Dear Sister... I Promise We Are Enough
I was inspired to write this post by my little sister who for whatever reason doesn’t believe that she is enough, but this could equally be a letter to a younger me or anyone who feels the pressure to look and be ‘Perfect'.
Please my darling, if you choose to compete, do it for the joy of it.
If you choose to stay on social media, please spread words of self love and gratitude for who you are.
If you choose to take photos of yourself and put them out to the world to judge, tell the world that no matter what, you love who you are, despite what they think.
Encourage your audience to reflect and embrace who they are, too.
You are wonderful.
It is a miracle that you get to walk on this earth.
Don’t waste a moment trying to live up to the expectations of others.
LAUGH when you fall.
Pick people up when they fall.
Please take my mistakes and use the lessons I have learned to guide you. I love you.
We are enough, as we are, we are enough now and we always will be.
We don’t need to change, we don’t need to strive for ‘success’ or push ourselves to the ‘ultimate’.
We don’t need goals or to compete.
Life doesn’t have to be a competition.
We don’t have to be “the best”. We don’t need to fill a chart of golden stars, wear medals around our chest, lift a trophy high above our head or fill our wallet with a load of green paper.
To imply happiness lives amongst material possessions implies, without them, there is only sadness and failure.
What happens when we don’t fill the chart with golden stars, collect the golden medal of perfection, the big trophy of ‘success’ is never lifted and we don’t hold an exploding wallet or have enough zeros on another piece of paper to satisfy the ‘should’s’ of others?
Well, we feel a mixture of emotions. But one that often appears is a sense of worthlessness. Worthlessness in whatever depth. It may be fleeting, it may resonate to the core. More than likely, each time we are not gratified with the external validation we seek or a material objects, our confidence in who we are as individuals is chipped away.
Receiving a sticker on a chart as a child and the highest grade in school—that’s what I wanted.
And it’s all well and good in theory but in reality it’s making us addicts of external validation.
What about doing something because we enjoy it? Because it brings us genuine happiness? For the sheer love of it.
What an underrated reason to do anything.
Me? I wanted the teacher to say ‘Well done’ as she applied the shiny star to my workbook.
My parents would tell me that they were proud of me because of the shiny star that the teacher clearly believed I deserved.
I would then be rewarded by my parents for pleasing my teacher….. very rarely do I recall anyone asking me ‘Did you enjoy that?’ ‘What did you learn from that?’ ‘How do you feel about that?’.
So I was taught that pleasing people would mean I would be liked and that I would get STUFF.
Could be compliments or it could be a gold medal. Didn’t really matter if I enjoyed it or not, I was getting a tangible reward and people liked me for what I achieved.
When I reached a height, a dizzy height, great grades, athletic, winning all the medals, receiving all the compliments, everyone wanted to be my friend… but I had to maintain this image that I had worked so so hard to create.
That’s a lot of pressure. Moving into the work place wasn’t much different, ‘Do this, you’ll get that, yay, acceptance’.
Again, it didn't matter if I enjoyed it. Just maintain the image (this was an unconscious thought at this stage of course).
What I achieved was soon replaced by what I looked like.
Look good, get more.
More praise, more external validation, more opportunities, more STUFF. I didn’t stop to consider if any of this made me happy? I wanted to fit it! External gratification and validation galore!!
And so, I joined the rat race. Not only did I need to meet the expectations of others with my achievements but also with my appearance.
Lucky me, already slim, athletic, I kind of saw that I was pretty similar to this ‘ideal look’.
So all I had to do was keep winning these medals (insert promotion, increased salary, new car etc etc) AND look fantastic.
Already someone who was very conscious over food and exercise, I know a bit about calorie deficits and diet plans. WINNING. EASY.
So that's what my ‘friends’, family, colleagues and managers saw in real life, but it all came down to the social media account too.
The perfect photograph required commitment.
Diet plans, exercise plans, make up, clothes, a good camera, decent lighting, editing and then, the image was ready for the world to see.
Share, wait for the likes instead of golden stars.
BOOM, a new kind of external gratification and validation. Up on a pedestal, not only with the people around me physically but with everyone I invited into my cyber world.
Perfect diet plan, perfect exercise regime, all the medals…….. phew, a lot of perfect going on right now. BUT I WAS MISERABLE.
Let’s be honest, what happened when I switched off the social media?
When I was alone at home without the constant praise. I felt so empty.
Trapped inside myself. So many rules in my life to ensure I maintained this external image of a‘perfect’ life.
And I was so HUNGRY!!! Hungry for praise, acceptance and validation.
Well what better way to feed that hunger? Food.
I didn't feel physically hungry, but I did feel emotional hunger.
I heard, if ‘they’ don’t care, I ‘don’t care’.
So I ate and I ate and I ate. It started with a bowl of chocolate cereal and an overwhelming need to numb the pain of loneliness. Lonely not because I was alone but lonely because when I was alone, I didn’t like me.
Sure, I looked great! Almost, but not quite, the perfect image according to, what felt like, the rest of the world.
I’m not suggesting for one moment that other things in my life didn’t contribute to my reliance on food as a source of comfort, the constant binging, and awful ways that I treat my body.
But what I am saying is seeking praise and validation my whole life through achievements and then through the way I looked contributed massively to this journey that I have been on for the past 15 years.
There are many factors that I will continue to explore now that I am accepting myself for who I am.
Offering myself internal validation, releasing myself from the harsh judgements and rules I placed on my life based on what others expected of me, that’s where I am starting.
So, my lovely sister. Thank you for encouraging me, albeit unknowingly, to explore a little more about my journey so far, the need to control everything, specifically food intake and why it’s impossible to maintain that control.
You gave me the courage to write down some hard truths. I guess you never know how much you can influence someone else, with something you post online.
I take comfort in the knowledge that one day the world won’t make you question who you are based on what you look like.
Be kind to yourself & I’ll write to you again soon.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hollie is a single mum to a lovely little girl. She is from England and recently moved to Cyprus. Having promoted ‘healthy’ eating and rigorous training through social media, embarking on fitness regimes and ‘healthy lifestyle changes', she felt very alone and in reality struggled with self-confidence, body image issues, and constant negative self-talk caused predominantly by chasing and maintaining the ‘perfect’ body, through obsessive dieting and exercise. Hollie has now rebuilt her relationship with food and her body through techniques she has learned with E-CET and understands that food shouldn’t come with rules and fears.
She is currently training to be an E-CET Coach and is passionate about helping other women like her understand the reasons behind the obsessive food and exercise thoughts, the binging, overeating, and emotional eating. She wants women everywhere to feel the sigh of relief she felt when she finally threw away the diet plan, took off her smartwatch, and embraced her health on her own terms.
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The Academy is a specialized group coaching course. It combines a wide range of scientifically proven, evidence based modalities into an easy-to-follow step-by-step process that helps you understand why you can't stop eating in ways that don't serve your best interests and how to stop. It has been meticulously crafted and tested for almost three years with one goal in mind - helping you move past all the things that are keeping you stuck repeating the same self-destructive patterns so you can find peace and start living and feeling better.