I woke up this morning and it was different.
I woke up completely bursting with joy. It was one of those experiences where I was taking a mental inventory of how I felt, because it was a feeling that I want to remember forever. It was a feeling that I want to have forever.
So what was different?
One word: LOVE.
And I’m not talking about the mushy, romantic love.
I’m talking about me. About the real me. About my heart. About my spirit.
I woke up overflowing with joy, because last night I let myself be loved.
I received the love that my friends were showering me with. I allowed myself to actually be open to it. I accepted it. Embraced it.
You see, ED is cunning. He feeds me Lies – still to this day – that I am not deserving of love. ED whispers to me that I’m not worth love. That I don’t deserve to accept love from other people: my family, my friends, a boyfriend, myself, Jesus. If I’m being really honest, this is probably the biggest “ED thing” that has lingered with me to this day. And it’s that I don’t feel like I deserve to be loved. Like I don’t deserve to receive it.
So why was last night different?
What made it so that I allowed myself to accept love from other people?
Here’s my hypothesis: Because I’m truly learning to love myself.
You see, when ED is trying to sneak back into my brain, it’s like he subconsciously makes me self-sabotage myself. Like, “Oh, you have a big event on Friday? Well let me just make sure to fill you with anxiety all night on Thursday so you don’t sleep and you’re off your game for the big day.” Or ED will be like, “Oh, your friends want you to hang out at 9:30? Well, I’m gonna just make sure to show up at 8:00 and fill you with so much bad body image that you’ll bail on your friends.”
Is that just me? Can you relate?
It seems like my subconscious — where ED is trying to break in — can sometimes be my own worst enemy.
And ED’s area of expertise for self-sabotage is when it comes to personal relationships.
I mean, don’t get me wrong – I am truly a great friend. I care deeply about the people in my life. I go out of my way to make each and every one of them feel loved and feel special. So I can give. I’m actually really good at giving love. But when it comes to the flip side — When it comes to receiving the love that my friends are giving back to me, I just can’t do it. It’s not like I’m a mopey, Debby Downer — “Oh, nobody loves me.” But it’s that I just don’t allow my heart to receive it. I don’t let myself feel that comforting blanket of acceptance and joy and care and warmth that is love. Because I think I don’t deserve it.
But last night, that changed.
And it’s because I have slowly been learning to love myself. And I’ve gotta say, I think a lot of it has to do with being open and vulnerable with all of you, and the outpouring of support and encouragement I have received from you all, so thank you for that.
But everyday, as I keep my eyes focused on Jesus and His love for me – Everyday as I am vulnerable with my feelings and express them; Everyday as I continue to nourish my body and make choices that are healthy and good and gentle, I am combatting ED in the battle for my subconscious mind. (Or rather, I am allowing Jesus to battle ED for me). And everyday, as I have been doing these things, I can feel myself slowly begin to find true self-acceptance. And dare I say it, self-love?
Because here’s the thing: I know that the ultimate act of self-love is allowing another person to love me.
I’m going to repeat that. Because it’s really important.
The ultimate act of self-love is allowing another person to love me.
And that includes Jesus, just as a PS 🙂
But it is the greatest gift to myself — the greatest act of self-love — to allow myself to receive love from another person – From my friends. From my family. From Jesus. From — dare I say it — a boy?!?
I was with one of my guy friends last weekend, and he just flat out asked me, “I don’t get it. Why don’t you have a boyfriend?” It was actually quite sweet because he gave me all these affirmations along with it, but he asked me a question that really has haunted me ever since. I make the excuse all the time that I don’t have a boyfriend because “I’m focusing on my career and I don’t have time for a relationship at this point in my life.” Or, “Being an actor is a very self-centered career, and I just cannot give of myself during this season of my life.”
And yeah, those things are both true, but I think if I were really to look at what’s behind why I don’t have a boyfriend right now, I think this would be a little more accurate. Not only is it terrifying to be vulnerable and emotionally intimate with a boy and expose the real me, but I think at a subconscious level, I still don’t truly believe that I’m deserving of letting someone love me.
So waking up this morning, and feeling so much joy and love, and just this all-over warm feeling, I knew that the barriers around my heart were breaking down. I knew that I was beginning to let other people love me.
And I’ve got to tell you, it was the absolute best feeling in the world. People must have thought I was crazy because I was just walking around all day with this smile on my face. Seriously. I kid you not. I was smiling at CVS buying toilet paper — that’s a bit bizarre.
But it gives me great hope. Because I know that this is the last thing. I know that this is the last way that ED still tries to knock me down, and is successful. I hate to say that, but it’s true. This is where he still has control over me: preventing me from receiving love.
So the fact that I can actually feel myself receiving and accepting my friends’ love brings me great hope. Because it means that I am subconsciously saying to myself, “I do deserve to be loved. I am worthy.” And that’s it, my friends. That’s the ticket. That’s the whole kit-and-kaboodle.
So I will just leave you with this: I don’t think it is a coincidence that this acceptance of love comes at the time when I’ve never been more open and vulnerable about my history and about my feelings. It has come at a time when I have been closer to the Lord than I have ever been before – through daily prayer, Mass, listening to Christian podcasts and music. It’s come at a time when I’m starting to open up to people in my life about my ED past. I don’t think it is a coincidence at all.
Learning to love myself has been a long and difficult journey. And I know many of you can relate. With eating disorder recovery, just because you get the weight on doesn’t mean that everything else magically “gets better” too. It doesn’t mean that a healthy BMI is a sure-fire ticket to self-acceptance and self-love. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case.
But it is possible. It is possible to love yourself. And for me, I know that the biggest indicator that I’ve finally loved myself completely, is that I’ll allow myself to be loved by another person.
This weekend was the start of something big.
This weekend was the beginning of an epic love story. With myself.