Thursday, 28 March 2013

The Truth about me - and Discovering Self-Worth

The more I look at life in the past few weeks, the more revelations I am getting about my own views, what they were, are, what they should not have been and what they are becoming.

Everything has changed so much, and I am now altering my opinions, views and perspectives. And it has been God, all along. Gently prodding, showing me things with new eyes. It has been so far (it's not over yet!) incredible, although difficult, and I would like to continue sharing these things as God reveals them to me. Reluctantly, kicking and screaming, or quietly led - it really doesn't matter how, the truth of the matter is, if our perspectives need to change they need to change. We simply need to be willing (or at least partially!) for God to do what He wants to do with that. Another challenge. Oh how I enjoy these!
So, perspectives. Time for change. Time to look at things in a new way.  Here comes a deep one - hold your breath, and let's begin. It's very important. Please read carefully, thoughtfully, don't take offence, try to understand where I'm coming from, and just listen. You'll see things with new eyes too.

One of these perspectives I particularly want to address can be related to my recent illness, and all of the emotional struggles I have been having/discovering are problems, and these include my eating habits, my previous views on food, as well as the interesting eating disorder I had but didn't even know was there, ruling my life! And there is a lot more to it than that, and it is very, very important.

What I see now is that so much of what I thought and believed about things had to do with my perspective. My perspective - of me. Bear with me.
Yes, I am going to look at me. But this changes everything about everything.

Ask yourself this question - How do I see myself? (Why is this relevant? Because you are a person, and even though our lives revolve around God and other people, you are still you. Haha, you are the only you. There isn't another, you can't be anyone else. Goodness, it's mindboggling. Anyway, you are a person.)
So did you ask that question? And let me ask something else? Just how honest were you? Haha, nice try. Now, hold that question in your mind for a while - don't push it away, but do keep reading.
So it was my turn to ask that question. All of this mess finally came to the surface in a way I couldn't handle anymore, couldn't push down, couldn't stop crying. God, help. O God.
And it was time. Time to look at the real issues. So God asked that question of me. I asked me.

How do I see myself?

Honestly. To really ask.  Ask that question of myself. To truthfully answer -  I didn't really know.
Who I was, yes, well, I was me, Anna - and I that person was made complete in Jesus Christ. (My very identity was and is wrapped up in who I am as a Christian and how that makes me who I am. As a Christian, what I believe and think was based entirely around my relationship with Jesus. We were pretty close - my very being is in Him and everything He is.) But myself? Oh, I was unsure. I was me, yes. Haha. I was a person. But other than that, a little lost.

I also didn't really believe in myself. How do I explain that? Well, let's see. Not only does this eating issue disorder have more history than I will care to admit, it actually stems from my own views of me. I lacked confidence. Yes, I knew who I was, and people would often comment on the sense of 'peace' that eminated from my eyes (although that is sometimes a mystery to me, given what turmoil I have endured for the past few years) but inside, I was confused and, well, just plain lost. And I lacked confidence in myself. I did not believe in the fact that I really was a beautiful, incredible, and unique creation of God - they say that about everyone, don't they? What really made me unique? Or different? Why was I different? And oh, the constant battle of destiny, one that has plagued me for so many years. Basically a definition of the person of who I was would be to say that I was looking for my place in life whilst trying to live it, and be who I was. Whoever that was.
And the thing is, I sort of knew who I was. Sort of did, sort of didn't. But now. Oh, I see what I was lacking.

