December 26, 2013

I Used to Hate Myself.



by Leandra of What My World's Like

I used to hate myself. Used to hate so much about my appearance. My hair when it wasn’t “done”, meaning perfectly straight, which it is naturally incapable of ever being. My body because it wasn’t slim enough; too much muscle and too much fat in comparison to the svelte bodies I began to crave mine to be. I absorbed all the images this society and its media dished out to me about what was beautiful, and by omission, what was not beautiful. The regarded beauty was all white and almost none of it reflected the characteristics inherent to my ethnicity, whose beauty was dismissed to the point of disappearance.

Hate is a strong word and when I use it in reference to someone else’s feelings about themselves, they always resist. “I don’t hate myself.” Oh, okay. It is a hard pill to swallow.

Read On!>>>


What I’m talking about is a deep, urgent, secret longing to be “other” than what you already are. A strong desire to give up that which you have and are for that which you don’t have and aren’t, but want and want to be. On a spectrum gauging love and hate, these remorseful feelings of self-rejection sit opposite of love and squarely in conjunction with hate. If the word stings a bit or feels like a knife to the heart, good; one cannot love oneself and reject oneself at the same time. Some truths hurt so much, we choose to ignore them, to not face them; yet, what we resist persists.

To remedy the problem I had with my body, I became obsessed with managing what I put in my body. The irony is that I learned how to have an eating disorder from a television special warning about the dangers of having an eating disorder. Throw up your food or refrain from eating altogether. I thought it was brilliant, really. I thought I was in control. I was wrong.

For years, I resisted the idea of having a problem or needing to get help. I used diet pills and laxatives, exercised two hours a day, counted calories, micromanaged my diet, deliberately skipped meals, binged, and induced vomiting after eating.

This behavior went on for twelve years, off and on. During my senior year in college, I took an online nutrition course. I knew so much, I rarely referenced the book and completed the entire eleven week course in less than a week. That class, although it didn’t teach me too much new, was important for me to face myself. There was a chapter on eating disorders. When looking at the list of symptoms for anorexia, bulimia, and compulsive overeating, I had most of the symptoms of each one. No longer could I deny what I’d been trying to for the previous ten years. Contrary to the 90’s myth, black girls could, in fact, have eating disorders and I was proof. So much so that I couldn’t even peg just one of them down.
I was still too ashamed to say anything or get help, but that realization stuck with me. Two years later, I told someone for the first time. Turned out, she too had disordered eating patters. She knew what it was like to look in the mirror and pick apart your entire anatomy as I’d done.

Cheeks too full. Shoulders too round. Arms too soft. Breasts not high enough. Stomach not tight enough. Hips too wide. Butt too big. Thighs too fat. Knees not pointy enough. What was I satisfied with?

The challenge is that long after the behavior that accompanies disordered eating disappears, the psychology remains. I still struggle with finding a balance within myself. I still struggle with wanting to look, feel, and be my personal best without being excessively harsh and judgmental. Still, I’ve finally found an appreciation and connection with my body that soothes me.

Being vulnerable and honest enough to share this with someone was one of the best decisions I made. Together, my friend and I resolved to get better. I abandoned the behavior and started working with a personal trainer. He specialized in women’s body building and provided a reference that was even more extreme than any behavior I’d exhibited in the past. I was able to find a middle ground on the road to healthy discipline. Additionally, I discovered how much I enjoyed physical challenges and being aware of what my body needed to perform optimally. Now, being active is mandatory, not to satisfy a quest for perfection, but because my body longs for movement, for strength, for connection. When I’m not active, I don’t feel right. I feel just as disconnected from my body as I did when I was in my inactive youth.

Eating disorders are common, yet private. Subscribing to neither our stories nor our struggles are our own, I recognize the healing potential in taking off our masks and revealing our scars. Once upon a time, I was really embarrassed to admit I had low self-esteem and had an eating disorder. Now, I see the blessing. In learning to love myself, I can share that journey to the countless others embarking upon the same task. In learning to love myself, I recognize the various manifestations of not loving oneself. In learning to love myself, I have empathy for those struggling with the same feelings.

