I don’t know when it all started, I guess I had never been fully confident in who I was as a person. While no one ever spoke these words to me, I always felt like “the fat, nice girl” growing up. I constantly struggled with wishing my body looked like the girls around me. Looking in the mirror was increasingly difficult for me through the years. If I could count the amount of times I cringed at my own reflection, we’d be tallying up the marks for days. I hid behind a mask and painted a picture to others that all was well. I did great in school, had an amazing group of friends, was a leader in my high school and college ministries, finished college and got a great job – but inside, I was rapidly decaying from self-hate and shame. Little by little I partnered with the lies of the enemy, that I was unlovable and disgusting. After all, I was in my mid-20’s and had never had a serious relationship or significant interest from any male. I convinced myself that I was broken and something was wrong with me. I couldn’t fix that a man did not want me, but I could fix my body. In an attempt to cope with my inner turmoil, I began to wrestle with Bulimia behind the scenes for years. I decided that as long as I was the only one who knew, it wouldn’t be a problem. I could keep it under control and it would help me obtain the perfect body, and the acceptance I deeply craved from myself and others.
Fast forward, I was 28 and the deep rooted, self-hate that I had entertained all my life had finally produced a full-blown eating disorder. I was no longer in control of my “little habit”. I had grown miserable in my shame, developed medical issues because of my eating disorder and became unable to do my job. It was as if my life had dwindled down to nothing and I was living in a deep fog. I finally decided to open up to a trusted group of friends about where I was really at. Through much prayer, tough love, tears, failed attempts to “get over it”, and finally, an ultimatum from my friends—I admitted that my life had become unmanageable and that I needed help. I put my job on the back burner and entered treatment (one of the best decisions I have ever made, by the way!) My turning point came about half way through the process.
I remember it as if it were yesterday. I was sitting in treatment, surrounded by some of the bravest women I have ever met. The room was cold and I had been annoyed and short with everyone that particular day. For the past week, I had been unraveling the deep root of my eating disorder, self- hate. During a group session, a staff member asked me, “Stephanie, what does your eating disorder convince you it can provide?” Deep breath. “Love”, I replied. “Is it working?” “No.” Cue all the tears. The shattering reality that my eating disorder wasn’t providing the love and acceptance I so desired finally hit me. I felt betrayed and undone. It hadn’t fixed me, it had destroyed me. I believed the lie that if I were just prettier, thinner, didn’t have that weird birthmark my lip, could be funnier, or have the perfect body, I would finally become worthy of the love of a man, get married, have the perfect life and my fairy tale ending would happen. This was not the case. At what point would my body FINALLY become perfect enough or worthy of love? It was a never-ending cycle. I was looking to myself to fix myself, but came up short in my own attempts every single time.
The journey of self-love and acceptance does not start by being able to look in the mirror and say a nice thing about yourself and believe you are pretty, although, I hope you can do that too! It starts with shifting your eyes off yourself and onto to the greatness of who God is, and what He thinks of you. He knew the deepest, darkest, and most shameful moments of my journey and loved me still. He chose me (Eph. 1:4), called me Daughter (2 Cor. 6:18), has given me all the rights of royalty (1 Peter 2:9), loves me with a lasting, unmoving, unshakeable love (Romans 8:39). I was chasing down love, but I was ALREADY fully loved by the God the Universe. More than just looking in the mirror and believing I am beautiful (which I can do now), I can now look in the mirror and see myself as a daughter who is more loved and accepted by God, than by anyone or anything else. A daughter who is safe and held in the secure arms of the Father. A daughter who used to walk in the path of shame, but now walks on the highway of freedom. A daughter who was created perfectly by the most creative Creator. I see my blue eyes, and thank God that He created me, and has far more in store for me than I could ever imagine.
My journey is certainly not perfect. I have to take one day at a time and ask God to help me. I still have days where I find myself wrestling to believe the truth about who God says I am. However, I now have tools to help me fight these battles. I still check in with my nutritionist, counselor, trusted friends, and others in recovery for support and encouragement. I have learned how to recognize the darkness when it starts to creep in, and fight the enemy’s tactics against me. Each day, with God’s help, I am choosing to walk in the light as I shift my eyes onto the greatness of who our God is.
I was chasing the acceptance of a man, but could not see that Jesus had already accepted me (Eph. 1:3-6) I wanted to feel loved, but was blinded from seeing that I was ALREADY fully loved by God (Eph. 3:19) I spoke words of destruction over my life, but could not hear the songs of victory the Father was singing over me. (Zeph. 3:17) I wanted to feel worthy, but could not see that He had already made me worthy (2 Thes. 1:11-12) I wanted a perfect body, but could not see that Jesus’ perfect body on the cross gave me all I could ever need (2 Cor. 5:12) I wanted to find love, but I did not find it with my head over a toilet. I found it when I looked to Him.