Who Are You?

Excluding how you look, who are you? Take a minute to think about it, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable.

Are you drawing a blank? If so, you’re not alone. Generally, people with overeating issues have little or even no idea who they really are. They’re so focused on what’s outside of them – their appearance – that they rarely consider what’s going on inside. They’re also very quick to dismiss their positive qualities and yet are world champions at identifying their supposed “defects”.

Identity and self-esteem develop in childhood. A vital part of parenting is to help children acquire a sense of themselves, to enable them to understand and accept who they are. Children should see themselves accurately reflected back in their parents’ eyes. Sadly, this is frequently not the experience of people who binge eat.

Perhaps you had a parent who was unpredictable, abusive, depressed or emotionally needy. Perhaps you took on the role of family “caretaker” or “peacekeeper”, constantly trying to smooth things over so everyone else was OK. Perhaps your mother or father saw you as an extension of themselves, rather than a person in your own right. Perhaps you were overlooked in favour of a sibling or treated as the family scapegoat.

When parents are unable to love and accept you in the way that you need, you’re left with very little idea of who you are, beyond perhaps “defective”, “bad” and “unlovable”.

It’s not surprising, therefore, that you end up with a negative image of yourself. But if you want to resolve your problems with food, it’s important to develop a more realistic picture of who you are, one which includes your qualities, strengths and personal attributes.

If you don’t know who you are there’s a danger you’ll allow others to define you. And that makes you susceptible to unfair criticism. You’ll assume that whatever someone says about you is true, simply because they’ve said it. Harsh words will hit home and they will hurt. And what do you do when you feel hurt? My guess is you withdraw and turn to food.

However, if you know yourself well enough to acknowledge and accept your positive qualities, you’ll be able to look within yourself for a second opinion when negativity comes your way. For instance, if someone accuses you of being lazy but you know you’re a hard worker, you’ll be able to reject their criticism and it won’t have an impact. You’ll then be able to consider their motivation. Are they projecting unwanted parts of themselves onto you? Are they having a bad day? Do they need to lash out at someone?

There’s another really important reason why you need to know who you are. We’re happiest when we’re acting autonomously, in tune with our own feelings, preferences and values. When we’re not in harmony with ourselves, we’re more likely to experience anxiety, dissatisfaction and restlessness – feelings that will have us burrowing our way through a party size bag of Doritos before we know it.

Now, the thought of getting to know yourself can be scary. What if you don’t like who you find? In my experience, this is never the case. What people tend to discover is that they’re not the shameful, bad, defective person they fear they are. Quite the opposite. Often they discover they’re incredibly caring, considerate, kind, inquisitive, resilient, empathic, sensitive, courageous, determined and absolutely worth knowing.

Hands up if you immediately answered “I am fat” to the question “who are you”? If you’re overweight, believe me that’s not all you are. Being fat doesn’t wipe out all your wonderful qualities. Likewise, losing weight doesn’t change your character. You’re so much more than a dress size or a number on a set of scales. You have so much more to offer than just the way you look. It’s never too late to find out who you really are and it’s always worth it. Somehow, I don’t think you’ll believe me.

Maybe it’s time to find out for yourself.

If you’re struggling, here’s something to help you.

 

9 thoughts on “Who Are You?

  1. Julie, I can relate to this post on so many levels. I was the “caretaker” for a depressed Mom and for grieving parents who lost their parents (one on each side of the family) when I was 7 years old. My mother is very overweight, and I know this was how I learned to deal with uncomfortable emotions, by “eating” them. It takes a lot of self-awareness to break habitual patterns, and I would be lost without the benefit of therapy, coaching and some leadership training which all helped with this process. Thanks for writing what you do. I look forward to reading more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience, I’m sorry to hear that you were assigned the role of family “caretaker”, especially at such a young age. You’re absolutely right that it takes a lot of self-awareness to understand and change our behaviour and it sounds like you’ve done some great work to heal from your experiences. Thank you also for your encouragement – I often feel vulnerable voicing my opinion so your support is much appreciated!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Julie. It is what it is, right? I know my parents did the best they could, and I think I developed an unusual amount of empathy at a tender age. It continues to serve me today and I consider it my “superpower”. It’s why I strongly believe everyone should have access to good therapy, and I was privileged by having great support during my college years the first time depression hit. If either of my parents had been able to work through their suffering, it would have been healthier for both.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This answers so many questions for me. I am 52 years old and still do not know who *I* am. I know that I was my mother’s blame catcher…she blamed me for her having to get married, for everytime my daddy laid a hand on her, for all the ills of her life. I was never accepted by her, yet somehow my sister managed to be perfect in everything she did or said. Mama only wanted one kid and my little sister was it. That was made clear often. Unwanted , not good enough, your fault…those are the theme of my childhood. I can’t accept anything positive anyone says about me and now I know why. Acceptance and unconditional love wasn’t there where and when – and from whom- it should have been during my childhood.

    I think, at this point for me, it is too late to find ‘me’. There have been so many reiterations of those early messages across my life that trust of anything good being said about me just isn’t there.

    Thank you again. Have a Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was very moved reading your comment, Suzanne, thank you for sharing your experience. I’m so sorry to hear you were treated as the family scapegoat. Was that fair? Absolutely not. As you identify, children need love and acceptance. That’s what you deserved, as we all do.

      I really don’t think it’s too late for you to find out who you are. I have clients in their 70’s who are figuring it out, and 52 is very young (speaking as a 50-year old!). I hope you don’t mind me recommending something to read but there’s a wonderful book by Karyl McBride called “Will I Ever Be Good Enough?” It has helped lots of people I know heal from experiences with their mothers that were similar to yours.

      I’m really glad this post resonated with you, thank you for writing your comment and I wish you a very Happy New Year.

      Liked by 1 person

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