That’s how I, and most of us, try to live our life.
But sometimes it can be really difficult especially when we might think of all outcomes in our life that might have gone differently had we simply made different decisions.
Although I’ve come to terms with many of the realities brought on by my past decisions and actions, there is one decision that still has the uncontrollable power to eat away at my heart when I allow my mind to wonder over the “what if” of it all. It’s also the reason I do so much activist work not only for eating disorder awareness but also body image struggles in young adults and teenagers.
It’s this one regret I’m almost positive you’ll also share and may be even regret as well.
Back when I was 17 years old, I was fully immersed with preparing to audition for various musical theater programs at colleges and universities across the country. I was tirelessly perfecting multiple songs and monologues and anxiously imagining the stiff competition that I would be up against for a chance at making it into the world of professional musical theater. Through all the prepping and practice, I came to a point where I felt like I just couldn’t perfect my craft any better but I knew I needed to. The only place where I felt like I could possibly have an edge over the competition was my in appearance. Surely if it came down between me and another girl of equal talent, they would pick the one that was more physically attractive right? Or even if I didn’t get accepted in to the program, at least I could walk away knowing I looked better than anyone else and in turn still feel good about myself. This was of course was the onset of my eating disorder and the beginning of a downward spiral starting with the belief that my physical appearance would give me an edge and/or make failure less painful.
It was the beginning of placing my all my worth as a person into what others thought of my appearance and consequently placing all my time, energy and attention into being the thinnest person in what ever space I happened to occupy at any given moment.
At a time in pop culture where ultra thin was definitely in with Kate Moss and Ally McBeal in the forefront of media and television, my perception of what mattered most (read thin) was definitely reinforced almost everywhere a typical teenager was influenced. And with the insidious undercurrent of how beauty equals privilege, (that those who look better are treated better and are thought more highly of) my decision to perfect the appearance of my body was an obvious solution.
By the time the actual auditions came around, I was so weak and mentally absent due to lack of food, I could barely take deep enough breaths to hold out the notes in my audition songs. I ended up not getting accepted into any of the programs. It was the most crushing experience I’ve ever had in my life and only served to catapult my disordered eating into a full-fledged eating disorder.
I share all of this with you because chances are you too have thought the best way to be a step above the competition, stand out from the crowd or even “feel more right” in your body was by changing it by means of conforming to the socially constructed ideals of beauty and physical attractiveness.
And I want to tell you that this is bull crap.
My only regret I have about my body is that I believed it was the most important thing I had to offer and that perfecting it was the only way in which I would be successful or important. This is not to say I am not proud of my body; I don’t regret being proud for the times it’s done some incredible things like recover from anorexia, have children after being told it might not be possible, or finally perform a forearm balance in yoga.
But I do regret thinking it was the only thing I should be proud of and the only way I could possibly accept myself.
Another reason I share this regret with you today is because February is Eating Disorder Awareness month and with this years theme of prevention and early detection it’s super important to be aware of the messages you tell yourself about your body because it could possibly save you from a lifetime of regret. If you feel preoccupied with thoughts of weight, food and exercise for the majority of your day, you might want to consider taking a 3 minute screening developed by the National Eating Disorder Association. It only takes 3 minutes and it can change your life.
I promise it will be a decision you will not regret.