Mirror, Mirror

It’s taken as read that we know ourselves.  Other people may get it wrong, but we know who we are, right?

Confused about life? Just look within.

Unsure about a current relationship or  future direction?  Follow your heart.

Whatever the haters say, be true to yourself…unless of course, you don’t know what that self is.

This I’m afraid, is my experience.  Flesh wrapped around an empty hole.  A collection of negatives instead of a person –

– ‘not funny’

– ‘not pretty’

-‘not enough’.

One of the reasons anorexia was so attractive, was because it gave me an identity. And, slavery or not, that identity was incredibly hard to give up.

This identity – however false – gave me a sense of purpose. I had lots of things I wanted to do – but they were frightening too. I wanted to leave home: but I was scared I’d sink. I wanted to write – but what if I had nothing to say? I wanted to meet someone special and settle down and have a family…but what if that never happened?  I wanted to be successful and beautiful and loved – but I wasn’t sure I ever would.

I needed a reason to fail.  An exemption from the life I was too frightened to live.

I needed an identity: even if it was a bad one.

A sickness that made me special.

A world where the normal rules didn’t apply.

There’s a strange double-motivation here.  A desire to break free and a desire to be forever cocooned. Frederick Beuchner captures it exactly in “Telling Secrets”:

“Young people crave to be free and independent. They crave also to be taken care of and safe. The dark magic of anorexia is that it satisfies both of these cravings at once. By not eating, you take your stand against the world that is telling you what to do and who to be. And by not eating you also make your body so much lighter, smaller, weaker that in effect it becomes a child’s body again and the world flocks to your rescue. This double victory is so great that apparently not even self-destruction seems too high a price to pay.”

It’s a hollow victory and the prize is destroying the very self I hoped to find.

So I go back to where I began. The issue is this: I’m not the one who knows myself best. And I certainly don’t know what’s best for me. Instead of looking within, the answer is always a Voice from outside.





2 thoughts on “Mirror, Mirror

  1. It’s a hollow victory and the prize is destroying the very self I hoped to find.

    Emma, you have a real gift for putting the indescribable into words.

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