When I was 18, I was deeply struggling with Anorexia. I was preparing to graduate from high school – which should have been a happy, exciting experience for me – but instead, it was terrifying. I had NO idea what I wanted to do with my life… Where did I begin? What if I made the wrong choice? What should I do? I felt like life was happening before my eyes and I had no control of it.
But I did have one thing I could control: what I ate and how much I weighed. I, therefore, became obsessed with bringing order to that area of my life while the other areas fell apart.
I broke up my four-year relationship, I attempted to end friendships (it’s the good ones that tell you they aren’t going anywhere), and I pushed everything else that I could away from me as well. By the time I graduated, I weighed a lethal 84 lbs., I was riddled with anxiety, I felt alone, and I was slowly killing myself.
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Up until that point, I had been a runner and an avid exerciser. It was hard not having the energy to do those things, but I would still go for walks first thing in the morning. I loved the peace and quiet surrounding me as I walked down the dirt road under the summer sun. Then one day, I decided to put in a yoga DVD after coming back from my walk. It was then that things slowly started to change for me.
I didn’t take to yoga right away, and in fact, it wasn’t for a few years that I actually made it a regular practice, but every so often, I would un-roll my mat. It was during those times that, rather than focusing on criticizing myself, I started to realize the strength and amazing abilities that my body has. It was during those times that my breath calmed me down. It was during those times that I started to look within and get to know myself… and little by little, we became friends.
“The question is not what you look at, but what you see” – Thoreau
I still have rough spots, and I still have to pick myself up and get back on track sometimes, but I know the signs and can catch them early. I remember a few years ago, while I was dealing with a particularly tough time, my then-boyfriend (now fiancee) and I would go for walks in the evenings after supper. They were meant to be relaxing walks for us to talk and bond, but I started making them about being active and losing weight. He would occasionally want to stop for an ice cream, and it would agitate me. One night my mother said to me, “Danielle, this man who loves you wants to spend time with you. Do you really want to look back on your life and realize that you wasted it by worrying about the size of your thighs? Just eat the ice cream.”
So I stopped worrying so much about how I looked, and I started focusing on embracing life experiences. We can never make everyone happy, so we might as well make ourselves. If we, in this perfection-seeking culture, continue to try to alter ourselves to please others, we will continue to never be satisfied.
I had spent years feeling miserable from continuous attempts to mold my body into society’s ideals, and even when I did have that toned, thin physique, I realized that it didn’t change how I felt inside… I was still miserable from constant dieting, avoiding the things I enjoyed (like drinking beer or going to restaurants), and spending more time working out than being with loved ones.
It was only then that I realized that until I stopped this internal war and started embracing every aspect of myself, I would never find that inner peace I so desperately wanted. I stopped being my enemy and started being my own best friend… Through the guidance of yoga and meditation, I started to focus on finding solace within.
Is every day easy? No, of course not; nothing worth having is ever easy, but that hard work pays off. If you find yourself struggling to find inner solace, I invite you to try yoga and meditation. It can be as simple as a 20-minute yoga video, or a local community class. And try not to be fearful or prejudiced of either practice; it’s not all about bending into pretzel-like body shapes or chanting – a short session of deep breathing and stretching can be all you need.
Here are a few meditation resources that we recommend:
Continuing to beat yourself up and compare yourself to unrealistic ideals is the easy way out. It’s not hard to be unhappy in a world that is constantly trying to make us feel less than… but what’s strong and successful is to turn the other cheek and believe in yourself; believe that you are worthy of loving yourself and be grateful for your life and all the richness that it brings you.
“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody else, means to fight the hardest battle any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” – E.E. Cummings
Don’t give up; Find Solace Within.