I so wish that I could go back in time and talk to my 18-year-old self. To tell her how beautiful and smart she is, how much value she has as a person. How unique and special she is, and how unimportant her physical beauty is to her worth.
I had never loved my body, no matter what size I had been. I criticized myself with equal intensity, whether I was a size 4 or a size 8. I remember looking at photographs of myself on vacation where I was beautiful, toned, and healthy, and feeling embarrassed, wondering if I should put the pictures on Facebook. The cruelty of my inner critic was staggering. The damage that the negative self talk had done was extensive and had deeply broken the perfect sense of self I was born with.
The more I sat and pondered about being sick, the more I felt that there really must be an important reason why I had attracted this experience into my life. That perspective wasn’t an easy one to digest. I had always disliked this notion that humans can attract illness and disease through thought. But the more I thought about it, the illustration of irony was too powerful to ignore.
Cushing’s is known as the fat, ugly disease (harsh, I know) because it distorts your body so much that you literally don’t recognise yourself. How fitting, I observed, given my false lifelong perceptions of myself, that I had literally morphed into my greatest fear.
So yes, I had been fed lies about myself from a young age, but despite becoming aware of it many, many years ago, I had never made an effort to actually change those beliefs or challenge my inner bully. I had just accepted that she was in control and continued along that destructive path.
It was Oprah who said, What I know for sure: What we dwell on, we become. Unsurprisingly, my inner critic became my strongest and most influential voice. I had become such an expert at judging myself and telling myself I wasn’t good enough. Always pushing myself to do more and more and more, and never taking the moment to truly value who I was and what I had accomplished.
Dr Masaru Emoto’s Rice Experiment offers a compelling illustration of the influence of positive and negative message. He placed rice into three glass beakers and covered them each with water. Every day for a month, he said “Thank you” to one beaker, “You’re an idiot” to the second and the third one he completely ignored. After one month, the rice that had been thanked began to ferment and give off a nice aroma. The rice in the second beaker turned black and the rice that was ignored began to rot.
We become that which we think about most, and my biography truly had become my biology.
Louise Hay said, It’s what we all wanted when we were children- to be loved and accepted exactly as we were then, not when we got taller or thinner or prettier… and we still want it… but we aren’t going to get it from other people until we can get it from ourselves.
We can only begin to free ourselves from pain by becoming aware of it, and taking some responsibility to grow and change into who we want to be.
So, now what?
I began to realize what I had to do. I had to go back to my ten-year-old self, my eighteen-year-old self, my thirty-eight-year-old self and tell her how beautiful and smart she is, how much value she has as a person. How unique and special she is, and about how unimportant her physical beauty is to her worth.
At the core of shame is self-judgement, and this can only be healed through love. Have compassion for the pain of life. For it is only in these times that we truly learn what compassion is. Be present in your pain and show up with a full heart.
Every child is born perfect. At our core this is who we are. But we are taught to believe certain things about ourselves as we grow up, and this is who we become. It’s important to look back into our childhood with raw honesty, despite the pain this may bring up, so that we can go through a process of emotional discovery. To learn about how we developed the beliefs we have, and to assess if they are still in harmony with our truth.
Change and forgiveness starts with understanding and evolves into compassion. It took me years to fully connect with this process. And the thing that helped me to do this was to see the person who had wronged me, as a child.
Children deserve to be respected and loved exactly as they are. For a parent to be able to give this to their child, they too need to have been raised with the same considerations. Parents who were not raised with praise, love and adoration, will themselves be deprived. And because of that, will continue throughout their own lives to repeat the same pattern.
As I embarked on the process of imaging my mother as a child, I took into account what I knew about her childhood. She had been born into a family led by a very troubled father, who was far more interested in his two sons than he was in his daughter. It never mattered how perfect my mother tried to be for her parents, she was never adored or praised for her accomplishments. She tried her entire childhood to gain their attention through good behaviour, eventually giving up in her early twenties and eloping.
At her core she was insecure and lacking in self-worth and so she acted out her story on her children in an attempt to find her own balance. At my mom’s core, she is seeking love, attention, validation.
What beliefs were you fed as a child that no longer serve who you are now? What beliefs may have taken you away from your true path in life? Jane Fonda says One part of wisdom is knowing what you don’t need anymore and letting it go.
I so wish that I could go back in time and talk to my Mom’s ten-year-old self and tell her how amazing and clever she is, how much value she has as a person, how valid her opinions are and about how unimportant her physical beauty is.