“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.”
As horrible as fear is, at least it’s familiar. There is something very comforting in knowing what to expect.
I was in my late 40s. I owned a gorgeous mid-century home. I had a beautiful, healthy 6-year-old daughter, a BMW in my garage, a housekeeper, a nanny. I was living the dream; at least when looked at from the outside.
On the inside, in my mind, there was a self-loathing, self-critical, depressed-to-the-very-core-of-my-soul woman.
I often look back and question where it all began. I remember hating my body from a very young age. I also remember turning to food to soothe and comfort myself.
I didn’t have the easiest childhood. My mom, who was my idol, was sick a lot and, at that time, my dad didn’t know how to act around a little girl. I felt alone, scared, and out of control. Food was a comforting friend that I could control.
As I got older, I thought happiness was a measurement—how much I weighed, what size clothing I wore, how much money I made, and how many dates I had. My need for self-approval was off the charts. That led me to not setting boundaries for myself with men, work, and friends. I was terrified that I was going to be alone, washed up, and living on the streets.
This all led to my attracting men who mirrored my thoughts about myself. I was never skinny enough, smart enough, or comfortable with my body.
So there I was at 44. I remember staring out my window, seeing this gorgeous view of the mountains, thinking, “I can’t feel anything, I’m numb, and I want to die.” Then my daughter witnessed me being verbally abused by my then-spouse. I grabbed her, threw her in the car and told her, “Don’t EVER let a man talk to you like that.” There she was, at just 6 years old; she looked at me and said, “Then why do you let daddy talk to YOU like that then?”
That was when the numbness went away. The victor arose from the victim.
I got myself into therapy. I started to look at what role I was playing in this turmoil, became accountable, and moved out with my daughter and dog.
I wish I could tell you this was the happy ending, but there I was—still the mean, self-critical Alison doing the diet of the month, taking diet pills, constantly eating, and eating emotionally.
At 51, I was newly married to my soul mate, studying to be a health coach and thinking I was in a better place mentally when I caught myself as I was coming out of the shower.
“You fat cow, you gained all your weight back. You have NO willpower. Your husband is going to dump you.”
Wow. I finally heard it.
How could I talk to myself like this? How was I ever going to stop being so mean to myself?
As this reality hit me, I just sat and cried. Tearfully I realized that this is where all of my troubles began, inside my head.
And so here, inside my own head, is where it needed to end.
So, I started to thank my body. I thanked it for holding on the weight to protect me.
I started to listen, really listen, to what my body was asking for.
I dug deep into my limiting beliefs about what having a balanced life would look like and what I had to do to be aligned with what I truly wanted in my life.
I stopped trying to please people all the time.
I cleaned my house of friends, even family, who didn’t want the best for me.
I stopped making food bad. I stopped using it as a drug to distract and soothe me.
I started to set strong boundaries with work, family, and friends.
I opened up to my daughter and discussed what a healthy body image is and why mommy struggled with that for so long.
I opened up to my husband and asked for his love and support.
I started to talk to the little girl inside of me that was scared with kindness and compassion.
I bought clothing, not one size smaller, so I’d have to lose weight, but clothing that was my current size.
I looked at myself naked and smiled.
You see, I allowed myself to stop putting my life, sanity, and happiness on hold until I hit this imagined measurement.
I’ve realized that there is no number to measure how happy I am or how loved I am and or how complete I feel. This can only come from within me—from loving, appreciating, accepting, and having gratitude for myself, my body, and my life.
“You are not a mistake. You are not a problem to be solved. But you won’t discover this until you are willing to stop banging your head against the wall of shaming and caging and fearing yourself.”