Stop Telling Me to Love Myself

Trigger warnings for descriptions of eating disorders and a brief mention of suicidal ideation.

 

It’s stress awareness week here the Etown Her Campus, and I’m particularly stressed about one thing. My own failure to love myself.

I am a perfectionist. I hate failure. I hate feeling like I didn’t succeed at something. Is that unhealthy? Well, yeah. That’s what therapy is for. I’m working on it. I know I'll eventually learn to accept them. But you know what? Constant reminders of failures make me feel like shit.

This past week has been Rock Your Body (previously called Body Positivity Week) at Etown, run by the Student Wellness Advocacy Group. One of the items they handed out during their tabling was a nine-item pledge from the National Eating Disorders Association (who should frankly know better) on how to “[declare] independence from a weight-obsessed world” (Source: Nationaleatingdisorders.org).

At first glance, this pledge seems pretty innocent, if a little gimmicky. And for people who aren’t mentally ill, it might be perfectly fine. But for me, it’s a concise text that summarizes the messages that I get constantly from everyone around me.  

The following is a direct copy of the tenants listed in the pledge:

I will accept my body in its natural shape and size.  

I will celebrate all that my body can do for me each day.  

I will treat my body with respect, giving it enough rest, fueling it with a variety of foods, exercising it moderately, and listening to what it needs.  

I will defy our society’s pressures to judge myself and other people on physical characteristics like body weight, shape, or size. I will respect people based on the qualities of their character and the impact of their accomplishments.  

I will refuse to deny my body valuable nutrients by dieting or using weight loss products.

I will avoid categorizing foods as either “good” or “bad.” I will not guilt or shame myself for eating certain foods. Instead, I will nourish my body with a balanced variety of foods, listening and responding to what it needs.  

I will not use food to mask my emotional needs.  

I will not avoid participating in activities that I enjoy (e.g., swimming, dancing, enjoying a meal with friends) simply because I am self-conscious about the way my body looks. I will recognize that I have the right to enjoy any activities regardless of my body shape or size.  

I will base my self-esteem and identity on that which comes from within!

(Source: Nationaleatingdisorders.org)

I am by no means saying that positive messages about loving your body are bad. They’re certainly far better than the more-subconscious messages that we get every day about the thin ideal. My problem is that it’s too fucking late for a lot of us. We’ve already internalized that ideal. And at that point, hearing this shit about loving yourself just makes us feel worse.

Eating disorders are a cycle of failure. You fuck up one time, go over your calorie limit, and then you’re gone. You're a failure. You’re disgusting. You deserve to fucking die.  

And now that I'm actually in some sort of remission, now that I’m actually doing somewhat okay? Loving my body has become a new cycle of failure, because I can't fucking figure out how to do it. And people are telling me constantly that I shouldn’t feel that way. They tell me that I’m beautiful, that my body is perfect the way it is, they tell me so much fucking bullshit!

I don’t know how to accept my body. I don’t know how to celebrate my body. I don’t know how to listen to my body. I don’t know how to stop caring about the shape my body is. I don’t know how to eat without thinking about caloric content. I don’t know how to stop the shame and guilt that does come when I eat a “bad” food. I don’t know how to enjoy the activities I used to without thinking about my body. I don’t know how to base my self-esteem from only inner worth.

Stop fucking telling me to love myself. You're making me feel worse.