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US: An Unshakable Self Love

Aleiya Evison
Posted February 2, 2017

While healing from an eating disorder, Aleiya Evison learned to care for herselfunconditionally.

“What would it look like to nurture my mind, body, and soul with compassion and kindness?

I first started to use food as a way to avoid my emotions when I was 8 years old. I hadn't seen my father in 3 years, my mom had recently remarried, and we had just moved to a new neighborhood. I didn't really have the tools or the vocabulary to express how all of these changes were impacting me, but I did know one thing: Food made me feel better. When I ate, I lost a sense of reality, and even if it was only for 15 minutes, I felt like I could cope.

At the same time, I was starting to go through puberty before everyone else my age; I was the only black girl in my class, and by the age of 10 I had grown to be five feet five inches tall.When I started to develop cystic acne in sixth grade, my self-esteem plummeted even lower.

I was so distinctly different from my peers that even though all I wanted to do was dissolve into the walls around me, my physical changes were on display for all to see.I wished desperately for a different body, clearer skin, and straight hair. I couldn't find a single thing I liked about myself physically and was in a constant state of shame, self-deprecation, and discontent. Beneath this, of course, was an unseen but deep need to process my emotions and understand the changes that were happening in my life.I was hurting.

By the end of middle school I began to lose my baby fat, and during high school, while playing three sports, I grew into my body and lost some weight. There was a time when I was conditioning for basketball and volleyball nearly every day. Even though my weight was healthy, and I was physically strong, I still felt deeply insecure about my body. I was stuck in the mindset that I would always be the chubby girl with acne and ugly hair.

I did not believe that I was physically desirable in any sense of the word, and no matter how "in shape" I grew to be, I wasstill walking around as a shell of myself. I still hated my thighs. I didn't think my stomach was ever flat enough, and I could not possibly imagine a day where I wouldn't have to wear heavy foundation to cover my acne scars.

For people who have experienced trauma in childhood—sexual assault, divorced parents, absent parents, physical, emotional, or verbal abuse, addiction,mental illness,or poverty—it can be extremely challenging to grow into a healthy adult who is self-loving and equipped with healthy coping skills. If we have had experiences at any point in the past in which we felt less than, unworthy, or not good enough, we carry that pain with us into adulthood until it is acknowledged and released.

Throughout college I have started to grapple with healing the child-self that hated her body. My weight has fluctuated consistently during the past four years, and I have oscillated betweenself-acceptance and dieting and comparison. There are months when I refuse to weigh myself, start my morning with positive affirmations, and will not diet. There are times when I feel stable and centered in my self-love, and other times when I have been sent back into a tailspin into negative self-image.

Last year, when I studied abroad in Panama, I lost weight because at least once a week I hiked 14 miles round trip. I was constantly sweating from the tropical climate, and eating differently. Getting in shape, for the first time in my life, wasn't something I had to think consciously about.I also had very little access to mirrors, so I was incapable of obsessing over the changes in my body to the same extent I might have back home.

However, when I came back from Panama, several people commented on how I "looked great" and had lost weight. At once I derived a sense of simultaneous satisfaction and horror from these observations. I felt a sick sense of urgency to maintain this new, more accepted body.And yet, I was also hurt that this was one of the first things people cared to talk about with me when I had just spent three months in another country. What had these people thought of me before I left for Panama? Was I fat before I left?Was Ibeautiful now because I was skinnier?

Within six months I gained the weight back. I was caught in another cycle of binge eating and low self-esteem. Insecurity seeped into my consciousness. I wanted to be thin, but the pain from my lack of self-acceptance caused me to tap into my tried and true coping mechanism—food. When I wasn't binge eating, I was in a panic to lose weight. At all costs, I could not be the undesirable, chubby girl from my past.

This past summer I contacted a nutritionist. I said I was interested in developing healthier habits, when really what I wanted was to be skinny. After my consultation,they told me that my weight was perfectly healthy; my blood work had come back perfect. They also told me that I had developedan eating disorder, and that I should go to therapy for body image issues before it developedinto something more serious.

This diagnosis knocked the wind out of me. An eating disorder? That was something that other people experienced, not me. I had never made myself throw up, so how could I have an eating disorder?I had obsessively counted calories, worked out longer than I probably should have, and nitpicked specific parts of my body, but wasn't this just what women did?

