You are always your own worst critic, and my brain takes it to the extreme. For as far back as I can remember, I have always needed outside validation to feel good enough, smart enough, pretty enough. If I am left to be the judge of those things, I will never make the mark. But no matter what, even the outside validation didn't convince my brain that I was enough. People would tell me I was pretty, I wouldn't believe them. When I complained about being "fat" and people told me I was not, I thought they were just protecting my feelings so I wouldn't turn to unhealthy habits or just lying. When my family told me I was smart, I thought it was their biased opinion and not a fact.
A few weeks ago I received an email notifying me of an award I was receiving from school for my performance in the educational psychology program. I was the only student in my branch of the program to receive the award. I was over the moon with excitement and pride. I know how much effort I have put into my education and it felt great to be recognized for it. But as the novelty wore off, I began doubting myself once again. Why am I getting an award? I haven't done anything special to deserve it. Everyone in my program works hard and is very intelligent. By no means do I feel as though I do more or know more than any of them! I just didn't understand what made me qualified for such an award. My brain quit allowing me to feel proud or excited, I started feeling anxious and honestly, a little embarrassed.
Earlier this week my dad and boyfriend made the trip to TN with me for the awards banquet. The morning of the banquet, we met up with one of my friends I made in the masters program. She was showing us around campus. It was the first time I was meeting her in person. For the last two years, all of our communication has been on Zoom, text, or FaceTime. I was so nervous for her to see me in person and what she would think about me when she saw the size of my body. I did my best to breathe and stay mindful and enjoy taking in the beauty of the campus and laughing with her about different things. Before we parted ways, we took a photo together. Several photos were taken that day: me and my dad, me and my boyfriend, and pictures of the three of us together. After the luncheon, we got in the car to head back home. We sent each other the pictures we had taken that day on our phones. I was looking at them and all I could think about was how big I looked in all of them. Especially the one of me and my friend. She looked adorable as always and I looked like a whale next to her. I was embarrassed to send it to her because of how awful I felt I looked in it. I spent more time stressing over the images and how awful I looked in them than I did celebrating what the day was actually about. The award I got had nothing to do with my body size or appearance. I earned it solely from my hard work, dedication, and my brain.
I had to force myself to change the channel in my brain and reflect on the reason for the trip, the company I had, and the amazing people I have met along the way. Getting an education from UT, making memories and friends through my time at UT are things I have dreamed about since I was a little girl in a Vols cheerleading dress. I sent my friend the picture of us together and shared with her my story about how I was supposed to attend UT for undergrad, I got sick with ED and could not go. I thanked her for showing us around campus and how much I cherished the friendship we have. She responded with a very sweet message reminding me of how far I have come and how what I have to offer this world is much more and important than my body. I know she is right. I am not a body, I HAVE a body.
This time of year is always a challenge because of the stresses that come along with the holidays, the days getting shorter and gloomier, and the colder weather. I know I am going to have to put in more effort to keep my thoughts in check and reframe my thinking when ED gets loud. I am going to need to do the activities that make my mind, body, and soul feel good. My plan is to add some yoga back into my life, try to run on the treadmill at my dads, take a hot bath and listen to music, have game nights with friends, visit with my family, and snuggle with my pets. There are so many things I want to accomplish in my life and none of them require my body to look any different than it currently does. But, I would love to feel more confident in my body. To do that, I need to do the movement activities that make me feel empowered and strong, without the goal or intention on changing my appearance or weight. It is wearing the clothes I feel comfortable in. Buying clothes that fit me, regardless of the size on the tag. Focusing on the moment and memories of a photo and not so much the image that is captured. I am learning more and more how short and precious our time on Earth is, and damn do I want to make the most of it and leave behind a world that is better than the one I left.
<3 Stay Strong and Beautiful