"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.