After receiving this news, I went home and wept. Someone had finally acknowledged years of pain that had manifested into something with a name. Someone had said out loudwhat had been my truth since the age of eight. I knew, in this moment, that something needed to shift, and not in the form of diets or workouts.

It took me a few weeks before I could bring myself to even tell another person about this appointment, but eventually I confided in one of my friends who is deeply kind and understanding. She lent me her copy of Women, Food and God, and I tearfully read about the difference between conditional and unconditional love for self.

I watched videos about the intersection of spirituality and body image. I wrote ten-page journal entries about the root of my pain. I started asking myself why I derived most of my self-worth from what my friends and romantic partners thought of my appearance at any given time. What would it look like to exercise and eat healthy foodsolely because of a deep, unshakable love that I felt for myself? What would it look like to nurture my mind, body, and soul with compassion and kindness? How do you care for yourself unconditionally?The answers to these questions felt hard and far away, but they also felt like truth.

Healing is an arduous process that requires patience, courage, and grace. To undo the narratives that were solidified by our wounded child-self and society's expectations of usmay even take a lifetime. But the freedom available, when we can completely step into the truth that we are valuable and worthy of love regardless of our always-changing weight or beauty, is magic.

I am in the midst of my healing. I must constantly come back to telling myself that I am valuable regardless of my appearance. The world will always have specific ideas about how I should look. The task at hand is to develop such a strong sense of self that I am not affected by anyone's perception of my physicality. I seek to know who I am beyond the physical, while also celebrating my body and treating it with care.

May we all experience the beauty of an unshakable self-love.

Comments 21

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Anita Kiddu Muhanguzi
Feb 02, 2017
Feb 02, 2017

Thanks for sharing your story my dear sister. We all have wounds that have healed and until we can look deeper and find out thw root causes we can never change to become better people. Iits a beautiful piece and it will surely change someones life. I pray you get healed. Stay blessed my dear sister. 

Aleiya Evison
Feb 06, 2017
Feb 06, 2017

Thank you very much Anita, I appreciate the support and sending love back to you!

Lana May
Feb 02, 2017
Feb 02, 2017

Dealing with body image is very difficult in a society where women are expected to look a certain way. Thank you for sharing. You sound like a strong person from dealing with this since eight. Good luck. 

Aleiya Evison
Feb 06, 2017
Feb 06, 2017

Thank you Lana!

MASOKA
Feb 03, 2017
Feb 03, 2017

soyer la bien venue dans notre communauté internationale pour contribué et partagé nos idées aussi des histoire pour amener des bons changements au niveaux local, province, national et international reste connectée .

Feb 03, 2017
Feb 03, 2017
This comment has been removed by the commenter or a moderator.
Immaculate Amoit
Feb 03, 2017
Feb 03, 2017

Dear Aleiya

Thanks so much Aleiya for sharing your story, as a young woman growing up I relate with your story. I had acne and in as much as I have never been fat I was always conscious of my body and really had a low self esteem until recently when I started an appentice ot Empowerment Institue and was going through The Empowerment Framework, before you empower others as a woman you have to Empower yourself first and this includes your Sexuality your Body, Spirituality among other aspects of life. After a journey of Self Discovery I decided to have a love relationship with myself first and it has been a freeing Experience I am still on this journey of Unshakable Self Love just like you. All the best to us and other women who have realized that their worth is not tied to peoples opinions.

Much Love.

Immah

Aleiya Evison
Feb 06, 2017
Feb 06, 2017

Thank you so much Immah. The Empowerment Insitute sounds incredible, thank you for the work you do. Sending love. 

QueenVirtuous
Feb 03, 2017
Feb 03, 2017

Hi, darling Aleiyah.

I can relate entirely to your beautifully written story about self-image. Being pear-shaped, I struggled so much too. It is an unpleasant experience, struggling to find acceptance among others who are constantly taking notes about how much you have gained or lost weight, as though that is the only noteworthy thing about you. One needs to reach deep within and have an honest conversation with oneself about the many beautiful things inherent. Only then can a person rise above the stigma and bless the world around him/her with the beauty and virtue one possesses. Keep writing, Aleiyah. We want to hear more of your stories. Remember that here at World Pulse, you fit in. Remain unshakable.

