By Sophie Balisky, Silver Linings volunteer
Dear younger self,
I am writing to you from the distance of a few years and from the perspective of someone who loves you. Why? Because I’m you and you’re me and, spoiler alert, you’re going to go through a chapter of NOT loving yourself. There are so many things I want to tell you. If it was possible to travel through time I would. But instead I’m writing you this letter. Here is what I wish you knew.
The body image ideal you are striving for is not real. You look at the girls you see in your favourite magazines and think that there is no reason why you cannot look like them. You’re convinced that there is something wrong with you because you don’t. I wish you understood that these images are the end result of hours of makeup and photoshop and finding perfect angles. In fact, models often have trouble recognizing themselves in images of them that are airbrushed! Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you must perfectly match the Victoria’s Secret billboard to be considered beautiful.
Being smaller will not equate to being happier. Believe me when I say that happiness can be found RIGHT now, within this moment, at the size you already are. Being skinnier will not magically make your life better. You will reach your “goal weight” and doubt the number you see on the scale. The confidence and accomplishment you look forward to won’t be there. Instead, you will think to yourself “just a few more pounds” or “just one more week of restriction and then I’ll be there.” But you will never “get there” - there will always be one more pound or inch or imperfection. Reaching a place of satisfaction based on your appearance is like trying to pass your own shadow. You will lose your sparkle and all that makes you, you in the never-ending pursuit of perfection.
Your body and mind are intricately connected. Through daily purging, over-exercising and cycles of restriction, you are wreaking havoc upon yourself physically. Your body is smarter than you know and hears everything your mind tells it. The psychological stress of constant food and appearance related anxiety will take a great toll on your health. Forcing your body into a different form will not work long term. No matter how much control you try to have, your body is designed for balance and will always have the final say. You don’t understand how incredible your body is. If you had a best friend who did everything she could to support you, every second of every day, would you abuse her? Of course not! Yet that is essentially what the eating disorder is doing. Learn to trust your body and she will trust you in return.
How you look isn’t even a fraction of who you are. You believe that your appearance defines you, but please know that this couldn’t be farther from the truth. What people see when they look at you isn’t even the beginning of who you are. You are young and have yet to discover and gain appreciation for all aspects of yourself. You have yet to discover that you are a multi-faceted, sparkling diamond of a being. Obsession with your physical appearance will keep you from acknowledging or believing in all that really makes you, YOU. Your inner beauty is radiant and limitless regardless of what you look like on the outside. Outer beauty fades but love does not. You have so much love around you and within you. I would give anything for you to know this, and for you to be able to show yourself some love right now.
This letter is hard to write because I wish so badly that you could actually read it and skip the pain of mistreating yourself. But please trust me when I say that you WILL find yourself on the other side of your sickness, and this discovery will fill you up far more than you can imagine. Until that time, I love you in all the ways you cannot love yourself. You’re going to be alright.