To whom do you give your power?

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I just got home from my bi-weekly eating disorders group, and tonight’s topic was awesome and timely (because my therapist is apparently a mind reader). She asked us to think about to whom we have given our power. This was such an awesome and timely topic for me because I have been pondering this week a post shared by Melissa Fabello on her Instagram feed. It has to do with the scale. I give SO MUCH POWER to the scale, and what she shared was a little algorithm that basically showed that stepping on the scale is pointless because, no matter what the scale says, our behaviors are the same. If we lose weight, we either reward ourselves with food or we keep up what we are doing (likely restricting) in order to continue getting those results. If we gain weight, we either stop eating to punish ourselves or we say “Fuck it.” and punish ourselves by bingeing on food. The scale, in this case, has All. The. Power.

So the first thing that I have given a large amount of power to, as I just shared, is the scale. The second thing that I have given power to ever since my first serious college relationship is what men think of me. When my college relationship ended, I assumed it was because of my weight, so I took up running and starving myself and got myself down to a size that I thought would make him come running back. And he didn’t. After college, my first serious relationship ended, and I again assumed it was because of my weight, and I started dieting. And I lost a lot of weight. And the relationship stayed ended. My ex-husband and I had an on-again, off-again relationship for a long time, and any time it was off again, I went back to my familiar dieting behaviors and got myself “back into shape” so he could see what he was missing and come crawling back. This cycle was played out over and over again, until we eventually married, which eventually led to our divorce. And in the two years leading up to that divorce, I was on a new road to healthiness, dieting and spending multiple hours at the gym and shedding almost a third of my body weight. Because I felt him slipping away, and maybe I felt myself moving away from him, and of course, fixing my weight would fix all that, right?

So therapy eventually broke through the shell I had built around myself, and when I thawed out, I went back to my bingeing ways because that was one of the only ways I knew to keep myself from feeling my feelings. And I gained a bunch of weight, and I got diagnosed with an eating disorder, and I went back and forth between bingeing and restricting. I spent all my free time exercising, or I spent none of my free time exercising. I occasionally purged. I had a bad run with laxatives. And then I started thinking about what dating might look like for me, as one does when she has spent the “right” amount of time single after her divorce.

So I did what any introvert in this decade does when looking for a potential new partner and went to the internet to see what was out there. And when I was looking through profiles, instead of looking for stuff that I thought would be a good match for me, I found myself wondering if I was unobjectionable enough to have a chance with these men who were living in my computer. And that is clearly a sign of a problem. Instead of looking for someone who I found intriguing, I tried to guess if the men out there would be willing to overlook my weight or my messy house or my credit card debt or my innumerable other faults that I assumed were the reason things just had not worked out for me.

Several weeks ago, I had an ah-ha moment about these behaviors and started pondering why it was I cared so much what men thought of me. And I realized I had always thought of a relationship with a man as a necessary part of my life. If I was not in a relationship, I was trying to get myself into a state that would allow me to find someone who was willing to overlook what I was missing just to be my other half. I didn’t have a list of must-haves in a man. I just knew that I was not complete if I was not with someone else.

And now? I don’t care what men think of me. And I actually mean that. I have quit all those dating sites because I know that what I am looking for is not on those pages. If I eventually find myself in a relationship, I really think it is going to be because I looked across a room and saw my dreams reflected in the eyes of another person. It’s not going to be about shopping on a website and chatting online and spending hours on the phone just to meet in person and find out there is no chemistry. And if I don’t come across this person in any of the crowded rooms I am in throughout the rest of my days, I guess I will be happy with being without a significant other. I know that my single self right now feels better about herself than that girl in a relationship ever did.

So I am going to take my power back from the scale in my bathroom and the men in my past. At the end of the day, I only have to be able to live with myself. And I am learning to love myself, piece by piece, one day at a time.

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