Finding yourself apart from your eating disorder

Walking the road of recovery can feel more like treading through murky water.  At times, it is difficult to understand truth apart from reality, especially when we have become conditioned to believing and living in the lies told by the Eating Disorder.  Relearning how to trust yourself, how to love your body, how to embrace imperfection…never an easy task when undoing years of damage created by an eating disorder embedded in deceit and shame.

Perhaps one of the greatest struggles in learning the difference between substance and form, or in other words, establishing an identity outside of what is commonly demanded by an eating disorder.  Aside from appearance, artificiality, or superficiality, what composes your true form?  What are you passionate about? What inspires you to become a better person or motivates you to a greater good?

Today, we look  inside reflections from a personal journey recovering from an eating disorder to examine this concept further:

“I found the concept of substance versus form intriguing when I realized it meant the difference between being real and being an “image”.  For years, I had tried to be so much more than what I feared was just plain old ordinary me.  I thought if I tried hard enough to be perfect, look perfect, have everyone like me and be thin as a wisp then I would be happy and life would go as I wanted.  Alas, the very fuel of my eating disorder was derived from this diehard desire to be the image of perfection.  Who I really was, that flawed person, was not acceptable enough, good enough, attractive enough or ever popular enough.

It took some serious work in therapy, over about four years, that I came to realize that I had rejected my authentic self and was deluding myself and others with the many pretenses that made up my “image.”  I began dismantling the pretenses, one at a time and exploring what my true values were.  What really made me happy? What did I want out of life, not what did others expect of me, but what did I truly want?  Was materialism and appearance important to me, or had I just bought into the societal focus on these things and disregarded my own internal value system?

Perhaps most importantly, did I value myself based on my performance and image?  I realized that I had unfortunately become obsessed with my superficial image and neglected my own true inner self.  Big changes needed to happen.  As I explored these realizations, I discovered I wanted to become more comfortable in my own skin and embrace my true self.  The old false image I had worked so hard to project no longer felt comfortable – it took too much energy to keep up the pretenses.  It was just easier to be real.

Funny thing, the more congruent my internal world became with the self that I presented to the world, the less hold the eating disorder had over my life.  Being myself became the norm, pretenses and trying to impress others seemed silly when I realized that I had significant inner value based on my character and who I was in God’s eyes.

Now days, I am all about the substance and much less about the form.”

Are there areas of your life where you have tried to be something other than who you are?
Are you clear on all the gifts and attributes you have that make you unique?
Do you value substance over form?

About Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Eating Disorder Hope in 2005, driven by a profound desire to help those struggling with anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorder. This passion resulted from her battle with, and recovery from, an eating disorder. As president, Jacquelyn manages Ekern Enterprises, Inc. and the Eating Disorder Hope website.