So, previously, I have a complexion with my oddly shaped nose, for goodness sake, and a disgusting skin condition on my face, terrible skin and a ridiculously curvy figure - anything physical was out of the question when it came to self-worth. Even when it came to who I was - my personality was a grey area. The way I saw myself was me as being a happy, enthusiastic, encouraging person who was only interested in everyone else, and loving them to my best ability, and that in itself is fine - in balance. But I was so busy doing that I had no time for simply being - and knowing me.
I am learning, now, about loving me. Oh, I tolerated me. Looking in the mirror, eh, yeah, okay today. I can pull something off. But always dissatisfaction with that fringe. It sits wrong. Those jeans are not quite skinny enough. Haha, or more, the figure inside those jeans. Oh well, it doesn't matter anyway.
Yes. It Does matter.
It does. It matters so much. But I couldn't see that. In my spiralling world of keeping things together, pretending things were perfectly fine, I was destroying myself.
I wanted to be a woman - not a child, not a teenager, not just some girl. But I was missing something. But what?
Shame is not really something I have struggled with, apart from the bingeing, but it was there, in a small amount. Why, I don't know, and where it came from, I don't know. It was more dissappointment with myself. Which, really, presents a question - why are you dissappionted - what are your expectations?
I didn't know. What were my expectations of myself? Did I have any? Or was I just so busy moving on with my life and just being I didn't know I had placed any on myself?
We all have expectations - however reasonable (or not), regardless of whether we know they are there.
So what were my expectations? I didn't know. I was lost. I wanted to be a woman, but I struggled with my age, size, shape, weight (oh weight - it is more the figure than anything), height, looks, and what I thought I should look like. As I am sure we all do at some point in life, I wished to look different - brown hair, a little taller, certainly less curvature, less fat, more of a curvy nose, longer eyelashes.... but why? Because I did not like the way I was made.  I suppose that makes me seem ungrateful for the way God has made me - as though I didn't want the unique gift that Ha had made me - but I just wanted to be like everyone else, beautiful, in the same way they all are. All uniquely the same. Haha. So why did I want to be different? Because I did not love or accept who I was.

Accept, well, maybe tolerate, as though I had no other option - well, I don't, I can't exactly go get a nose job haha, though the thought crossed my mind... and trying to 'feel beautiful' with what I saw as a nose as ugly as mine just really wasn't a problem - alright if you're a monkey and you never have to see yourself. But I want to be a beautiful woman!
but You Are.
Yes God, you keep telling me. And it's all lovely, and so Christian, all this self-worth stuff.  And so unrealistic! Screw all this god's little princess nonsense, I am not that kind of beautiful, nor will be, so I will stop trying, and just be the best me I can be - inwardly, anyway, and focus on everyone else. They say beauty is on the inside, so that is how I will find my value.

How wrong you were.
Oh, how wrong, self. You truly didn't see. Who you are is who you see. It is who you believe in. It is why. 
I had such ridiculous views! I was really, really lost in them. And now I see. Like someone who has been awakened from a deep sleep. Wow. Just wow.
It is about how you see yourself.
It really is. I cannot emphasise enough. I have seen, simply by looking around at so many people recently, particularly women as I attempt to understand the process of entering womanhood, the huge power self-worth has over us - the way we see ourselves.
It is such an important aspect that affects everything. The way we carry ourselves, the value we place on ourselves, the way we see others - it all has to do with the way we see us. With How I see ME.  
What I think of me matters. It actually does. And what YOU think of you matters.
So why does it matter? Well, I would say that is obvious, but it isn't really. It matters because it defines the very person we become. It defines eternity. It defines our lives, our futures, our destiny.

It is also what determines how we react to what others think, say and feel about us.

I am reminded now, of a silly but very relevant quote from my favourite cartoon characters. The quote itself is out of the new Tintin movie- and is the scene where Captain Haddock pins Tintin down for quitting after the bad guy gets away with the map to the hidden treasure. What he says, roughly quoted:

"People can say of you, 'loser, stupid, you idiot, you worthless piece of lubber.  
But Never say of yourself, "I am a failure." Because what you think about you is the message you send out, that's what they will pick up on."

And it is so true. We hear it so often we drone it out, and forget the importance of the statement. It is truth. If I call myself a failure, or don't even call myself it, but carry that around on my shoulders, people pick up on that. They do. I will use the example of, say, when you see a person walk into a room, and he slumps his shoulders, and does not look up. One can immediately tell that person is burdened, weighed down, dissapointed - and ashamed. On the other hand, you also notice the difference between this man and an arrogant bikey who walks in with an air of haughtiness and looking for trouble. Yes, he is about to knock someone's block off, but he at least has the confidence to do it. That is, basically, what I am attempting to explain. He knows he can punch someone's lights out, and so he walks into a room with the attitude that he will. Because he knows he can. And that is where we must look at self-worth.
What do we know?
And what do we know about ourselves?

