Living In the Medium With an ED

When I was active in my eating disorder the word “medium” was just about as bad as calling me “fat.”

For me I was only okay if I wore a “small” shirt or was able to soothe myself with seeing a “large” A+ on an essay…. I lived to hear people say, you are the smallest girl I’ve ever seen” or you are the “BIGGEST” help I’ve ever had.”To me, medium stood for mediocre, good, but not great, nice, but definitely not the best. The voice of my eating disorder always told me, “If you can’t win, then don’t play.” That thinking works for a while, but for me I found as time went on it became impossible to be the smallest and largest at everything. It started to hurt my relationships. When I saw another girl getting praised for her small body I would hate her for taking my spot. When someone else was given praise for their generosity at church or creativity at work I became jealous and distant from them. Nevertheless I found that my quest to be the small or be the best at something didn’t come from a genuine place of me using say my writing skills, my compassion or my love for children. My quest to be small and the best was simply an avenue for me to quiet the voice of my eating disorder, because I thought, “When I am small enough and the biggest success that voice that tells me I’m a piece of crap will finally go away.”

I started to see just how neurotic the voice of my eating disorder was after a conversation I
had with my friend Jessica who does not have an Eating Disorder. She asked me why I looked so sad and I told her,

“I’m worried about my writing. I’m worried that I spend so much time everyday trying to perfect my craft and what if I never publish one of my books? What if I don’t ever make it on the New York Times Best Seller List? What if I never sell my work?”

With a puzzled expression Jessica asked me,

“Why are you trying to be the best? I mean I love to paint. I’ll paint until the day I die. I don’t care if my art never gets hung at the Louvre or if children don’t read about me in 100 years. I paint because I love it. I know you love writing, why don’t you just do it and stop worrying about other people reading it and just enjoy your art?”

I was shocked by her words, “Just do it for the sake of doing it? Not be the best? Is she crazy? I HAVE TO BE THE BEST!”

But as time has gone on, as life in recovery has settled in I have discovered that I am actually a lot happier when I am not striving so hard to be the best or the smallest. I am more authentic in my writing, I’m not starving trying to be so tiny and I am not spread thin among projects trying to be Super Woman. I may not get as many compliments or all the praise that I was used to, but I guess I don’t need as much because I give it to myself, I don’t look for it from others.

Learning to live life like a “medium” is difficult. You have to give things a lot more thought, like, “Is it really healthy to stay up until 3am writing?” “Do I really need to knit 50 scarves for my friends and family for Christmas?” “Do I really need to only eat a latte for lunch?” I’ll admit it is uncomfortable at times to be a medium. American society focuses on the best and the shiniest. I may not always be the center of the focus and the praise, but I know that I don’t need to be in the center to matter and feel loved.