Why ‘Good’ Girls Don’t Eat

Here’s an excerpt I’ve written on ‘Eating Disorders + ‘Good’ girls’, (from this month’s ‘Woman Alive’):

There are many reasons why someone develops an eating disorder. Culture, environment, physiology, life experiences and even geography may play a part. Another of these is personality type. The type I call ‘good girl’.

There are, of course, sufferers who won’t fit this description. Similarly, most good girls will not develop anorexia. However, aspects of their personalities make them more vulnerable to it than others. Good girls are often people pleasers and perfectionists. They are bright, sensitive and hard-working, and many of them are in our churches. They tend to see the world in black and white, and are used to excelling in different fields. Despite this, they have low self-esteem and struggle to make sense of who they are. As a result, they seek approval and build their identity on the reflections of other people.

Good girls like me are terrified of rejection – yet we long for relationship. We believe that to have any value, we must meet certain standards. We must be ‘good’. This means that negative emotions such as anger or sadness are seen as ‘bad’ and unacceptable. Many people deal with these by talking with others. But the good girl believes that if she opens up she’ll be exposed and rejected. Instead she retreats inwards. She copes by repressing her feelings and redoubling her efforts to gain approval. Yet, despite her striving, ‘good’ is never ‘good enough’.

Read the rest here.

2 thoughts on “Why ‘Good’ Girls Don’t Eat

  1. I have recently read your book and can’t believe how much of me I see in it as well as the description above. I struggle with cutting myself – that is my control – I have the say on how much I want to hurt, how much I want to bleed, how much damage I do to myself to punish myself for the person I am. Recently with input from my long suffering Pastor and his wife things have improved although the temptation is still there. I just want to thank you of the reminder that God is the only One who can change us and who will give us the strength and grace to get through each day.

  2. Hi Heather – thanks so much for sharing some of your experience. Control is such a potent drug, even though it comes out in different behaviours. It seems sometimes like moving forwards is impossible – but as you say, the grace of Christ and the love of others gives us grace to go a day at a time.

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