There’s light at the end of the tunnel. Avoid the trap of thinking that all that is or has been is all that can be. Transform your challenges into virtue-building experiences.

This issue is very close to my heart. If you need to connect with someone about your self-image issues, I’m here for you.

Follow Leandra on Twitter!
I follow, and her daily gems are amazingly inspirational!

12 Weigh in!:

Anonymous said...

Kudos to you for sharing such a personal story. It's not often you hear of black women with eating disorders.

J'Anns Boutique said...

Powerful post. Thanks for sharing this :-)

Anonymous said...

Powerful.

HairPolitik said...

Thanks so much for the wonderful post.

I couldn't agree more that we often refuse to use certain words because they are uncomfortable, but that doesn't make them any less true. Many of us can relate to your story, I'm sure, because we did/do hate ourselves and have/had an unhealthy relationship with food. I think admitting that is the first step towards embracing who you are and questioning why these biases exist in the first place- or at least that was the case for me.

I too suffered from a disorder that involved overeating and some other unhealthy habits. And I too learned more about it from a TV special. An online college health class and ACCESS to a free gym helped me turn it all around and I lost 50 lbs! Then I slipped into an uncomfortable place in which I started counting every single calorie I ate (even the ketchup) and exercising in extreme amounts because I didn't want to let everyone down and gain the weight back. When my boyfriend became annoyed because I kept "talking about food and my fear of gaining weight" I knew I had to change. Now, I'm working to convince my family members that health guidelines and weight ranges are not just for "white people" and that we can no longer afford to think we are healthy or not based on how someone looks (i.e. canceling the assumption that all black women are naturally thick, etc), while still respecting the fact that we all should have the right to pursue the type of lifestyle and health we want.

At the end of the day though, there is one thing I know for sure: We have a history of treating women like property. As such, those that are considered overweight are treated as if they are less valuable. Sad. Sad. Sad. And so far from the truth.

Allie said...

Leandra it means alot that you would share this story. I admire your courage to put yourself out there.

Anonymous said...

I too had/ and is still dealing with low self esteem and was always looking for attention from the opposite sex... but now I look into the mirror and LOVE what I see. It's crazy but my own family use to tell me "Your too fat, you need to get your hair done" etc. etc. thanks for sharing this post. The healing process is a long one I must say but i loving every minute of knowing what im worth thanks Curly nikki.. for sharing such an Inspirational Quote.. you can contact me via emai @ Mssuccessful89@gmail.com

Pecancurls said...

Leandra, thank you for being so open with your very powerful story of healing. Something tells me that you have touched many lives in a positive way by being so open and transparent.

Anonymous said...

This was really powerful. I have been on a "get healthy/weight loss/lose 10 lbs" journey for years. I have a tendency to start off strong and then fizzle out once I've met a major goal. I thus lose and gain the same 10 lbs all the time. I think it's really important to adjust, readjust and reinforce your mindset before when trying to adopt healthy attitudes about yourself and health. It's a tough journey. Thank you for telling your story. As I find myself slipping back into the same patterns to a much smaller degree, this article really helped force me to take a frank and honest look at myself, my goals and my motivation.

skillsgill said...

My first thought was, "Wow, that was powerful." See I wasn't alone! Thank you for sharing your story. I'm sure it will change a life.

Shelli

Anonymous said...

Great story.I never had a weight problem but, I battle this disorder on a daily basis. Eating only one yogurt a day for lunch and drinking only bottled water. As a women of color this problem is never talked about, it is real.

Chic Noir said...

Great story.I never had a weight problem but, I battle this disorder on a daily basis. Eating only one yogurt a day for lunch and drinking only bottled water. As a women of color this problem is never talked about, it is real.

When did your problems with food start?

The OverWeiGht VegeTARian said...

Thanks for your courage to speak out and write about this. I hate when people say eating disorders are a white people thing - its not. Your closest "black" female friend can be suffering from an ED and you will not even know it because it is not something you talk about. Anyhoo, thanks Leandra again.

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