I was always known as the worrier in my family growing up. Looking back, I clearly suffered from anxiety from a young age. As an empath, I felt emotions strongly and cried easily. I was repeatedly told to “toughen up.” I never felt like I fit in or truly belonged anywhere. I tried to conform to those around me, desperate for a sense of connection with my peer group. I had no idea who I really was or what I believed in.
I was a “type A” personality striving for perfection. I believed it was only through perfection that I would be valued and accepted. Unfortunately, and predictably, I was never perfect. I had these faults, as we all do, and constantly felt like a failure. As a result, I starved myself to gain a sense of control, I accepted horrific treatment from men, and I hated myself.
I was attractive when I was younger. Thin with a beautiful smile and memorable eyes. People responded to my appearance, although I never felt pretty. I believed myself to be ugly, fat, and disgusting. This vision of myself only began to change about three years ago.
Shortly after leaving an abusive relationship, the vehicle I was driving was hit head-on by a truck, leaving me severely injured. I was confined to a wheelchair for several months. My residual pain prevented me, and still does, from engaging in my regular activities and exercise. Consequently, I gained weight. According to the medical charts, I am now safely in the overweight category. This would have destroyed the younger me. I would have starved myself attempting to regain control over my life that had so abruptly been turned upside down.
I see now that the accident was a turning point in my life. The clichéd blessing in disguise. I have learned that my worth is not tied to my appearance. I have learned that we have no control over what happens to us, only our reaction to it. Gone are the shackles of imposter syndrome from which I once suffered. I now realize my value. It was always there even when I didn’t see it.
I cry for my younger self and extend to her compassion and kindness. I now judge myself less harshly. I love my curves, my jiggly bits, my scars, my wrinkles. I wear them like a badge of honor. I now use my voice to advocate loudly for myself and others. I am authentically me. And life has never been better.