” (even when I was Homecoming Queen). I hated myself for not being as thin as I was when I was restricting food during my first bout with ED, and my inability to achieve thinness translated itself into a belief that I was incapable of everything. I felt stupid, even as I achieved more than most high schoolers will achieve in their lives.
The reality is…appearance shouldn’t have mattered. Yet, for some reason…it did. And I beat myself up for knowing that I should know better.
If I were a betting (wo)man, I’d put it all on the fact that my story isn’t unique, and that there are a lot of others out there who are waiting to just be thinner, or more fit, or more beautiful or whatever aesthetic goal best suits their needs before they can accept a reality in which they are successful–even while they struggle with the fact that they know they are already successful in reality.
The conversation with Anne-Sophie today really triggered those memories, and for the first time I feel like I’m equipped to start addressing them from a place of self-compassion.
Anne-Sophie has such a beautiful perspective. Her appearances are her reality, because she is willing to be mindful, willing to speak gently to herself, willing to struggle–and willing to forgive herself for it.
I really hope that you’ll check out today’s podcast–and if you are still struggling with your appearances, know that, in reality, the Finding Our Hunger community is here if you need some support.