What do I know - or not know - about me?
I didn't know who I was. I didn't know what my value was in. Yes, in being a good person, perhaps. In being loving, caring, kind, compassionate, supportive, friendly, wise, understanding... and all of those are great qualities. But all of those are about serving others, and meeting other's needs, and attending to the wants and desires of other people. That in itself is wonderful - but if that is taking away from, or distracting, or preventing me valuing and looking inwards at myself, then again it becomes a problem. Another cover, another mask, another way of pretending everything is fine.
Now, let's see. A few things that I am discovering.

It is okay to look at me. Wow.

To look inwards, to look closely, and to look long and hard. Now to look, and evaluate. to be dissappoionted, that is the first thing. But why? Again with the expectations.
What else did I see? Sadness. Grief. Anger. Hate. Biterness. Sorrow. Shame. The feeling of unworthiness. Ugliness. Fat. Unattractive. Frightened.  Tiredness. All of that. Did you see any of that? Probably not. I am very, very good at hiding what is really going on, at putting on a mask - which most of you are familar with as being who I am - a mask which has the ability to not only disguise, but also to tell a very different story.
Now that I admitted to myself what I was, and was not, I suppose it was time to look at why, when I really got down to it, I was so dissappointed with what I discovered. And that, I learnt, (or am still learning) is about expectations.
I had no expectations of myself.
Good or bad. Nothing. I didn't look at me. Me, who was that? Me in Christ, yes, that's right. That's my entirety. Yes, it is, but there is more to it than that. So there, in bold, is the reason for all that. No expectations of anything. Why? Id on't understand, or know, why I had no expectations. Nothing. It is a curiosity to me. But now, looking at it, I can see just how well the enemy had me trapped not only in a sense of how I thought about myself physically, but also emotionally and mentally. I only saw myself as a person to help other people, not as the person that I am who needs helping. (Or not helping in the terms of neediness, but the fact that I am a person too, just as much person as that person I am helping.)
I am a person.
I have needs! I have wants, desires, and feelings. And I was not letting myself even be a person! I was not looking closely enough at me, and not even caring about how I felt about myself, let alone looking after myself properly. I am not talking just physically here, I am talking mentally, emotionally, and also spirituallly.
Because of the way I saw myself without realising I did (i.e. I felt dissappointed with myself) I was not able to meet my own needs. Sure, I respected myself and all that hooha. But I didn't really.

Now we get to one of the real issues.
 Self-worth. It defines who we are, how we see ourselves, and how others see us. So, I obviously didn't see myself as very valuable, because I was constantly questioning (or at least, now that I have looked at how I saw myself I was) my own value subconsciously. I see that now. I see so much now, of what has been hidden for so long, and what has been needing to change. I did not value myself, nor did I value my own uniqueness. Instead I tried to hide behind my mask and pretend I did care. Ah, the caring. Not caring has a lot to do with how we see ourselves. If we don't care about how we see ourselves, we are basically saying that our opinions mean nothing - that there is no point listening to what we have to say. And that's the thing. We all want to be heard - so telling ourselves it doesn't matter is the biggest lie ever. Ahah, again, another lie of the enemy. Sneaky little bugger.
The truth is, it does matter. Our opinion does matter, what we think does have an effect on something, and caring should be a priority. I should care. And its that caring that makes the difference.
I need to care about what I think about me.
I need to value me.
Very important. Not only do I need to create good expectations of myself, but I need to be able to live up to them. And that is a good thing! It is exactly what God intended, and to deprive myself of that is absolutely ridiculous - and again, the enemy wins at that point.
I need to care.
I cannot think well of myself if I don't care. You cannot think well of YOU if you don't care. Why do I need to think well of me? Why is that even relevant? What is wrong with pretending?
Because, at some point, if you don't care, it will destroy you. Or suffocate you. Or surface. Like it is doing now, for me. You cannot not care without consequence.   It is like neglecting cleaning out your swimming pool - eventually, it will become unusable and everyone will see it. (Or it will become disgusting and will turn people away.)

Body Image is one of these cares.

On a physical level, I felt so unworthy of being beautiful that I thought if I did pay attention to how I looked that would be vanity and pride - and that this is a disgusting personality trait I would be better off to avoid. Truth is, pride comes in many shapes and forms and being too proud to be vain is also a form of pride - it is just well hidden.

