We Accept the Love We Think We Deserve

Mr Anderson: We accept the love we think we deserve. 
Charlie: Can we make them know that they deserve more?
Mr Anderson: We can try. 

– Stephen Chbosky, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”

While browsing Netflix this afternoon I stopped on this movie and they played this quote in their preview. I know this quote because I read the book before the movie came out years ago (and watched it, of course). And I watched it again today, knowing the emotional storm that was coming and still being surprised when it hit me. If you’re not familiar with this book/movie I encourage you to seek it out … but in the context of this quote, the character Charlie is basically asking why people date jerks and his teacher replies. When I read the book I identified strongly with this quote – deep in my eating disorder, questioning things in my long-distance relationship, and generally feeling like the problems in my relationship were my own making … and this quote reminded me to think outside of that. That was 7 years ago, and a lot has changed. Hearing this quote today struck me hard, and helped put together some thoughts I’ve been having but struggling to articulate in a blog post. Hopefully the following makes some semblance of sense.

For the past 2 weeks I’ve been sick – so much so I needed to take a day off work, to much anxiety and stressful worrying that did not help me heal any faster. At the same time I’ve been sinking into a deep depression, one I only admitted to in the last week to BF (and haven’t told anyone else about). AND to add more fuel to the fire I’ve been reading (and finished) Body Positive Power. I was cooking along with the book, feeling anger and hatred at the diet industry as the author laid out facts and figures … and then I got to her chapter about her eating disorder. Now, her disorder was different than mine. And she experienced things I never had to go through.  But I felt a lot of unresolved feelings come up during reading it. And even though I got through the chapter and the rest of the book, I found everything after that to be emotional as I struggled with thoughts I’ve had about my recovery.

For you see, I think I’ve failed at my eating disorder.

One thing that I had a hard time with during recovery is telling people because it was inevitable that in a group of people I would deflect about food and confess my disorder and someone would say “You have an eating disorder? You don’t look like you do.”
If this fills you with rage it absolutely should. What a terrible awful thing to say to someone. Yet there is an idea that people with EDs have a certain body type and I didn’t fit that. At all. And I would beat myself up about it. That I had all the symptoms of the disorder but never got the body type. That I hadn’t tried hard enough at my disorder. There were times I wished I had the discipline to have a different disorder. Oh yes, it was a particularly messed up time in my head.

Of course, this type of thinking wasn’t helped when I did actually lose weight and the comments that came with it – especially from romantic partners. When I started to move towards actual recovery and my weight went up I again felt those pangs of failure. I ended up throwing all my energy and mental effort into recovery, into actually not having disorder eating patterns. And I succeeded. Though, as I mentioned before, I never went back to address some of the disordered thoughts I had about my disorder. And while I’ve been slowly exploring them in my writings lately, they came roaring back while reading this book. The feelings of failure, of body hate, of not being good enough.

We accept the love we think we deserve

The truth is … I’ve always believed I was a failure. That I wasn’t good enough. That I wouldn’t amount to anything. That it was expected that I hate myself because of how I looked. It wasn’t necessarily that I didn’t fit typical beauty standards, it was so much more. That I would never fix any type of standard. That I would never be considered attractive to anyone. That I always had parts of my body that I had to apologize or make up for. That no amount of creams or serums or make-ups or diets would fix me, but I should still make some effort because otherwise I would really let myself go to hell and I would end up alone and unloved by all. That some people had to be ugly because some people had to beautiful and there had to be balance. We can’t all be considered attractive. Not all of us can be 10s, or even 7s, or even 4s.

I am absolutely aware of how insane this line of thinking is.
I am absolutely aware of how the diet and beauty industries sell ideas that people buy into.
I am absolutely aware that I am holding myself to a standard that is arbitrary and fake. Everything is made up and the points don’t matter. 

But knowing this has never stopped me from assuming that I deserved to hate myself. I deserved whatever was coming to me. That I deserved to be mediocre and average at best, if I was lucky. And it’s not that this book suddenly changed my mind so that I think I’m beautiful and stunningly attractive. And it’s not that this movie suddenly made me realize why I constantly put myself down. But it offered some clarity into this depressive state. It offered some direction on the healing path I need to head towards. It offered a way to piece my thoughts together so I can communicate them.

I’ve spent my life accepting the self-love I thought I deserved. And I didn’t think I deserved anything. I thought I was ugly and average and unimportant. I thought that in the grand scheme of things I would never matter, I would never affect change, and I would never amount to anything worth while. I accepted the bullying, the laughter, the mocking because I figured that was my purpose. I was meant to look this way, to deal with this because I was strong enough to handle it, and better me than someone else. I accepted that bullying mostly stopped as an adult, but that people would judge my weight, my appearance, my beauty and that was just an everyday part of life for me. Sometimes I try to manage and negate it, sometimes I don’t. I never learned to apply make-up because I’ve always figured it would never fix ugly and just wasn’t worth the time or money. I don’t buy form-fitting clothing because I believed that my body type isn’t allowed to wear those clothes and I would be opening myself to more potential mockery.

Yes, this is insane for someone to think about themselves.
No, I am not the only person that does this.
Yes, I know this is something I want to work on healing.
No, I have no idea how to go about this, or if it’s even possible.
Maybe … I just need a little more help on learning to love myself and to become the person I want to be, to enjoy the things I want to enjoy, without worrying about what others think or whether I deserve them or not.
Maybe I just need to learn to be my unapologetic authentic self, whomever that might be, and know that she is worthy of love – from others and herself.

~ J

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