The realisation is quite profound – that of the reality you’ve managed to internalise, SO many self-deprecating lies as a result of pushed consumerism, peddled solutions to non-existent problems and an ever – moving goalpost, and targets which you will never reach.
Which you are never intended to reach, by the peddlers pushing this sort of nonsense.
The first lie? That there is an ‘end’ at all. Starting a health – focused journey the proper way also means realising that the journey itself IS the destination. You smash that present goal repetitively, every time you choose to do something positive for yourself. And keep choosing. Over and over again. Trusting in the process, and being comfortable in the now.
All the time we have IS just now. Looking after your health is a a reward based on gratitude for that health as it is now.
It’s not supposed to be a punishment.
Building a house means laying strong foundations, in this case, mental strength first, endurance and the ability to conquer obstacles by first breaking out of the cages of fear and doubt in your mind. It can be a painful process, but the only way out is through.
Magazines with diet plans on one page and calorific recipes on the next. Keeping a mentality of dependence & powerlessness over natural human instincts, encouraging individuals to fight them rather than harness them, a ‘purity spiral’ of the same mentally-damaging nature as religious extremism. All built on the seeking of external approval.
All built on encouraging a mentality of lack, feeding on – and capitalising on – collective insecurity.
I’ve had more than my fair share of health hiccups. Mostly as a result of my already fragile and insecure mental state – sucked in to the lie, and held there, by a lifelong, permeating feeling of ‘otherness’ or non-belonging. In my younger years, living with undiagnosed autism, my tendency towards obsessive focus also made every ‘health’ effort I undertook a spiralling recipe for disaster.
I’ve since learned that a feeling of unworthiness is quite a common underlying issue with eating disorders, and that they also are quite a common theme among autistic people, for many varying reasons, with our tendency to hyperfixate throwing fuel on the already self-destructive fire.
In my case, I usually ended up suffering from them at times when I was particularly unhappy or feeling out of control with my life. I decided to blame a lot of it on my appearance, using my ‘imperfect’ body as a scapegoat for my struggles, something to throw all my intense focus on, and that becoming as skinny as possible – no matter the cost to my health – was the fundamental answer to all my insecurities and problems.
In my mind, it would allow me more external approval, ‘allow’ me to wear fitted garments, and make it possible to wear bright colours and fabrics I found uncomfortable without becoming overwhelmed by how they felt or looked (looking back.. extreme weight loss never DID cure these sensory issues, funnily enough). And, probably the most disturbing incentive : to look as weak externally as I felt internally, as if it would somehow communicate to the outside world the vulnerability I felt, that I needed far more support in life than I was getting.
During my bulimic & anorexic ‘diets’ (which took over my entire headspace) I kept diaries, smoked endlessly, causing chest infections (I’m mildly asthmatic) and took in huge amounts of caffeine in a bid to increase metabolism, documenting everything I ate, random scraps with zero consideration for the nutritional content and, if I deemed it too much, went to further extremes involving laxatives or self-induced vomiting.
Harmful fixations can trample all over you like a wild horse if you don’t hold onto the reins & harness this ability for good.
My eating disorders ended up fuelling themselves in this way, my worsening mental state perpetuated by a lack of nutrition and exercise. I only recovered when I became too weak to physically function while also keeping up with the impossible things I was doing to myself, but the self-hate & insecurity remained, the feeling of ‘not good enough’ permeating my entire being, comparing myself to others who seemed to effortlessly ‘have it all together’ – socially, mentally and physically, waiting for the time I would ‘try again.’ Try to be perfect. Try to be A REAL PERSON. Work harder, to become everything I felt I wasn’t, at any cost. In the meantime, I frequently dressed in baggy, sack – like clothing to hide any signs of having an ‘imperfect’ body.
In spite of my efforts, I never once felt beautiful at my lowest weight. I had no sense of self-care or concern for my actual health whatsoever. All that mattered was that I continued to lose. I hated the styles I’d tried to adopt in my quest for a perceivable ‘perfect’ – having no sense of individual identity, abandoning the gothic and alternative fashion I loved, in a bid to outwardly appear like I had all of my shit together. Throwing my whole personality away in a fruitless attempt to try and run from the painful experiences and ‘inadequate’ feelings of my past and become somebody else.
An example of one such criticism : a bitchy shop assistant I encountered on holiday, smiling and saying to my sister-in-law who was with me “You need to have a beautiful body to wear this” as I gave back a dress I tried on that was too small. She had no idea that I was fluent in Albanian, or about the impact such careless words can potentially have. I said nothing and pretended I hadn’t heard, but it validated what I felt inside. That I wasn’t beautiful. Wasn’t good enough. Wasn’t ‘like the others.’
During my eating disorders, (the last bad one in 2012 – 2014) I wore pretty dresses for occasions, smiled whenever a camera appeared, but I was dying inside. I wasn’t ‘me.’ It was a slow form of suicide, a ‘punishment’ for everything I was lacking, the social ‘block,’ I couldn’t break through, the ‘cool’ person I couldn’t be, no matter how hard I tried. Never good enough.
It gave me a much-needed feeling of control. Friends and family expressed concern. I was so far gone into my own deluded spiral, that I told myself they didn’t want what’s best for me, that they saw me as inferior, and were jealous of my achieving a size 6-8, and my willpower & ability to attain such goals so quickly.
It didn’t matter that my skin was bad, that I frequently suffered with a smokers cough, dizzy spells and palpitations, that I was too tired to even think about exercise, that I drank shots to forget hunger even though I could no longer properly handle alcohol without getting sick, was constantly cold, or that I had permanent bags under my eyes. Make-up could cover that. All that mattered was the number on the scale and the ridiculously small sizes I could fit into. I told myself that the health sacrifices were simply what it realistically took, and that it was worth it.
