In high school I developed a driving need to be perfect. Smart, charitable, cute, fashionable, getting into a top college, and being cool enough to go to house parties was just the beginning of what I worried about everyday. The high achieving culture of my high school helped propel most of us into a deeply unconscious way of being where breaks in between classes and lunch time was spent gossiping about “how skinny Sara/Jenny/Nicole was getting.” And I was no exception to this massive unconsciousness. I developed an eating disorder because it was easier and a lot less scary to find satisfaction in losing weight than taking the time to look inward and discover why I was unique in the “sea of perfection”.
I graduated high school with honors and attended a top college, just like my college prep high school promised. The problem was that no one taught us that once we reached academic success and a job at a tech company, there was no guarantee we would understand ourselves and finally feel at peace. And so, I continued to carry the unattainable idea that I needed to be perfect.
In the young adult world this means, driving the right car, having the right job, going to the right restaurants, knowing the right people, being a part of the “scene,” having a busy schedule, a cute boyfriend, an amazing body, and following the latest health trend.
And so it was. I moved to Los Angeles to continue on my quest to achieve perfection.
At some point on my journey I became more lenient with my calorie intake, resumed a menstrual cycle, and put on weight. I struggled to feel “special” like I had when I was grossly underweight. I continued to get my highs from being part of a very social group and associating myself with exclusivity. By the medical definition I had recovered from anorexia, but I still counted every calorie I ate, beat myself up over eating dessert, thought everyone was watching each bite I ate, and found myself constantly judging others. This definitely did not feel like the perfect life I was seeking.
Slowly my lifestyle, priorities, and perspective started to shift. Through a combination of people, circumstances, mind body practices, yoga, books and alone time, I started to feel lighter, happier, and whole. I felt strong, guided, and watched over. My body and diet were no longer consuming 95% of my thoughts. What had happened was that I started to live my life mindfully. I learned about the power of connecting my mind and body, learned to listen to my inner voice, and as a result, stopped relying on circumstances outside of myself to feel good.
Reflecting on those years of fitting in a size 00, I realize I was starving my spirit even more than my body. I’ve learned that life is best and I feel in the “flow” when I am able to hear my inner wisdom; a voice that was always there but I was yelling over with loud distractions such as calorie counting, over exercising, and social dramas. We all have a tendency to drown out that loving and all knowing voice with anxiety and fear, but it turns out all you have to do is keep coming back to this moment…..back to this moment……back to this moment.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have days where I hate how my jeans fit, lust for that Chanel handbag I can’t afford, and break into tears over something that hasn’t really happened; the difference is that I am mindful of this behavior and the feelings behind it. I have evidence based tools that medical research has proven to be highly effective in reducing stress to bring me back to the present such as meditation, dancing, and guided imagery that help move the energy through me rather than letting it get stuck and stale to the point where I need to find ways to feel “special” again. And even though I am now a life coach helping people with their own versions of stress, it helps to have my own life coach, because it feels good to be heard.
If you are someone who is ready to stop yelling over your inner guide, as you begin your practice of re-connection with the mind and body expect nothing of yourself. Like diet and exercise, the only way to sustain positive change is to make small, gradual lifestyle alterations. I promise you can do it. But you don’t need me to tell you that.
RELIsh Life is Arielle's healthy lifestyle website/blog. Arielle is a certified life and wellness coach who helps you find balance in life by creating practices for the mind, body, and spirit.