“Oh my gosh! You look amazing!” they kept telling me. I was dipping dangerously below 100 pounds, my designer clothes, fancy, but dirty, hanging on my fragile frame.
“Thanks,” I would say, relieved they weren’t onto me, but confused, and even a little resentful, knowing deep down I was anything but amazing. I was sick, hopeless and strung out, but definitely not amazing. Even then, the irony was not lost on me. Eating disorders and body image issues had never been my Achilles heel. I was reading The Beauty Myth in college decades before Instagram was reminding us all that “we are enough.” I was born with a smirky confidence, feeling about a million more times than enough even as a young girl. So by the time feminist literature came across my desk, I was fully on board, railing against advertisers who dared to tell me that I was merely an object to look sexy for a man. “Fuck that!” I said all the way through law school.
Here I was.
Scrawny. Strung out on pride and ego, among other things. Shuffling dangerously close to emaciation. So while I never starved myself as a means to feel pretty, or enough, or sexy, or to exercise control over an otherwise uncontrollable life, I was still here, anorexic by any definition. The story of how I got there and, ultimately recovered, is for another day, and it’s a long one.
Did I look amazing?
No. I definitely did not.
I looked skinny. Super skinny. Sick, actually. Not amazing. But the message I kept getting from most people was that I looked better than ever.
Cut to two decades later. In recovery, sober many years, mother to two kids, married, a successful law career under by belt and a blossoming new one. But we hit a rough patch. Or I did anyway. Maybe a pre mid-life crisis of sorts. Again, details for another time, maybe never.
I lost my appetite. I was depressed and so deeply sad.
And the compliments poured in.
“What are you doing?”
“You look amazing!”
“What’s your workout routine?”
And here’s the thing. I have always been fit and athletic. Not overweight by any standard. Bean pole thin, no. I have never cared to be. But strong. Confident. And, frankly, in my mind, amazing.
But not now.
I felt gripped by depression and indecision. I was forcing food because I knew I had to eat. But without an appetite, eating was a challenge.
“You look amazing!” was the primary message I received.
Since when is dangerously thin amazing?
Sadly, always in our fucked up culture.
I am beautiful. I am whip smart. And I am amazing. But not because I am skinny or strong or have blond hair or straight hair or fewer wrinkles or whatever the thing is. I am amazing because I have grit and resilience and abounding endless amounts of love. Not because I wear a size two or four or six or twelve.
Major footnote: If you have worked your ass off to lose weight in a healthy way (ie. not starving yourself, or slamming ten Red Bulls, or lines of cocaine or pills, or purging), YOU ARE AMAZING and so worthy of major praise.