You need to care. You, a person, also need to look inwards at you, and stop running from the fear that you might/ and will find something horrible, and see what you are, and then look again.
And then look again. It is that next look, that new look, I will discuss in a moment.
First I want to piece togetger the body image as well, because it plays a huge part in all this.

My own body image was shot. When I looked at my figure previously I saw: short, unattractive, curvy, hippy, chunky, broad shoulders, a bent, unusual, ugly nose, terrible skin, bad complexion, pale blonde eyelashes that look ridiculous with mascara, the list is endless. And thats the thing.
I only saw what was wrong with me.
There - the enemy had me trapped in a spiral I would not admit was happening - one of negativity - and I was feeding that. How? Oh yes, I dressed well, looked appropriate... But it was more the way I avoided mirrors. Or cringed when I saw a side-shot photo of my nose. Again the dissatissfaction.
Now, because of the way I saw myself, the eating disorder was born. It was simply a manifestation of something that went far deeper.
This eating disorder, the bingeing, was not only about the control but it was about my weight. I will be specific about the weight itself because that is something I put far to much of a focus on.

So why did the weight matter? Well, it did. It does. I am going to elaborate in detail, so prepare yourself haha.
60 kilos. That was my weight, from the time I turned 15 - 16, and underwent  a physical change in shape - I grew hips, and padded to them, much to my annoyance. (I'm pretty sure it's normal... )
Prior to growing and changing shape, weight hadn't really been an issue for me as I could seem to manage a few kilos if I put them on - simply by compensating with a little more running or exercise. I also didnt really like food.
Around the same time I began my new job working the first veterinary clinic I volunteered at - this being my first job I was fairly nervous about doing things right - another time period which has been very influential in my life, however not always in a good way. One thing I particularly struggled with was confidence, and this was made worse at work where, whilst I struggled to grasp concepts about what I was learning, I also struggled with difficult staff and employers.
I also struggled with my shape and appearance, especially with my face and its skin condition (sores) being particularly noticable.
So I already carried shame, despair, dissatisfaction, dissapointment, fear of failure.
It was all there, hidden beneath the surface.
Now, back to the weight.
So they say weight itself is not the issue, that it is about being healthy and finding a weightt that is healhty for you and for your body. But the weight is an issue. We focus on it too much. On that one kilo, or half, or two. On that number. 60.5 kg - oh no, I am fat, I cannot ever lose weight, it never changes. Exercise more, stimulate appetite. Eat more. 59.5kg. Yes! I am finally getting somewhere. I am powetful, I can do this. Increase exercise. One day. A.other. Third day, forget, lose motivation. Despair. 61.5kg. Oh no! I have gotten fatter! I must try harder. Again, repeat cycle. This would happen for weeks. At the same time, I was also eating irrattionally and as a way of resolving stress. White chocolate. Meat pies. And then things I didnt even like, or really want, or need. Simply because they were there. Or on special. Or looked nice, so I cooked them. But never really needed. Oh, I can say no. Of course I can. I just don't need to.
Anf it was all hiding behind the fear that I would never be able to control (him again!) my size or weight, and there was the fear of being fat and unhappy and unattractive. In many ways that fear still lurks. But God will kill him yet. Now, where was I?
Oh yes, the weight. Looking at it now, there is no way 60kgs was overweight for my shape. Not excessively so. I had fat reserves, yes, probably 5kg too many, give or take, but for my size and shape, it really wasn't physically a problem.  I was eating too much and food that was not really what my body needed but size wise, there is no rational reason for that fear. Ah but there never is a rational reason with fear. Fear is erratic.

I made such an issue over the weight. It was an idol. And the truth of the matter is, I wasn't healthy. I was not eating the foods that would benefit my body, and as a result my body was also hanging onto any fat reserves it had - hence the neverending cycle. 
As well as the weeks that I would obsess about it, I also have periodss where I would get so discouraged and give up that I wouldnt think about it, and end up eating better, and not even overeating for weeks at a time - and staying at the same weight. Not losing it, but not gaining it either. And at those times the exercise also was healthy and balanced.
And then it would spiral again, triggered bu something emotional, my own struggles at the time, or seeing a photo of myself and feeling ashamed of those tighter-than-they-should be jeans.... I thought, if they were skinnier, I would then be attractive, and then I would finally be happy...
What a hideous LIE.
It really is. A lie of the enemy, swallowed hook line and sinker.
'If you're skinnier you'll be happy.'
The lie that satisfaction can found apart from God.
And apart from God's perspective - of you.

