This time last year, if you were to see my life on paper, you would’ve thought I had it all. I had a fancy title with a built-in promotion and a solid paycheck at a killer job in advertising. My 25-year-old skin glowed, tightly wrapped around lean muscle. I wore the right clothes, smiled and laughed appropriately, and made friends easily.
But beneath the surface, I was miserable. I had just reentered the agency world after three months of residential treatment for bulimia. I soon realized I wasn't ready, and the pressure to live up to my own unrealistic standards sent me into a gnarly relapse.
To maintain my self-imposed ideal of perfection, I suffered countless hours at the gym, adhered to a strict diet, then spent hours throwing it up. I usually went to bed without taking off my makeup because I was too weak to shower. In the mornings, I’d cake mascara on top of yesterday’s painted picture, douse myself with perfume, and drape myself in designer clothes I couldn’t afford. I smiled and laughed because my brain couldn’t compute a clever word to say, and I made many friends because I didn’t pose a threat.
Comparison dissolves contentment.
One year ago to the day I wrote this, I snapped. I couldn’t hold it together anymore. After ignoring all bodily instincts of hunger, pain, and suffering for three days, I found myself lost in the Skyway of downtown Minneapolis with mascara tears streaming down my blush-streaked cheeks, terrified of the robots that disguised themselves as human beings.
Numbly, I watched showy suits and leather loafers shuffle from one end of the Skyway to the other — faces stuck to screens, commuting from one important event to another.
As I emerged from the fog, still without any sense of time, I retraced my steps to work. I tried to engage in the conversations my co-workers were spilling at me, but all I could feel in my empty stomach was a knot of fear and inauthenticity. How could I know if anyone was real? I had played it off so well that even I believed my gimmick!
Pre-rehab, I had lived in denial for so long that I was familiar — almost comfortable — with masking and dancing around my disorder. After treatment, I knew too much to deny that the eating disorder was white-knuckling my life. I had no choice but surrender.
So, the day before Christmas break, I quit. I quit my job, I quit the lie I was living and telling, I quit displaying the pretend smile, and I quit playing the game. I moved out of the city and home to my parents’ farm. There, I reconnected with myself and with God. I found peace and contentment. I slowly regained life and nourishment. I learned to respect my body, my mind, and my energy.
I found my many gifts and reconciled with my many flaws. I turned my biggest weaknesses into my greatest strengths. I prevailed and have truly transformed.
Now, a year later, I still live with my parents while I work part-time as a yoga teacher. When I hear of my peers’ accomplishments and milestones — engagements, baby showers, promotions — I catch myself fantasizing about how my life would be better if… If I lived in the city. If I had my own space. If I had a boyfriend or if I hadn’t quit my job. That is the inevitable conclusion of comparing yourself to others. Comparison dissolves contentment.
But you can find contentment — even bliss — by imagining your heart as a garden and planting seeds of thankfulness there. Nourish them with love and gratitude, and they will continue to grow into a more abundant life. If a relationship you treasure begins to sour, focus your attention on the positive aspects of this person rather than letting their imperfections irritate you.
Reminding yourself by making a list or complimenting your loved one(s) is nourishing to the relationship, like watering a plant. Not communicating, shutting down, is like a drought that would cause any living thing to wither and die.
This holiday season, my life may not look that good on paper (and it certainly isn’t perfect), but I can tell you that I am truly content living the life that I have: Engaging in healthy relationships with self, food, others, and the world around me. Each day I count my blessings and when I feel the ifs creeping up, I remind myself that the grass is always greener where I've watered it.
Abundance in gratitude, my friends!
Establishing a regular meditation practice can drastically improve your health, and so can choosing the right foods. Ready to learn more about the power of food? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Kelly LeVeque.