The Life-Changing Magic of Not Being So Hard on Yourself

Happy 2019 friends!! Hope your year has been fabulous so far. I know I feel that “brand new crisp notebook” feeling in the air- do you?

I’ve actually had a beautiful realization in the new year that has me more excited than anything else, and I have to share because it’s been pretty powerful.

If you’ve followed this or any of my other blogs, or follow me on social media, you probably know I have been in recovery for an eating disorder that I probably developed somewhere around ten or eleven years of age. I have written about the awful voice that was part of my disorder, the one that sits on your shoulder and constantly tells you you’re failing, you’re fat, you’re lazy, you’re worthless, because you’re undisciplined and unmotivated and not dieting or working out enough, and that’s why you didn’t book your last three auditions.

It was a really fun time.

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What sweet relief when I discovered, as my recovery marched along, that voice was becoming quieter. It was showing up less and less. I could actually talk to it, tell it to shut up. Eventually, it stopped coming by almost completely.

It’s gone so silent for so long, it prompted me to share this Facebook post last week:

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So, all very exciting. I thought, how lovely! I’m not hard on my body anymore! I’ve really discovered the meaning of body positivity, self-love, all that junk. I was and am super proud of myself.

THEN, I discovered an awesome byproduct of all this work. All the pointed steps I took to get to this place with myself, my body, my size, my anxiety, all the stuff you examine when you are dealing with an eating disorder… well, I guess you could say it bled over.

I was recently having coffee with a dear friend, and she was describing to me how hard she is on herself. Now, this girl is amazing. She has talent to spare, an awesome and exciting life full of great friends and family, an acting resume to envy, and a strong marriage to a wonderful man. She works her ass off. She has a great body, a busy career, and healthy finances to show for it.

It’s easy to see from the outside, of course, and I’m all too familiar with the feeling that we aren’t doing enough, that we should be further along by now, have more success, more to show for it, etc.

But as we were discussing these things, I suddenly realized I haven’t felt that way in a while. I haven’t been hard on myself in a very long time. It felt almost like a foreign language, as though, even though my friend was describing an incredibly normal and relatable feeling, I couldn’t quite translate it for myself. I had to stop and remember the feeling in order to empathize with her.

My point of sharing all this is not in any way to imply I’m better than anyone else or wiser or whatever. But here is my takeaway, and I do think this is important:

Through the process of recovery, through the practice of digging up my issues, pulling them out by the roots, and simply repeating to myself that I have value, that I’m doing my best, and that perfection is not the goal, I have found peace in all parts of my life.

I may have been focusing on accepting my body as it is, but I inadvertently learned to accept my entire self, my entire life as it is.

By practicing focusing on things I love and am grateful for about my body, I trained my mind to only focus on things I love and am grateful for all around me.

If you are on a journey to eating disorder recovery, any type of mental illness coping, simply trying to find more peace and self-love, whatever your personal journey is, have hope. Believe it can be better, because I’m living proof it can.

I think of it now as one of those black and white pictures, where if you focus on the black part it makes one thing, and if you focus on the negative space that makes up the white part, it becomes a completely different image.

For most of my life, I could only focus on what I was doing wrong, where I could be better, where I was failing. Some of the lies I let seep in through my childhood, for example:

Underneath it all, I’m lazy. I have to work extra hard to prove I’m not lazy.

I should be struggling and exhausted. If I’m not, I’m not working hard enough.

If I have big dreams, I don’t get to have a happy or peaceful life. If I want something hard I have to be willing to suffer for it.

I’m an imposter, I’m not good enough to be a real actor, so I have to compensate with perfection.

If I don’t do my very best every moment of every day, I’m letting down all the people who helped me along the way.

So many people my age are further along than I am- if I’m behind now I have to work 10 times as hard to catch up.

If I do everything perfectly, no one can say anything bad about me or judge me. 

If I’m not the most successful, famous, hottest star, I’m failing.

Do any of these resonate with you? Do you have any similar lies you’ve convinced yourself are true? Especially if you’re in the industry?

Turns out mine came from a place of shame that I hadn’t dealt with and anxiety from growing up in total chaos. I had a need to control things and to prove myself. Once I dealt with those issues, that need, apparently, dissolved.

I held onto those things, to that shaming voice, because I thought they motivated me. I thought they made me my best. I thought that, without them, I would fail. But I’ve realized all they did was make me mean to myself, panicked, and unhappy, no matter what state my life was in.

The most beautiful thing about this shift is that I’m completely clear on my purpose and my goals now. There isn’t anything I want to accomplish that isn’t for me and me alone. Despite my fears, I’m as motivated as ever, just for the right reasons.

Example? I used to want to be rich and famous and successful as an actress because I thought that gave me value as a human being. Now, I’ve discovered, to my relief, I still want a wonderful and successful acting career, but it’s because I truly love to act more than anything else on the planet. It’s because I want to make art and help create more empathy in the world. And, furthermore, I do want success, because I want a platform to help people and animals all over the world, and fame can amplify a person’s impact.

I feel even more empowered going after my goals because I have such a clear sense of why I’m doing it. Plus, the journey is so much more pleasant when you allow yourself to be happy and give yourself credit for all you do instead of shaming yourself for what you aren’t doing.

In my black and white picture now, my perspective has shifted and I can’t even switch my view back anymore. I can’t see the other image. I’ve been practicing for so long intentionally finding the good, I go about my day only finding the positive side of things. I see it in myself, in my surroundings, in my career, in other people. I see beauty all the time, and I see my accomplishments so clearly. Even when I see something ugly or experience a setback, my mind is trained to find the opportunity, the lesson, the action steps, whatever it may be.

This is a feeling I wish for everyone. It’s as if a 10-ton weight has come off of me. I’m freer, I’m lighter, I don’t have to dig out from under a mountain of crap to see the positive side of something. I give myself tons of credit, and I no longer allow anyone else to shame me or make me feel bad about myself.

Outside of an invited opinion, I truly, honest to god don’t care what anyone thinks of me, my life, or my choices. I’m going to mess up sometimes, right? That’s life. That’s human. I accept this fully, I found peace with it. No one can possibly take that away from me. I earned it, fair and square.

So listen. Try it. Focus on what you’re doing well. Give yourself credit. Make lists of everything you do, everything you accomplish, everything you’re grateful for. Realize how many people in the world would give anything for what you have, for your opportunities and accomplishments. Practice celebrating yourself for every little thing. I mean every little thing. And definitely, find things about your body you love. Kiss them, tell them “thank you”, stand in front of your mirror naked and celebrate you. Even if you have to start with something small like “I have two functioning legs. Thank you legs, for allowing me to walk independently.” Great, fine! Start there!

Shutting up that little voice in your head that tells you you aren’t good enough is worth the effort, trust me. I can’t imagine ever going back, not once I’ve seen the other side. Happiness is a truly underrated quality, I believe. But underneath all the busy, the burnout, the shame, the can’t-do-it-alls, and the goal-crushing, it is there, waiting for us to claim it.

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