“Wake up today knowing that whatever happens, you can handle it.” ~Unknown
Tears filled my eyes, and an angry wave of despair washed over me. I just wanted to wear the jeans I had worn for a couple years. The cute ones with the jewels and deep pockets.
I’m guessing many of you can relate; clothes don’t always fit the way we want them to.
Four years ago, a doctor told me I was dying because of anorexia. It’s been a long journey, a story for another day, but I am here and I am alive.
This past year, I finally reached the weight that doctors had been urging me to reach for four years. I dug in, worked with a life coach, and I did it! I finally healed. But wait, shouldn’t the healing process feel great? Shouldn’t I feel proud instead of pudgy?
I should be proud, and I am; yet I still find myself battling with the voice that whispers, “You’re not good enough. You’ll never be enough.” And perhaps that’s what frustrates me the most about my negative attitude some days. Everyone would be proud if they knew why I put on twenty pounds this year, but I am neither eager nor vaguely willing to disclose everything.
It would be convenient if everything were permanently sunshine and roses after we reach a goal, but this is just not the case oftentimes. We reach a goal, and then more challenges arise. That’s okay. That’s life.
In my moments of shame, when I want to crawl under my bed and hide from the world, there are three thoughts that pull me out and help me find hope and perspective. The more I live, the more I am convinced that living fully is a just a matter of perspective. It’s not about taking certain actions or reaching specific results; it’s about experiencing life through an open and positive perspective.
You are a fighter. Whatever you’re going through, may these three thoughts bring you peace and help you find strength.
1. This is temporary.
My mom always told me, “You will not always feel this way.” And she was right. Happiness, sadness, anger—it all passes.
In my own battle with body image and feeling discouraged by my bigger jeans or curvier figure, this thought gives me so much hope. As real as discouraging feelings feel, they are only part of the picture.
At other moments, I could care less about what my jeans look like, much less the number on the tag (which no one sees by the way). I’m too caught up in enjoying the sunshine outside, hiking on the weekends with friends, focusing on my job, and planning lessons for my students.
There are moments when I feel comfortable in my skin, when I feel at peace. These moments give me hope that any temporary feeling, no matter how strong and painful, will pass. That feeling will pass. Afterall, after a good workout, or a refreshing night’s sleep, or a good shower, don’t you feel like a new creature?
Everything is temporary. Every hard week at work, every hellish project, or stressful trip to the in-laws… it will pass. You are resilient, and you can ride this wave knowing it will wash on shore to the sandy beach eventually.
2. Expect good things.
This thought has changed my mornings. I wake up and tell myself to expect good things for the day. Maybe this seems like a no-brainer, but it’s a far stretch from how I formerly approached life—expecting the worst and battling with anxiety and fear about going to work or accomplishing everything.
Repeating “Expect good things” to myself has helped me notice the good things in my life.
I think awareness is powerful. If we remind ourselves to “expect good things,” we’re more apt to consciously look for them (for example, the sunshine, the flowers blooming, that stranger who held the door open).
Beyond noticing good things, we more likely to create them when we expect them to happen. The expectation makes us braver, more compassionate, and more love-filled.
If you don’t believe me, try it. I’ve found that it takes a certain pressure off my day when I trust that good things will happen. I feel more space for love, for creativity.
As a teacher, I tell myself to “expect good things” in the classroom. It helps me create more authentic dialogue, to trust that my students will be engaged and have valuable ideas to offer.
Finally, expect a healthy relationship between your mind and body. Maybe you’re asking, how? Sure, you can wish you were a different weight. A different jean size. Naturally hourglass-shaped. Whatever your ideal shape is.
But what if you expected to have a good relationship with your body and an enjoyable life right now, not after you’ve reached a certain size or diet? You get to pick the kind of attitude you cultivate with yourself, much like you cultivate a certain relationship with the people you love.
I can fight myself for gaining weight to be at my body’s natural set point, or I can “expect good things” at this (or any healthy) weight. More love. More adventures. More mental energy to do the things that I truly care about: learning, teaching, laughing, spending time with those I love.
We get to choose. Expect good things.
3. Find something to be excited about every day.
Sometimes, when I’ve been told to focus on gratitude, I feel guilty. Wow, I have an amazing partner, family, job… yet, I feel so ungrateful or unappreciative. When I focus on the things that excite me, however, I feel less guilty and just plain happier.
When I focus on what brings me joy, I’m able to focus less on my body and more on what I value. Again, learning, teaching, experiencing the community I’m in, spending time with the people I love. Memories that will last longer than jeans.
Maybe you’re excited about an upcoming vacation. Maybe you know you can go home and walk your dog. Maybe your children bring you joy. Maybe it’s a beautiful day and you can see the flowers blooming. There’s something that excites you in life. Focus on these things and you’ll likely feel less weighed down by your struggles.
I know that’s been true for me. Though I sometimes fixate on my size, what I really want isn’t to fit into those jeans. I want to feel strong and confident, and to have a perspective that embraces life and shares joy with others.
I don’t know what your story is, but I promise you’re not alone. You can face whatever you’re going through. It doesn’t have to be pretty or perfect. You don’t have to feel like a superhero. In my experience, the healing process is messy. It doesn’t have an uplifting soundtrack like in the movies. But you can do it. I promise. Anchor yourself in hope. You will not always feel this way. Expect good things. And think about what excites you.
This author is an English teacher at a public university. After battling and surviving anorexia, she finds well-being through yoga and writing and encourages others to do the same. Words can heal.