Who Are You Wednesday: My Own Love Will Be Enough
It is amazing how much can evolve in a year. I look at who I was, or more so who I pretended to be, this time last year, and so much is different. Much of that Jenna no longer exists but in memories, and I am completely okay with that. As I continue to grow into myself and step into authenticity, I am realizing how much of me was living a lie. I was living for others, feeling for others, speaking what I thought wanted to be heard, acting in a manner I believed people would accept, morphing into the Jenna the world was telling me to be. I never stopped to look up in the mirror and see that the girl reflecting back at me was not Jenna. It was a carefully constructed, people pleasing, imaginary person. I was not listening to my heart. I was making decisions that would get me to the future that others wanted for me, created for me, projected on me to have. I was walking a path paved by other’s hands. I was following signs that I summoned in my own mind to convince me that I was doing the right things. I was living for others. I was living to earn love, to feel like I deserved care, to be the perfect Jenna.
The pressure I put on myself became too much. The hate I had for the person I was that I could not connect to made me want to punish myself. I was so unhappy with that person that it was nothing, took no sweat for me to be cruel to her. The anorexia was the perfect way to hurt her. There was no guilt in denying her basic human needs, in making her waste away, in stripping her of happiness, in leaving her empty. She deserved it, and so I gave it to her, every single day. The more hatred I developed towards myself with each decision I made against my authentic self, the more frequent and intense the behaviors became. But it started a cycle. The behaviors were causing pain to my loved ones, hurting them, making me opposite of what they wanted and taking me down a path that they did not design for my future. In order to fix this, I tried to people please even more and compensate for the pain. I moved even further from my true self, making decisions opposite of what I wanted, putting on a fake smile, hiding the tears, saying I wanted things that I didn’t, making up a dream future I could not see all so they could feel some sort of peace. I was willing to sacrifice letting Jenna be herself so that others could be happy. To deal with that, I became more engaged in behaviors to numb me out, to display my rage at myself for stepping away from authenticity even more. And then once again I had to compensate for the behaviors. It kept going and going like this until I sought help. But I find myself easily slipping back into that mentality leaving treatment. It has become a habit, one that is not going to break on its own.
But there is hope for there is a solution to it; self love and acceptance. Simple words that hold so much power and promise. Words that will change my life when embraced and practiced. Words that I have posted anywhere I can see, tell myself every day, pray for every morning and night, preach for others to feel. Those things I have battled my whole life to obtain. Always just a far off concept that seemed too hard to put into practice, too worthy to be used by me. I never felt deserving of an unconditional love and acceptance from anyone, especially myself who knew every single mistake, every flaw, every undesirable trait I possessed. I knew myself more than anyone else, and with that knowledge, it seemed impossible to give that girl love.
If I wanted to survive though, I had to. I had to at least give it a try, show some trace of love to this broken girl. It wasn’t going to be an immediate ‘look in the mirror five minutes later and think I am the next best thing to sliced bread’ type thing. It was going to be a process, a step by step journey to self love and acceptance. It would be deliberately making changes in my behaviors and mentality every single day. it would be repeating the same affirmation every minute of the day until it became my truth. It would be doing what I love and makes ME happy, regardless of what others think about it. it would be ensuring that I do something every day that reflects authentic Jenna, that brings her out. It would be actively listening to myself, going against what others told me that did not fit. It would be taking chances and risks to explore my inner self and what I like, challenging previous thoughts to make sure they align with my heart and not just what I put in my mind because others wanted me to. It was taking time to experiment with my likes, question myself and desires. It was allowing myself to be in solitude to patiently, compassionately listen to my heart. It was showing myself grace, forgiving myself, letting go of the past, relinquishing the need to please, accepting I am imperfect; all radical concepts to me that I never gave myself the opportunity to embrace.
The more I pretended, the more I was going to hurt. The more the façade went up, the farther away recovery would become. The more I lived a lie, the more I would retreat to life with an eating disorder to help me cope. I will never be satisfied living up to others expectations of their so called future plans for me, their ideal Jenna. It paralyzed me and made me fear the future even more because I was unsure of stepping into the future I truly wanted in my heart for it is against what others say and I didn’t want to let down other people. It led me to living a double life. I was living in a secret world to numb the pain of being in real life with demands from others that did not match what I wanted for myself. The anorexia is a life behind closed doors to deal with the life in open that people can see. it makes so much sense that I go to the eating disorder to prevent future, authentic Jenna from coming alive because I don’t want to be the one people are making me. I go to the behavior to keep me trapped so I can’t grow, so I have a reason to prevent m e from stepping into THEIR life for me, an excuse to not have to evolve into a person I do not like to please or be someone that I do like that others will not accept. The anorexia becomes the answer to all my problems. The more trapped and confined I feel by the demands I perceive people put on me, the more drawn to the disorder I become. The thoughts instinctively kick in as a form of self preservation but at the same time a type of self sabotage. They are trying to convince me they exist to keep me from even more self hate by not letting m e conform yet their existence creates even more hate because I do not like who I become with the lies and manipulation. It’s a lose lose situation. I hate who I am with it, but I hate the person I try to make myself without it because that girl isn’t living for herself in both circumstances. I am either living for the disorder or for what others want for me and what I believe is acceptable. There is only one key to freedom and that is to let go of the disorder and step into authentic me in recovery instead of “perfect, people pleasing, conforming” me. That is how recovery will sustain. That is how I will finally fly.
I am trying extremely hard to love the present me, but it is even harder to do when people keep projecting future Jennas on me that I have no connection to or desire to be. There is no more Jenna being hidden by other’s expectations. There is no more allowing my life, my loves, myself to be taken from me. There is no more giving myself an excuse to hate myself. I am going to focus on who I am today, not who I was and not who people think I will be. There is no more accepting anybody else’s definition of my life. I am going to define myself. There is only going to be an increase in love, in acceptance, in inner peace by letting Jenna be released. I am going to treasure the ever evolving Jenna.
I am embracing what a beautiful thought it is that you will never be the same self twice in your life. Every day you are different, growing, learning, evolving more into yourself. We make decisions that change us. We encounter challenges that strengthen us and teach us. We hear, see something that gives us a new perspective. We meet someone who brings out something new in us. Every day we go through something that changes us in a way that we could never go back to the people we once were. I fought this for so long, unwilling to change and let go. I was clinging to a Jenna that felt safe and familiar although she was not true. In the past, this concept would have scared me for it meant I was moving away from the Jenna that would always be accepted and was what people wanted. Now, it is thrilling. It means the opportunity to move more into authenticity every day. It means another reason to love myself. It means being even more engaged in a beautiful life. It means adding beauty in this life with the presence of my genuine, unhidden spirit and heart. If I lose people with the real Jenna, if people cannot handle her, I am at peace with that. Acceptance from everyone in the world is not worth my death. My own love is going to be enough…
Love, light, and bravery, J.L.