Lately I’ve been working a lot with my individual therapist on expressing my “true self” rather than my “fake self.”
My fake self is who I *want* to be (or I guess who I think I want to be?). She’s perfect. Everyone loves Fake Savannah. She’s gorgeous and thin, she makes excellent grades without having to try too hard. She’s successful at so many things. She’s probably going to be a doctor or a researcher or something, but she’s also incredible at art. She’s outgoing and social, polite, likes to party, but still knows how to behave herself. She’s a particularly nice person and is always looking out for others. She puts everyone before herself and is always willing to help out people in need. The most important thing is that everyone loves her. No one has anything bad to say about her. Ever.
My therapist and I have come to the conclusion that at some point in my life I became convinced that I’m not good enough. And since I didn’t think that I was enough, I started looking to other people to tell me if I was good enough. And if I got even a hint of any sign that I wasn’t enough, I took it and ran with it. My eating disorder really plays a big part in this. It’s like a voice in the back of my head, constantly reminding me that I’m NOT good enough, and that no one likes me. If I’m thinner, prettier, smarter, work harder, then I might stand a chance. So that’s what I do. Unfortunately, I’ve found that when I start to put all of my effort into keeping this appearance I crumble. When I let my self-critical thoughts get out of control, I spend all of my time counting calories, doing homework, and throwing up the food that my malnourished body can’t help but devour. I rarely talk to anyone. Even though I WANT to be social and outgoing, that critical voice always tells me that if I do or say even the slightest thing incorrectly, that people will hate me. They will think that I am awkward and weird. That I am not good enough. So the eating disorder thoughts just take over. If I’m too weird and shy and unlovable for people to like me, I need to be sicker. I need to punish myself. I need to suffer because of how unlovable I am. Then, if I’m sick, people will at least have to stay with me, right? No one would leave if they knew I was hurting. I just don’t want to end up alone. Afraid and empty. I just want the outside of me to reflect how empty and hurting I am on the inside. Then people will know how fragile I really feel.
Don’t take this the wrong way. Any time I think about this I always feel like a “fake.” Like I’m doing this just to get the attention and I’m just being narcissistic and I should get over myself. But my therapist says that isn’t how it is, and right now, I just have to trust her on that. And I wouldn’t say that about any one else with an eating disorder, so I’m trying not to think it about myself.
My true self? I’m still not really sure who that is yet. Five years ago, I dropped absolutely everything except my schoolwork and my eating disorder. I quit having hobbies and dedicated my time to exercising and bingeing/purging. I stopped thinking about things that didn’t involve counting calories or coming up with ways to get out of meals. I’m at least now at a point where I’m mentally fighting the eating disorder, rather than just giving in to it. This means that I can actually try out different ideas of who I think I might actually be. I’m getting there. It’s a slow and scary process, but at least I’m fighting it.