The light at the end of these cyclic self – destructive behaviours and the feelings that fuelled them only came when I started to understand myself better. When I learned about the advantages of holding personal boundaries and individual goals. When I first conquered the mental hurdle of the lifelong, unexplained innate feeling of insufficiency and social non-belonging which almost destroyed me.
When I finally discovered and accepted that I truly was different, right down to my neurological make-up, that I had no need to seek any external validation in place of the ‘cut off’ I felt from my lack of being able to read subtle social signals and communicate effectively with others, that autism is a disability, not something I could control or erase, and that there was no shame in it whatsoever. It just is what it is.
I go into more detail about the post-diagnosis process towards acceptance in my previous post, ‘beauty in the grey.’ (Link below).
- Rebuilding the ‘house’ Restrictive Repetitive POWERThe realisation is quite profound – that of the reality you’ve managed to internalise, SO many self-deprecating lies as a result of pushed consumerism, peddled solutions to non-existent … Continue reading Rebuilding the ‘house’ Restrictive Repetitive POWER
With that mental victory came a level of empowerment and resilience the likes of which I’d never known before, finally feeling happy in my own skin, in my own mind, finally letting go of stubborn past habits of defensive fear, any external negativity falling off me like raindrops.
Suddenly – my struggles and inner feelings of unworthiness were not my fault. I wasn’t imagining things. I was not, and never had been, a broken neurotypical – but I was a perfectly good autistic person, and had been doing pretty well in spite of my circumstances. I cried when I first realised. Many late – diagnosed people describe it as a movie with a twist at the end which makes everything weird in the movie make sense – that’s a perfect description.
The people in my life who I believed considered me not ‘cool enough,’ ‘pretty enough,’ ‘social enough’ ‘too intense’ or ‘too weird’ to be accepted, or at best only accepted me out of pity… none of that mattered anymore, particularly as it was mostly a result of my own projection, and I’d finally accepted myself. That is validation enough, and believe me when I say that true self – respect reflects everywhere in the external environment.
This time, I’m nobody’s competition or sycophant – I’m only competing with my past self. And winning. The ability and motivation to engage in hierarchical social behaviour is not even in my make-up, but not being able to ‘play the game’ properly in all its complexity doesn’t stop me from understanding the basics after much objective study, and seeing straight through the superficiality of it all – including the lie of ever-unachievable ‘beauty’ and the lies and self-deprecation we internalise as a result.
I’ve decided that I’m more than good enough. That’s all I need to start ‘weaving the golden thread.’
Building the house , after laying the foundation of mental strength through self-acceptance.
In dream interpretation, the house represents the self. (I explore this a lot in my music). If ‘the house’ stands on a weak foundation, it will need rebuilding from the inside out, which is why the ‘mental marathon’ of first seeking to understand past patterns of behaviour and the fears behind them is so important.
I’ve learnt that there IS no ‘clone of beauty,’ no standard size or number on a scale to adhere to. That smaller isn’t always better. A size 6 or 8 is in fact an unhealthy, extremely difficult attainment for my height – yet it’s pushed as an ideal universal attainment for ALL heights and body types. Paraded on catwalks by sunken-eyed, lifeless models. This ‘standard’ is BS.
This is not to generalise and say toss all weight-related concerns out the window. Physical health is a balance which looks different for everyone. I suffered repeated ankle injuries when I first took up running properly, due to a combination of dyspraxia and awkward posture, my natural tendency to toe-walk when barefoot in the house causing tight hamstrings, the lack of joint stability and not understanding how to minimise the impact of weight on the foot. These were barriers I had to grit my teeth and push through, use my focus in order to gain the muscle strength and skill needed to keep going. I no longer have these issues. (Plus I bought some decent running shoes & got rid of the cheap crap I’d worn previously).
However it is possible to cover many miles, and have incredible endurance, without being ‘skinny.’ That’s not my objective, not anymore, I’m too happy with the process, and I’m done with punishments for being me. No longer interested in the pursuit of weight loss in the slightest. (Or in the attempted wearing of overwhelming and meltdown-inducing itchy, fussy dresses).
The objective should always be optimal health, with mental health and self-appreciation being the most fundamental taking priority over all else.
You need to treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping. Respecting your individual boundaries and needs, not looking to arbitrary numbers and clone-like ‘standards’ as a foundation for your self-worth. Differences are what give each of us individual beauty.
‘There is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in the proportion.’ ~ Edgar Allan Poe
That snarky shop assistant could never even dream of keeping up. I’d love to go back and give her this sharp response “Actually… I AM beautiful… TOO beautiful to wear that.”
I don’t have all my shit together. I still mess up. I don’t communicate perfectly. I’m not ‘perfect’ – not a plastic carbon copy. And I’m done trying to be, I’d much rather progress just as I am, alongside and immersed in all the wonderful intricate detail of nature.
‘Perfect’ could have potentially killed me.
Whoever is reading this, I wish the same level of acceptance for you, shaking off the fear in whatever way and with whatever outlet you choose, finding strength in the process, while allowing all your ‘perfect imperfections’ to breathe, as unapologetically as nature. Try it.
Let’s add some more links to the chain and keep it spreading ❤️
Harness your ‘weaknesses’ in whatever way you choose. Take back your power from the grasping claws of the past which have latched on to you and have become sneering inner parasites. Tear them out and rescue yourself.
You deserve better than be consumed by them.
Your power is yours for the taking.
Restrictive. Repetitive. POWER.