So there is the weight, the dissapointment with self, the shame and guilt and fear.

The figure, the shape. Then there was getting sick. And losing weight.
At first.
At first I put on a few kilos. 61.5kg I got to. I was devestated - terrified, in fact - that finally, I would get fat, it would overtake me, and I would not be able to control my size. I was almost a size 11, a thought so devestating to me, yet it seemed I couldn't do anything about it. Ahah - I reasoned! I could even go to the gym and make it behave there. I didnt want to become the commando but if that meant I would be fitter,and not get fat, it would be a last ditch attempt. So, now let me tell you that this is all fairly recent. Surprised? Hold onto your horsies - this renewing God is doing really is hot off the press.
So, all this was going down right about the same time as everything else (did I mention I have also been fighting depression for the last six months? Eh thats another topic)
And basically all fell apart right about Christmas time. Convenient, as we were all shuffling living over in Tamworth awaiting Abi and her popping outedness.

Ah so, the weight. At first, as I said, I put it on, and was shocked. So I got aggressive, picked on my arm flab, and started to work out on it - homemade weights and outside walks. Building myscle was surprisingly easy - I actually retained the muscle, for while - and I did notice that it looked better. Oh well, at least that sort of made me feel better about wearing a sleeveless top. Sort of.
And right in the middle of all that, I started getting sick with vomiting (well no, it had been in-off for about a month) and not tolerating food. Of course, the thought niggling in my mind was that maybe I was doing it to myself; maybe I was crazy, just a little, despite being unvoluntary vomiting. The weight started coming off, and to be honest, I was thrilled. Still eating normally, to some degree, and I was losing weight. Easy! 5kgs. Yes, I noticed the difference. Everyone did. I looked and felt better about myself for it. Again that nagging thought - maybe you are doing it. But what overrode that thought was the fact that I knew I was sick. Deep down, I knew. Something was wrong, and people were not taking me seriously. It was only when I kept losing weight that they did. 10 kilos. Yeah, people are gunna notice that. 15 kilos. Even I was beginning to get scared. When I was hospitalised the first time, I had lost 15 kilos over a 6 week period. If thats not rapid weigjt loss I don't know what is! Around the same time, the vomiting worsened, food tolerance issues became unbearable, and eating a real problem. I also just ate whatever because I knew it wouldn't stay down anyway. (Well, to some extent - some foods hurt too much) The vomiting was not self inflicted, I assure you, and it hasn't ever been (again, why would I voluntarily do that, its gross, and painful, and exercise is easier), but it meant that I was getting malnourished. Severely. I was starving. My body, wasting away. All my reserves getting used up. And eventually, it shuts down. That is the stage I was at when I first went into hospital. It had affected my electrolytes abd potassium - essential for normal body function.

My weight, upon entering hospital, was 46.5kg. Even I was scared. I could see all my ribs, my backbone, my hips, etc.
A lot of that was because I had no body fluid left either. Once I got on a drip, I put on abour 5 kilos overnight - something that occurred on both hospital trips.
The second, well really third hospital visit, I went home, and dropped again - to 44kg. Upon returning to fluids, I went back to being 50kg almost overnight. Its amazing what fluid can do.
Now, coming home, I have dropped weight again, but managed to stay a consistant 43.0kg for about two weeks - give or take a few hundred grams. The last few days, it has gone up and down all over the house - and I feel as though I am actually still losing body mass. I give up with weight at gastroparesis - they do not agree. So, well, I have lost a LOT of weight. Too graphic? I apologise. I must say, I did not know I even had this much to lose. It is amazing what the body can tolerate.
 I had put far too much importance on that number, on the weight itself. I am beginning to realise now just how much of it is actually about being healthy, not size and not a number on the scales.

And now, my feelings on my fat reserves have altered immensly. Why? Lets just say you don't appreciate what you have until you lose it. Firstly, I will never think the same about my figure again. I miss my hips, or at least partially! I miss having something up top, haha. Secondly, I get cold easily! I certainly miss being able to regulate my body temperature. It's also uncomfortable feeling your tailbone when you sleep and not being able to get your hips in the right position.

