I have been thinking a lot lately about the concept of self. Maybe because of all these books I am reading about eating disorders. Or maybe just because.
I keep thinking about the difference between self-esteem, self-respect, self-worth, self-awareness and how all of those things relate to myself. I think about how related they should be to each other, and yet, how unrelated they all seem to be with me. It’s such a strange contradiction.
I have terrible self-esteem and self-confidence. I say and think things about myself that are horrifying. I would never let anyone else say that shit to me. Because I do, strangely, have self-respect. But I don’t respect myself. And I’m not sure how I can expect others to respect me when I so obviously don’t respect myself.
I definitely have body dysmorphia and poor self-image. Though my eating disorder didn’t start out that way. I still imagine myself to be the gangly awkward teenager I was instead of the person I am now. That self-image is stubbornly pervasive, even though I look nothing like that now.
I am trying to get better with my sense of self-worth. But it wasn’t always great in the past which is why I allowed people to behave abusively without leaving them immediately. And again I feel I need to demonstrate that I believe I have worth before others behave as though I do.
I know all of that is related to self-awareness. All the therapy I have done has given me new insight into my self-awareness. And yet, I still have not fully changed my behavior. How can I recognize that I have these issues but not be able to change or fix them?
I’ve never had a good sense of self. It’s partially why I don’t always recognize my feelings right away. I still get so caught up in what I should want or what I want myself to want. I sometimes lose track of what I actually do want.
Sometimes it is safer to not admit my feelings to myself. It saves me from being hurt when I don’t get what I want. It has saved me from abuse in the past by not allowing me to display anger when it was unsafe to do so. But that model of living is no longer relevant to my life. And recognizing my feelings is getting much easier.
I do love self-denial. Anything to prove how strong my willpower is. Because giving into something that I want is somehow weak. And I’m not allowed to be weak. I’m too busy trying (and failing) at being perfect.
My only sense of strength, power, or accomplishment came from denying myself something (or someone) that I wanted. Food is the perfect vehicle for this. I had three chances a day to prove how strong I was.
And that denial made me feel more powerful and superior than anything I have ever felt in my life. It is addictive. It felt like I was purifying myself. It’s no surprise to me that people go on religious fasts, or give up something for Lent. I am not a religious person, but the appeal is obvious. And dangerous.
I never imagined that I had an addictive personality. I have never been much for alcohol, never done drugs, or smoked or even gambled. But denial and self-punishment? That is my addiction. It is an addiction that is every bit as destructive as the other ones. And it is the same mixture of pleasure and misery.