I love what is going on over at Medicinal Marzipan. They are calling it Teen Week. To sum it up (and maybe butcher it a bit) this week is about adults who have "been there" letting teens know that they too can do it. Granted being a teenager now is different than when I was one (although it really wasn't that long ago, oh how quickly things change), but most of the fundamental challenges haven't changed. So in an effort to take part and to tell all the wonderful teens in my life and all other teens out there that they are amazing and can get through this I am going to share with you some of my teen life.
I was a rather insecure teen. I needed (and sometimes still need) a lot of validation from people. Especially guys. If I didn't have a boyfriend I interpreted that as a personal failing. I must not have been good enough in some way. Usually the way I figured I wasn't good enough was in my looks.
I think my insecurity all started in fourth grade. My family moved that year. For three years I didn't have any friends. I was the "looser" in school. I sat alone at lunch and recess. It wasn't until I went to a new school (Junior High) with a new bunch of kids that I actually made a few friends.
On one side of my family we have rather thick legs. I was blessed to get them too. I was never one of those girls with pencil thin legs, but most of my friends were. Today I'm very proud of my strong legs, but that wasn't always the case. I played soccer. I loved soccer. I lived it. I played up the idea that my thick legs were a good thing because of my soccer playing, but secretly I loathed my legs. Then it wasn't just my legs that weren't good enough, it was also my stomach, my arms, my chest, my face. I compared myself to everyone.
I must confess that a lot of this was done on a subconscious level. I stopped eating very much. At first I thought it was because I was just too lazy to get up early enough to make myself a lunch, but then it became a matter of pride. I didn't need to eat as much as everyone else. By the time I got to my freshman year of college I had a serious problem. I could go days on half a bowl of cereal. I had a good friend and a roommate who loved to run and work out. We would go together to the gym every day. What was a good, healthy workout for her was often too much for me, but I'd push myself harder and harder.
By the time my dad came to pick me up from my first semester of school I hadn't slept more than 10 hours the previous week. I also had gone that same amount of time without eating more than a couple handfuls of cereal. When I got home I slept for a good 10 days. I was so weak. But I had lost 20 pounds and was encouraged that if I tried a little harder I could reach my goal of 100 pounds, only 8 more to go. I just wanted to be a size 1.
I think this is when the real battle began. I didn't have the energy to starve myself any more. I loved food too much, so I became a compulsive over eater. Then I'd starve myself for a while to make up for it. I loathed myself. When I would eat I'd feel guilty. Had you told me I had a problem I would have thought you were crazy. I was just trying to look like I was supposed to look. I started to experiment with diet pills and throwing up my meals.
You get the picture. I'm sure you've heard it before. My husband was eventually the one to help me realize I had a problem. I started the long journey to change. It wasn't until I realized I was going to be a mother that this journey really took hold. I won't lie to you and say that I have "arrived" at self-acceptance. But I'm getting there. Some days I am there. The days that I'm not are getting better. I do know that when we let go of insecurity life becomes something new and beautiful.
The moral of this story and the reason I share it? Well, I think it is important to learn from others so you don't repeat their mistakes. Having an "ideal" body was my dream, but even when I was fit and tiny I still hated my body. It's a disease. I wish I would have used my time and energy on learning who I truly was. True friends love us as we are. Find those people to be friends with and find out what you love. Don't waste your life destroying your body. My biggest regret of my teen years is not appreciating and loving myself.
Your teen years fly by. Enjoy them. Be yourself. Learn to love others as well as yourself. Oh yeah, and you're amazing. Just as you are.