On Friday night, I sat knee-to-knee with my friend Sarah, as we watched Gabby on stage. She was launching her new book, Miracles Now. The lecture was incredible, and afterwards, she opened up the stage for Q&A. The clock was ticking, and it was time for the party to wind down.
A woman approached the microphone. She was terrified, trembling, and she could hardly get the words out.
“I’ve been dealing with an eating disorder for 13 years, and I’ve been in and out of treatment. I’ve made some progress, and I believe all the stuff I’ve learned on an intellectual level… But I feel like I can never get there emotionally. I know that part of me is fighting for me to be healthy and happy, but not all of me. I just feel really disconnected from myself. I don’t know what to do.”
As I listened to her, I got a lump in my throat. I knew where she was coming from. I know what it’s like to intellectually know that what you’re doing is unhealthy, and to know that theoretically, it could all be solved quite easily. But then you look in the mirror and break down in tears, because you can’t stand how repugnant you are.
Knowing something to be true intellectually is very different from knowing it in your heart and feeling it to be true. You might know that you should forgive yourself, learn to accept yourself, and love yourself, but until you feel it deep within, nothing will change.
A lot of women that night mentioned that it was easy to forgive others, but almost impossible to forgive themselves. This is always the biggest challenge; we are always our own biggest critic. We forget that an act of forgiveness doesn’t have to be a big thing. It can be a small mental affirmation, I forgive myself, repeated throughout the day.
“The only difference between me and you is that I practice forgiving myself all day long.” (Yogi Bhajan)
Eating disorders come from that place that tells you you’re not good enough, that everyone else is doing so much better than you are, that you’ll never measure up and you’ll never be perfect. They grow in that place that condemns you for having too many feelings, for not having enough self-control, for being in a body that changes every day.
This woman felt alone in a room of 200, but the truth is that at least 150 of the women in that room were right there with her. New studies have just been released which say 75% of women have disordered eating.
If you’ve never suffered from disordered eating, the best thing I can compare it is to having your soul torn apart and dragged in two different directions. You feel like you are being severed from your spirit. The pain and loathing and anguish is beyond anything I have ever encountered.
We always think our problems are ours alone, but we are never as isolated as we think. Eating disorders are one of the ultimate secrets, and staying silent hurts us and the people around us. There is a way out, and once you meet someone who kicked anorexia’s ass or kissed bulimia goodbye, you realise it doesn’t have to be your identity. It doesn’t have to be destiny.
There are a lot of different ways to get to the other side: 12-step programs, tapping (this is even endorsed by the National Centre For Eating Disorders), meditation, yoga, art therapy, a combination of some or all of these things… The list goes on and on. There are even iPhone and Android apps to help! I also love these suggestions for recovery: print it out and put it somewhere you’ll see it all the time.
It’s time to take care of ourselves and do what is truly best for us. There is so much love that we are not giving ourselves, and while it’s tempting to give it to someone else, you have to help yourself first.
One thing I can promise you: when you move past your eating disorder, when you stop letting it define you, and when you start to gain an appreciation for your body, your life will be transformed. You will have hopes and dreams again. Your heart will be filled with the beauty of the world. It will be so radiant that it will make you gasp.
If you’ve already learned to love yourself or you are on the way, it is your duty to pass on what you know. It is your responsibility to use those tools to help other people. Radical self love and the journey of self-discovery is not about navel-gazing and self-indulgence, it is about learning how to turn up your own light so you can shine and illuminate the world for others. You can start to show them that your light is a reflection of theirs.