So why am I being so open about it? Because I believe it is important.

And now back to self-worth. It is time to elaborate. I already looked at what I didn't like. What I hated about me. About what I saw, both physically and otherwise, when I looked at me. I didn't like it. And now, and in the midst of being sick, I have seen so much. I have seen how wrong I was, and how blind I had been. Watching people, and seeing what I hadn't observed before, and discovering my old perspective come crasing down.

And then one day, I found this quote on a picture, and I stopped, and read it again.

You cannot look after what you do not love.

And it hit me. Just like that. Wow. Just wow. That is so true. I hated myself. I find everything wrong.
And why? Because I do not value me. I do not value me. Wow. Something to get my head round.
I need to value me if I want to love.

So how, and how could I gave that same satisfaction, and reassurance, and confidence in myself?
By choosing to make a few conscious decisions.

I need to LOVE me. Not merely accept, and certainly not worship or idolise, but I need to love, in the truest sense, my very oprson. Love is understanding, appreciation, acceptance, respect, compasion, trust, security.

I need to admire me. To hold me in high esteem.
I need to think well of myself.
I need to care what I think.
I need to find what I like about myself, and enjoy that.
I need to appreciate me.
I neef to want to spend time with me.
I need to like myself.
I need to love what I am, how I am, where I am.
I need to love what I have, not just tolerate it.
I need to fall in love with MY figure, stop wishing I had yours, and love the way that I am physically.
I need to feel good in what I wear - not vanity, but self worth
I need to be happy, satisfied with my uniqueness

I need to be happy with, to love, to appreciate, understand and enjoy the person God made me. Me. Not you. Or her. Me.
God delights in me, the bible makes that very clear. Now I need to delight in me too.

As a painter/artist, I must see it this way - as the creater of an artwork, I see all that was put into it. I know its many flaws. What you see is very different. I can choose to see only what is wrong, or I can delight in how well this piece of art turned out;  in what I DO like about it.

Instead of looking in that mirror and cringing, I need to look in the mirror and think - oh, that top is flattering with your face, and your hair looks lovely up. This is not me primping myself up, lying, or being vain - but rather, I am relearning how to look at myself and put positive, Godly affirmation into my life by allowing me to be comfortable in who I am!
Recently I have been learning just how important this is.

My expectations need to be good ones. I need not be afraid of looking at myself, not afraid of being vain, not afraid of things I cannot change. (Oh where is that courage lion?)

My expectations need to be:
I expect to be valued, treated well by people, respected, trusted, relied upon, understood, loved, admired and known by people - because I love me and who I am, I am confident that I am cherished and known and loved by the God of the universe, and I am WORTHY of the sacrifice of his son's life on that cross. Because he said so, I am worthy and have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus, and there is no questioning that.

I am loved. I am valued. I am beautiful.

And so now, now back to how I see things now, today. About my figure. I am going to learn to love it! One thing I discovered is that regardless of weight distribution, shape stays the same! I will never be a tall, skinny greyhound, so I may as well not live in denial and pretend it will happen - yes I have lost weight but the hips themselves haven't moved, so I had better stop hoping that will change - and accept, delightedly, the way I was made. I have hips! Okay, that is womanly. I should be thankful for my womanly figure - it is a thing of beauty.
About my weight. It's not about a number. Its about eating the right food that nourishes your body while also being allowed to enjoy the textures, tastes, and flavours. And white chocolate is awesome!
About my values and expectations. They are changing.
About my view of me - I am learning to love who I was made. And its exciting.

 - an old part of me has died, been destroyed. God has given me a new perspective. I am sharing that perspective.
And it will take time to build. But it is beginning.

And so. There ends one topic, and begins another.

But I feel that the above, all of it, is just SO important, and not just to me. This is a huge part of YOU. Stop right there. Stop running. I'm looking right at you. Look into my eyes. You. This is for you. All of what I have been through, yes it is my struggle. But I want to ask you, hobestly. Is it yours, too? Do you know who you are? And do you love you? I know iy looks like I am easily saying this. Well, I am not. It is with great pain that I do. But I want you to look past fear. And ask yourself - the same thing I asked me, when prodded by God.

Do you know who you are?

Another challenge I leave with you. Walk this journey with me? You are not alone. Do not fear.

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