- Being open-minded has introduced me to amazing people
- Having an eating disorder taught me how to find solutions
- Making perfection a priority limits you
What I was most ashamed of in my teens and twenties, is what I’m most grateful for now. I had an eating disorder. Looking back I realize how much I learned from that difficult experience.
My eating disorder taught me to be open-minded
It took me ages to understand my eating disorder. I always thought about how others might perceive me and what was actually going on. For instance, I may have appeared lazy missing classes at university but I was lost in a viscous cycle of starving, binging and purging.
My disordered eating helped me realize we shouldn’t be so quick to judge others. People are fascinating. Everybody has experiences that are beautiful, sad, funny and true. Now I give people lots of chances to share their story before I fill in the blanks. I spend more time trying to put myself in somebody else’s shoes. As well, it’s not just people my eating disorder taught me to consider more carefully. I’m also more open to new ideas.
I overcame my eating disorder by learning to problem solve
When I was younger I thought fixing things was all about working hard. I thought it was about putting your head down and getting the job done. Now I know it’s important to talk to others before you throw yourself into overcoming obstacles. It’s easy to isolate yourself with the wrong information; I did for 10 years. But when you share your thoughts it helps you reflect on what you believe. It’s surprising how different you can see a situation when you say what you’re thinking out loud. For example, you may be taking responsibility for something that happened outside your control. This exercise also helps you explain feelings you haven’t articulated before.
When you tell people what’s going on and ask for their opinion, you can:
- challenge existing ideas
- make a plan about where to direct your energy
- try out other people’s suggestions
You can ask friends, family, colleagues, neighbours or even perfect strangers (if it feels right) for advice. It’s amazing how happy people are to help. Once you share a bit of yourself, you’ll also find other people open up.
As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.
– Amy Poehler, comedian
Worrying about little things stopped me from achieving big things
Trying to do everything perfectly played a huge role in my illness. I always agonized over a few extra calories and felt like the smallest thing ruined the whole day. I got lost in the details. When I overcame my eating disorder I realized that carrying on after a mistake played a big part in my recovery. I learned you’re much more productive if you keep moving forward rather than worry about a tiny thing that went wrong. Going after something you care about can be messy because you’re pushing yourself. You’re working outside your comfort zone. Whereas making perfection a priority holds you back from taking risks and trying new things.
Now, whenever I get stuck on something, I remind myself to put my energy into what I’m passionate about. It’s more important than doing something perfectly. Try your best and live with the results. It’s better for something to be complete and well done than have something incomplete because you wanted it to be flawless. There’s a process in reaching goals. Scrapping everything unless it’s perfect brings you back to the start.
Dark days help you recognize bright days
My eating disorder also taught me what’s important. Little things never get me down. Material things are immaterial. Just a regular day is amazing! I feel free. I love walking down the street and being present rather than preoccupied by a complicated relationship with food. Staying focused on the big picture, has helped me experience how meaningful life is when you invest in people, animals and the environment.
My eating disorder was an education
After going through a rough time we often want to pretend it never happened. But if we take a moment to look back and reflect, it’s amazing to see what you’ve learned. I wanted to forget I ever had an eating disorder. Never in my wildest dreams did I think something positive could come of it. Understanding good things can grow from terrible experiences makes challenging times easier.
Wildest Dreams by Taylor Swift
Sharing what I learned makes those 10 years worth it