Friday, March 1, 2013

Self Consciousness

"What does your bracelet mean?" 

Last fall, after leaving treatment, I got the eating disorder recovery symbol tattooed on my left wrist and I wear a purple bracelet that says "Numbers Do Not Define Me" and "Freedom" on my left arm. This bracelet never comes off, not even in the shower, so I often times forget it is even there. 

Yesterday, literally two minutes before my teacher handed out one of the most difficult exams of the semester, the person who sits next to me asked "What does your bracelet mean?" As if I wasn't freaking out enough about the exam, I now had to expose my deepest, darkest secrets to the people I see every Tuesday and Thursday in class. 

After a long pause and drawn out, "Ummmm," I made the decision to just be honest about my past and told him I spent time in an eating disorder treatment center last year. I instantly felt my cheeks burning up and my palms became clammy. I tried to make a joke by saying, "That probably wasn't the answer you were expecting, huh?" but there was no laughter in return.

Not only did my thoughts become frazzled while taking the exam, I also found myself trapped in a brutal cycle of self consciousness. Even though this classmate said it wasn't anything to be embarrassed about, my disordered mind is still questioning whether or not I will find him sitting on the opposite side of the room next class because he thinks I'm freak. 

Although my self esteem has improved in some areas of my life since starting recovery, this is one situation that is still awkwardly uncomfortable. At that moment, I was ready to crawl under my desk until the rest of the class had left; I was caught off guard and not prepared to face my past.

Ever since that little incident, I have been thinking about self esteem. Why is it that some of us have much better self esteem than others? That doesn't seem fair. What contributes to good or bad self esteem? Is low self esteem something that can be reversed? If so, what can I do to help myself?

Like many of the things I write about, self consciousness is something that can be improved with a little time, practice and self love. As an effort to improve my self conscious tendencies in these awkward situations and life in general, I did a little research . Here are a few of my favorite ways to decrease feeling self conscious in the future:

Stop comparing myself to others
Embrace my positive qualities
Trust that I am good enough
Understand that there is so much more to being me than my eating disorder
Believe in my own self worth
Think of ways to handle the situation differently in the future
Make a list of things I like about myself
Write positive self affirmations on sticky notes and post them all over the house
Recognize and challenge self critical thoughts
Find out who I really am
Take time to honor my values and beliefs
Accept imperfections and flaws
Learn what lights my fire
Finding my voice and being assertive

The trick, however, is making sure that I continuously practice these things. Feeling self conscious is not something that goes away over night, but taking the time to recognize the things that make me feel small, like I am doing now, is the first step in changing them.

My past is my past. I have two options- I can run and hide from it or I can embrace it and use it to better my future. The choice is mine.

Next time someone asks me what my bracelet means, instead of only mentioning my battle with an eating disorder and feeling self conscious about it, I can also share with them that I am now flourishing in recovery. I am taking my life back.

 My self consciousness is slowly disappearing. I might even be starting to feel a little pride.



  1. Wow. Kelsi this post hit me hard for some reason. I could almost feel as if that was me in your situation. I have always struggled with telling people about me and my's getting easier now but during my recovery it was horrible. Whenever someone new found out, I would avoid them at all costs, because I was afraid they would judge me, watch me, etc. I don't know why this post hit me so hard but it's weird how much I can relate to it. I'm so happy that you were able to reflect on this and move forward with a new approach! You go girl!!

    1. Hey Tayla- This is a touchy subject for me too. For some reason talking about recovery in my blog is a lot different than actually confronting it face to face and with people who didn't know me when I was sick. I hope this didn't hit you hard in a bad way. But, I think the further I get in my own recovery, the more I realize how much more there is to me than an eating disorder. And if people judge then that's their problem. ;-)
      Thanks for such an awesome comment! You continue to inspire me daily <3

  2. Wow. This post hit home with me as well. Well, most of your posts, do, but this one in particular as every day that I go to the university, I know that people still see me as the girl who left the university a year ago for "health reasons". However, no one has ever asked me what the reasons were and I have often contemplated what I would tell them if they did ask. Would I give them the honest answer or hide?
    In the beginning, I thought I would not tell the truth. But in hiding the truth, I would not only be lying but also keeping the eating disorder as a part of my life. I think that in being honest about our past and our future in recovery we are releasing ourselves completely from the disease.

    1. I completely agree! Having an eating disorder is really hard, but living with the secret of it is somehow even worse. I, too, had to leave work/school for "health reasons," but I'm pretty sure everyone knew exactly what that meant. We are as sick as our secrets.
      Thanks for the comment- It's inspiring to me to know that I am not alone in all of this. Sending lots of love <3

  3. I'm not entirely sure how I came across your blog, but I've been reading it and catching up on older posts for the last week or two. You are fighting a battle that I cannot even begin to fathom...however reading your posts and witnessing your strength and courage astounds me, and has helped me on more than one occasion face the trials that I am currently going through. I struggle with self esteem as well, so this post really resonated with me! I appreciate your blog and how you freely share your story, I seriously admire your bravery!


    1. Hey Whitney,

      Thank you so much for this comment! I'm glad I could help, even if it's in a very small way. Everyone has their struggles, but not everyone chooses to face them. I admire your strength and willingness to take a look at your struggles and overcome them. That takes serious courage! Keep it up! :)