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zoe & the beatles

just a twenty-something vegan navigating healthy, positive living with a little help from her friends john, paul, ringo & george!

this post comes in response to a post by one of my favorite bloggers: medicinal marzipan. today mara wrote this beautiful piece on self-love. i am not truly writing in response, but rather i am writing in reflection. here it goes.

one of the biggest and most important aspects of my life is happiness. i strive to achieve happiness through self-love, a topic i feel like i talk about a lot. so far though, the road to self-love has seemed less like a road and more like a round-a-bout. it seems to come in cycles. cycles i’m sure a lot of you can relate to.

my initial first step towards self-love started the moment i got off the plane from south africa almost two years ago. i was nineteen and filled with a new sense of self, of environment, of life. i felt empowered, capable, and, for one of the first times in my life, border-line beautiful (i never fully let myself believe i was beautiful during this time). something inside switched on and my perspective on the world and me in it started to shift. i returned how with a new sense of purpose and immediately surrounded myself with healthier options. i started running. i met new, down-to-earth people. i became vegetarian. i got really involved in the kitchen. i was happy.

then the slightly winding path to self-love took a sharp, crooked left and steered me into a darker direction. i wandered away from self-love and happiness. whatever newly unearthed sense of being still oozing in my chest just withered away. anxiety replaced it. depression. anger. negativity. suddenly, the person i was almost willing to accept turned into the one person i despised. the one person i could not please. the one person i did not want to be.

i took another sharp turn in another crooked direction and wound myself deeper into a hole. running four days a week became seven days a week. with added in late-night secret work outs to combat the secret binge from earlier in the night. the skipping lunch every other day turned into skipping lunch almost every day and sometimes a complete dinner, too. portions shrunk. as did my waist. but so did my happiness.

the comments of “you look great!” morphed into “you look really, really thin, zoe.” i liked the second of the two comments the best. i secretly prized those comments and didn’t believe them at the same time. because me? really, really thin? obviously they did not see the pouch i obsessed over every-single-second-of-the-day. obviously they didn’t see the muffin top, the hips, the thighs, the butt, the every-little-thing. i only just recently realized (seriously) these thin comments were not complimentary but only said out of concern.

an incredibly close friend of mine shared with me a few months ago a thought she had around this time last year, when i was sunk in the middle of my self-induced misery: “i saw you at a party one night and thought you were going to break.”

i didn’t realize how awful i was being to myself. not even when my period disappeared. not even when i cried all the time. not even when my knees hurt constantly and walking became painful. not even when i was tired and sore almost every hour of the day. not when i couldn’t focus on conversations because i couldn’t focus period. not even when i stopped eating nourishing meals. not even when i compared girl after girl after girl to myself. not even when i preferred skipping social events in favor of eating and exercising till i fell asleep.

the wickedly twisted road on which i wandered took a turn for the brighter side over the summer. something in me clicked again and i saw through a new lens. i saw my unhappiness for what it was. and it was ruining my life, my sanity. i found something in myself to start the long climb upward.

i embraced yoga. i reconstructed my vegan diet and actually started eating. i loosened up food “rules” and quit exercising in secret. in fact, i quit the gym altogether. running and i broke up for two long, months. i started conversations with my mom, my friends, a counselor, and the healing process began.

something new turned on here. something i want to call self-love. around the time of my birthday i accepted myself for who i was, inside and out. i was beautiful, one-hundred-percent beautiful, never border-line anything. everything looked and felt brighter. i felt lighter, in mood, body, and spirit. i truly felt like i was almost there, that just a little farther up the road and i’d finally run into self-love. well, that feeling faded the day after i turned 21.

a lot of things started to happen. i gained weight. my body started changing. i based my self-worth on the attention and affection of those around me and ended up losing the one person i based the most of my self-worth on. i felt like i lost control and the happiness around the corner appeared farther and farther away. now, i realize that i am caught in a cycle. and i’m back at square one again. i’m embarrassed, scared, and upset.

i am back to under eating, bingeing, compulsively exercising. i am back to obsessing, fretting, doubting. almost every day i think back to how i felt around the time of my birthday: beautiful, settled, comfortable, happy. every day i want that feeling back.

i know i can’t get it back without self-love. i can’t feel all those things until i accept myself and all the little intricacies that make me up.

mara sums it up spectacularly:

The difference between loving yourself and not loving yourself is not in the things that you do it is in the way that you feel when you are doing them. It means being honest and brave, and not spiraling into a pit of self-hatred when you don’t like what you see or how you feel. It means reassessing, doing what is best, and being very, very sweet to yourself when you are scared. It means proving to your body that you are capable of providing a safe and healthy environment to grow and flourish. It means melting away the shame that you’ve developed over the years about yours size. It means going to bat for yourself, the way you would for someone that you love.

i know i can be honest. and i know i can be brave. i know i can not spiral into a pit of self-hatred when i don’t like what i see or how i feel. the truth is, i just don’t want to let go. loosening my grip feels like losing control yet i know it is the right thing to do. i know in my heart it’s the right thing to do. this cycle is hellish. and it’s taking its toll on me at the moment.

the last time i went to cafe gratitude, i found a pendant at the table i was seated at. a lovely silver leaf with red streaks.

the back held a surprise for me. engraved in the silver are three words: with the current.

how brilliantly accurate. and how wonderfully timed for this message to fall into my lap. i need to stop forcing against the current, as it brings me farther from happiness and creates unnecessary unhappiness and strife in my life.

i need to trust in my self.

i need to trust that the confusion and uncertainty i feel now will eventually bring me peace of mind.

i need to believe i am experiencing what i am experiencing for a reason.

i need to remember that it takes some work to make it work, it takes some good to make it hurt, and it takes some bad for satisfaction.

most of all, i need to start loving myself and just let it be

once i do that, once i flow with the current instead of against it, well…i think self-love will be inevitable. and that path to beauty? it starts now.

here’s to health, happiness, and wholeness. truly.

namaste

zoe

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