The art of independence is something I believe we must all learn and be able to do. Some people are natural introverts who feel quite comfortable in their own company whilst others are more dependant. I am the latter but I’m learning about how important it is to know yourself and be true to your own beliefs without the need to rely on others.
I have always been very sociable and liked being in others company. As a child I would always need someone to play with, unlike like my brother who was quite happy playing on his own. As I became older, particularly beyond the age of 19, I became more isolated due to my sudden lack of confidence. Moving to the big city probably took a huge impact alongside the stress of studying such an intense undergraduate course. When my eating disorder hit me I became incredibly vulnerable and in fear of social situations, particularly if that was around food. Although I purposely isolated myself, I never lost the sense of dependency. My eating disorder told me, and often still does, ‘you are unloved.’ When others showed their concern for my health I would cling on to that support yet if they didn’t show that attention then my eating disorder would get stronger as if that proved its point that I am unloved.
It’s okay to be selfish
As children we are taught to put others first, be kind, share, think of others before yourself, but we are never taught that you are the most important person in the world. It is your life and you are in control of it and your happiness. Without yourself there is no others. How can there be people in your life if ultimately you aren’t doing things for yourself. Arguably, you may believe there are others who are always there for you no matter what but in this instance it is you who chooses to let them in which is subconsciously an act for yourself. We should refrain from being judgemental around the word ‘selfish.’ The teachings of putting others first before yourself creates negative connotations towards the word selfish when truthfully being selfish is incredibly important within reason. My treatment for my eating disorder has been a critical time when I’ve needed to be selfish since my entire life was on the line and it was down to me to make the changes. I’ve had to concentrate on myself and do things to benefit my mental health and happiness as well as accounting for my physical health. At times this has had a huge impact on my relationships however, I know that in the long run being selfish is essential.
Love yourself before loving others
When it comes to relationships, I feel is important to find happiness in yourself before others as it is not the other person’s responsibility to make you happy. They can contribute to your happiness however, they should never be the soul reason for your happiness. I have always had relationships and ‘flings’ which I am now understanding it could be an indicator of issues and fears around being alone. Challenging this seems scary as being alone is an opportunity for my eating disorder to take the reins. I know that my eating disorder is always waiting for me to fall back on and with that I will never feel alone. On the other hand, I’m aware that reverting back to it is what it wants and the consequences aren’t worth me listening to it. Anorexia takes over my identity which gives me a false understanding of myself. I know that I can’t possibly love someone and give them everything they want if I don’t have that love within myself. You can’t give someone something if you aren’t truly sure of yourself.
My dependency on others takes place in reassurance seeking, particularly around those close to me. I’d constantly be checking and asking if they loved me or if I’d upset them as a lack of self esteem makes me believe I’ve always done something wrong. I’d ask if I looked okay, if I was fat, should I get changed? Worrying and never believing in myself meant I could never put trust in myself thus seeking reassurance from others. As an adult, this has only made me worry more as I am more often faced with life decisions which require me to think for myself. I can’t always be making decisions and consulting others beforehand. Life changes you as a person – as we get older we go through different experiences and experience feeds emotional intelligence. The ages between 18 and 22 is a huge milestone – in that time I went to uni, moved to London, got a long term boyfriend, got a job, suffered a mental illness and began treatment. Regardless of my anorexia, I was bound to change as a person and that change is something I find very hard to deal with as it requires understanding who I really am.
As I’ve grown to be more independent, even though I still have far to go, I understand what I need from life, what my aspirations are and learning my beliefs. I feel less guilty about allowing myself to be self compassionate and I am more able to put myself first when it is needed. When your life’s on the line it gives you perspective on your priorities – if I didn’t prioritise myself, I wouldn’t even be here to put others first. As I’m slowly but surely gaining confidence in who I am I have decided to ‘do me and those who choose come with me on that journey are there to stay.’