In my blog of last week, I wrote about the ‘mean girl’ phenomenon. This is an issue that resonated with many women, from both ends of the phenomenon. In fact, many women didn’t realize that they were in a mean girl gang until reading through some of the competitive behaviors!
I’ve openly shared my struggle and subsequent recovery of anorexia. Although it’s not always the most comfortable thing to do, I do it because when I recovered from anorexia, I made a commitment to myself that I would always help anyone else who is affected by it, either personally or through someone they love. Sharing my journey makes me feel vulnerable, which is natural, and overcoming the fear of vulnerability is one of the ways that I strive to grow spiritually. Recently, I received a letter from a woman who had also struggled with anorexia around age 19 and told me that even at 52 she still struggles with food issues. I couldn’t have more empathy for her because I know how lonely that existence can be.
What surprised me though was when she went on to write, “When I look at you, listen to you and read what you write I think you do, too [still struggle with food issues]. I believe it never leaves you. However, we are all in denial that we are still struggling because this is by definition what this illness is all about. It is about lies and self-delusion. Not sure anyone of us can honestly say that we have recovered.”
I was completely taken aback. Essentially, she has taken my story, recovery and success and applied her own story and struggle, then reached out to let me know that I’m living a life of lies and delusions! Interestingly, I received this letter the night before I was going to speak at a charity fundraiser for the SomethingForKelly foundation whose mission is to empower children ages 6-12 to take control over their predisposition to eating disorders.
I let her words sit for a few days, as the kabbalists recommend (3 days to be precise to give ourselves the time to respond not out of reactivity or anger, but from our truest self) and wrote the following response:
“Thank you for writing to me and I mean this sincerely, thank you for challenging me as well. Although I have touched upon this topic in previous lectures and have written about it as well this is the first time I was going to be speaking about my struggle with anorexia and my recovery in such a public way with the intention of helping people and families affected by this today. So after receiving your letter, for a moment, I thought to myself is this something that I shouldn’t be discussing? For that split second, I began to feel shame about it, and shame is one of the biggest components as to why people don’t talk about anorexia and why so many suffer in silence in the throes of it.
As part of my life’s work I have removed feelings of shame and guilt, and so when I felt it at that moment, I became even clearer and more confident in why I want to talk about this. I am sorry that you feel you are still struggling and I truly do empathize with how you feel. However, I am confident in my recovery, healing, and triumph over this debilitating disease. In fact, medical research shows 60 percent of people who have anorexia do in fact recover.
I have gone on to create wonderful friendships, a loving marriage, and had children. I have learned to have a healthy relationship with food, and more importantly, with myself. I feel I have gained strength as a human being for having had anorexia and overcoming it.
In order to be one of the 60 percent you need to believe that you have the power to change… we all do.”
I touched on this in the last blog, that we must all know who we are, at our core. It is only by this deep knowing that we can stand up to the challenges that come our way. Another person with a lesser understanding of themselves, may have received a letter like this and entered a shame spiral.
My reason for sharing this exchange is two-fold:
Know who you are and what you believe. That becomes the unshakeable foundation for how you live and express yourself in this world. Deep self-knowledge means that nobody can tell you who you are or what to believe.
Be mindful of what you say. Words have immense power and a misspoken word reverberates with, sometimes, catastrophic results.
Thought Into Action
Are you applying your life story and emotions on to someone else? It’s insidious and only through careful introspection can we root out these thoughts. (Hint: parents are prone to live out their life stories through their children.)