Aleiya Evison
Feb 06, 2017
Feb 06, 2017

Thank you so very much for the encouragement. Sending you love from Oregon!

QueenVirtuous
Feb 07, 2017
Feb 07, 2017

Love you too!

maggie farquhar
Feb 04, 2017
Feb 04, 2017

Dear Aleiyah, I want to put my arms around you to comfort you  and tell that with your strength of character everything will be alright.You are on a journey of self discovery and already I can tell you are coming to terms with how to accept and love your body.

With much love

Margaret

Clodine Mbuli Shei
Feb 06, 2017
Feb 06, 2017

Dear Aleiyah, 

Lovely writeup there. So captivating. Drawing so much inspiration from it. An unshakable Self Love

Aleiya Evison
Feb 06, 2017
Feb 06, 2017

Thank you so much Clodine! 

Anjana Vaidya
Feb 06, 2017
Feb 06, 2017

Dear Aleiyah,

How powerful you are <3 . Keep your spirit sister.

Thank you for taking us in your journey, such a motivating.

Love and hugs, anjana

Araba
Feb 08, 2017
Feb 08, 2017

Thanks for sharing.self love first

Lana Holmes
Feb 08, 2017
Feb 08, 2017

Exceptional piece of writing, Aleiya!  Thoroughly enjoyed!!

Adanna
Feb 11, 2017
Feb 11, 2017

Beautifully written Aleiya!

I totally agree with you that we need to nurture our mind, body, and soul with compassion and kindness!

Best,

Adanna

Maria Juan
Feb 11, 2017
Feb 11, 2017

Hello Aleiya,

I am so happy I saw your story. I am a female 16 year old, and I have always had difficult accepting my body. I was always chubby, and even now, when I look at the mirror, I ask myself, "Why did I let this get this far?". I used to be a size medium in clothing,  but now I'm a large, and it scares me. I have begun doing workouts at home to lose some weight, and to be honest, I realized that I have to treat my body right. Yes, I know, I'm "fat", but that does not define who I really am. I am a young teenager who wants to help make a change in the world and a girl who will stand up for education, gender-based violence, poverty and anything else. As a Latina living in the US, I am still looking for my purpose. I don't know who I will be in 10 years, but I know that the decision is up to me. I will have to forge my own path with some guidance, and accepting my body and using for well is what I need to complete first. 

I really hope you heal, and may you live a good life after healing. You deserve it.

Warm regards,

Maria.

leila Kigha
Feb 12, 2017
Feb 12, 2017

Amazing write up Aleiya!

loving ourselves spirit Soul body  is the surest path to a blissful existence. 

autumnseasonss
Feb 15, 2017
Feb 15, 2017

Hey! 

You are awesome! I'm 22 and live in the same area and am processing through a lot of the same things. I did a yoga teacher training last year and (among many things) I learned that I have an unhealthy relationship with food. I've judged myself pretty harshly on appearance since I was young. I grew up a ballet dancer and was always trying to be thin. I've always been picky with food in hopes I could get myself to eat less and less each day. I went on a trip to Asia and it exposed me to all new kinds of food. I never realized what I was holding myself back from. Before I thought about every bite of what I eat and now I just eat whatever I want! It's amazing. I've never felt so free. 

I feel more beautiful then I ever have. I'm no bigger (yet) nor smaller. However I look at food in a whole new way. I look at food as art and as something to enjoy. I use that same ideology to look at myself. I try to discover something new about myself every day. I write in my journal at night and record my day. I've only been doing this about 2 months and its so refreshing at the end of any day that I am learning and I am growing. I am becoming who I am supposed to be and everyday I get the opportunity to embrace the work of art that I'm creating, which is my life. 

It's not that easy though. I feel bipolar sometimes with it but I'm noticing patterns with how I feel and how it makes me eat. So even thinking I'm bipolar is good! It is new ground to move forward on!  Thank you for sharing. Its been hard for me to figure out how to go about this because I never felt like I had a serious disorder. It's nice to hear that there is someone similar. Thank you for sharing that book! I'm going to read it. You should look at the book "Revolution from Within" By Gloria Steinem. It's impactful!