So here's the truth- as I reflect on the completion of my latest trip around the sun, it's amazing how different I expected my life to be and even more amazing how much BETTER it turned out. Nothing in my life turned out as planned and now I'm so grateful for that.
By this time in my life, I expected to be engaged to an investment banker who sipped dry martinis, played football in college and summered in the Hamptons. I was obsessed with having a life that looked perfect. Until recently, I was convinced that if I had all the external trappings of a happy and successful life, I would be happy. However, I also knew it wasn't exactly cool to be outwardly desperate for a perfect life, so I pretended to be coy about it. That not only made me a slave to social media but also never satisfied as I was never present for my life. Instead I lived in a perpetual fantasy.. "when I have, fill in the blank- a boyfriend, more friends, a thinner body, a nicer wardrobe- THEN I will be happy."
Thankfully my life fell apart rapidly by the end of college, which landed me in a position to get sober and find recovery from my eating disorder. At the time, this was the worst thing that could have ever happened to me. My life was over as I knew it and I had many moments where I couldn't imagine living without drinking nor was I interested in living that life. I remember having to actually grieve the loss that I would never be able to meet a cool handsome guy over drinks at the Plaza or go wine tasting at a picturesque vineyard in Napa with my beautiful girlfriends. The truth is, having my life fall apart, having everything I knew and wanted stripped away from me was the best thing that ever happened to me. To be the epitome of a cliche of my generation, I'm going to quote J.K Rowling: "rock bottom became the solid foundation from which I rebuilt my life." So that's what I did. Stone by stone and brick by brick.
The last few years have not been easy or simple (more on that in other blog posts to come). There were honestly many days where I wanted to give up, probably did on some level, or even made things worse. Self sabotage is a huge part of my story and something that still comes back to haunt me sometimes. However, when I look back now, I wouldn't trade any struggle, stumble or misstep. They all led me here....exactly where I'm supposed to be. And the life I have now, the one where I'm a therapist and yoga teacher who spends her free time reading self help/ spiritual books, talking to my parents on the phone and attending personal development programs (all very UNCOOl), I wouldn't trade for ANYTHING. I never imagined I could be so fulfilled and my life being so meaningful. The greates gift of my recovery today is not my boyfriend, job, or vacations I take, the greatest gift is that I can sit outside on a beautiful day and smile at a stranger. I can look my barista in the eye and feel connected rather than wanting not to crawl out of my skin. I have peace today, and I wouldn't trade that for anything.
So here's my wisdom this week for you...life will DEFINITELY throw you obstacles. Things will absolutely NOT go as planned. I'm sure my life will keep not going as planned too (don't you worry I have not and will never arrive). At the time it may feel as though the world is against you... and in those moments all you can do is surrender and keep the faith. You don't need to understand what's happened or why. Lean into the discomfort and trust that the universe has your back. Not just that, but I have a sneaky suspicion that the universe has a better plan for your life than you do!
Have you seen the Amy Schumer's "I'm so Bad" sketch on Comedy Central?
Its a genius parody striking back at food shaming in the media. Seriously, if you haven't seen it, go to youtube it... I will wait. Let me recap it for you. 4 women sitting at a restaurant sharing about how "bad" they were with their eating habits....with no mention or issue with the actual horrific things they were doing like "cyberbulling kids on Instagram." Its a perfect play on how women in the media are depicted as feeling guilty (and therefore you should too!) for...wait for it...eating. I know horrific right? How dare a woman engage in a body behavior that is integral for her survival!
Can you imagine if we replaced the behavior of eating with something as natural as going to the bathroom? I'll paint the picture for you...4 women sitting around the table. Three of the women are able to leave their water untouched while another keeps pushing it away and then sneaking a sip! Finally, flushed now, she scurries away from the table to go to the bathroom only to slunk back to the table and cry, "I can't believe I've had to get up to pee three times tonight! You guys, I"M SOO BAD!" Comical right? But the representation is right on point.
Take that a step further to include men. Can you picture a guy feeling guilty about eating? Play around with google for an afternoon and you will see what I mean. I'm not saying they may not feel guilty, but they certainly most do not feel like an immoral human being, who is guilty of punishment in some way. Yesterday I googled "women feeling guilty." The entire first page was filled with article after article about women feeling guilty about everything from success to motherhood to eating. Once I looked at the image results of this google search, it got even sadder. Most of the photos that came up showed women eating food and feeling guilty!
Next, I googled "men feeling guilty." This first article that popped up is an article from PsychCentral entitled," "How to Deal with Women's Emotions." The remaining results primary discussed how men want to leave you but feel too guilty about it, or even more fun, men making women feel guilty about their issues. I then looked at the pictures of this search. *Brace yourselves.* There were zero, I repeat, zero pictures of men with food. In fact, only the first three photos were just men. By picture #4, there were pictures of women feeling guilty while the man looks annoyed and couples in arguments. There was certainly no pictures of men feeling guilty for eating a steak.
The closest I got to an ad with men feeling guilty about food is the photo above, which is honestly almost worse because the guy feels guilty for "not reading the girls mind" when she is PMSing. This is seriously an ad for guys to buy their girls milk in order to "calm her down".
If women are portrayed as enjoying food in advertisements or media, their is typically a sexual innuendo attached to it. Think of the stereotypical Carl Junior ad's Paris Hilton did back in the day...or almost every chocolate commercial you have ever seen. Seriously, I don't know who started this, but every chocolate ad appears to be advertised towards women as a way to feel sexy and "be bad" in a sexualized way. Do you see the ad above? It literally reads "Filthy. Indulge your obsession for chocolate."
Compare this to men. All the photos you find when you google "men eating" show pictures of men "chomping" down on food, or enjoying food with their friends. There is no guilt, there is no hesitation or need to sneak or lie about what they are eating. Also, to be clear, men have their own issues associated with food, body image, and advertisements and men absolutely have eating disorders. However, if you look at the photos of men eating versus women on the whole, men are represented as having a significantly healthier relationship with food than women.
It's no wonder when examining a minute portion of advertisements and social media that women have issues with food and sexuality. Women are taught to feel guilty about their bodies, their sexuality and their appetites. And while I am very clear that there has been a lot of progress, there is a reason Amy Schumer's sketch is so relevant Its one of those sketches that as a woman, you laugh "almost" too hard, as if your giggles may reveal that you relate a little too much. Again, not with the cyber bullying, but with eating so much cake you fear your friends will actually think you're a monster!
So in closing this week, I leave you with one therapy nugget, a "therapy snack " if you will, no pun intended...to take away from this week's #fiveminutetherapy,..
Dear woman, go be YOUR BAD SELF! The world needs you. All of you. The good, the bad and the what you perceive as ugly.