Just this afternoon, I went for a run. I had been having a hard day emotionally and I needed a distraction, an outlet for my pent up anxiety and frustrations. After a nice run, I came back to my apartment and heated up the shower, but just before stepping into the steamy water, I looked at myself in the mirror. And guess what? I didn’t like what I saw.
Did I have a six pack? No. Was my stomach flat like I wanted it? Nope. Did my butt look good? Uh, no. Did I even have the shape that I wanted? No way. Was there anything I liked about the image I saw, standing there exposed in the mirror? Sorry, but no.
But the most important question of all didn’t come to me until after I stepped away from the mirror and got in the shower… Did I love my body? The answer is yes. Here is what many people who battle an eating disorder don’t understand, but would greatly benefit to learn: loving what you see in the mirror is not the same thing as loving your body. I’ll explain.
I thought that when I got to this size, I would love everything about my body in the mirror. I thought I would finally stop going to war with my reflection and that I’d be at peace with the way I looked. Plot twist– Ed doesn’t give a crap about what size you are, because it’s never enough. Logically, I know I can’t lose weight and still be healthy. I always fluctuate a little, going up in the winter and down in the summer, but I know I can’t go down more than this. And still, it’s not enough for Ed. He finds my flaws within a millisecond of looking at my reflection and picks me apart. I can choose to listen to him, sure. If I do that, I’m at risk of using symptoms and eventually relapsing. But I can also choose to ignore him completely and focus on loving my amazing body.
Like any relationship, loving my body must go deeper than surface level appearance. I love my body because it allows me to dance. There is no joy like dancing, and my time at my dance studio as a child and now my time with the Elon Irish Dance Team brings me more happiness than Ed could ever give me. I love my body because it allows me to hug and be hugged, to paint and draw and play piano, to worship the Lord, to play with my dog, and be a good student. I love my body because it can run 5ks, take naps, meditate, burst with energy, or just be still in God’s love. My body takes me everywhere I want to go, and tells me when it needs a break. I love my body.
I also have respect for my body. No matter what I do, my body is there for me. Despite 10 years of restricting, over-exercise, purging, and other self-destructive behavior, my body prevailed. It fought to get me better and cling onto life, even when I tried everything to throw that gift of life away. My body has been through sprains, fainting episodes, self-induced GI issues, and just overall sickness. And don’t even get me started on what anxiety has done to my poor body. My body is a survivor. I have a lot of respect for my body, and I do not have a right to judge it by the way it looks.
Maybe someday I will like my reflection, but right now, that’s just not a priority. Recovery isn’t about liking what you see in the mirror. It’s about liking who you see inside. I know I still have body dysmorphia and that my reflection is not accurate, but I am content to have an accurate image of my character and what makes me, well, me. So no, I don’t like my reflection. But I like who I am. And when I look inside my heart, I am unique, sparkly, and fabulous. Now that’s an awesome image!