Sunday, May 18, 2008

Relationships: Singing the Truth

As many women who struggle with ED do, I fail to hear the sweetness of my own song because I am too busy listening to the singing of others. Rather than searching for the essence of who I am and expressing it in my own unique voice, I have allowed others to define how I should be, what I should look like, what I should do, what I should want. Unable to hear my own inner voice I feel a vague but ever present sense of alienation that is hard to bear. Longing for a sense of inner connectedness and finding the estrangement from my true self intolerable, I fill my mind with thoughts of food and eat the way I live, as if in a trance, not conscious of what I truly want.

Because I feel so disconnected from myself, I cling desperately to my relationship with others, hoping to get the attention, love and support I'm not able to give myself. Cautious of anything that might be disruptive, I'm quick to discard my own ideas and values whenever conflict arises. And once again, I turn to food to distract myself from speaking my truth, from daring to sing out loud.

To find my inner voice, I must recognize my need for self-nurturing, for a period set aside for quiet reflection. By learning how to take time out from my relationship with others and sit quietly with my own thoughts and feelings, my values, my rhythms, I can hear the beauty of my song.

To be in a relationship with others in a way that nourishes rather than drains me, I must be able to listen to others without losing my own voice. I must maintain a balance between my need to be in relationships with others and my need to remain true to myself. I must remain aware of my inner thoughts and feelings even while interacting with others. To do this, I need to change the questions I ask myself. Instead of asking questions like: what will she think if I do that? How will he react if I say that? What do they think about my being here? I need to ask myself questions like: How do I feel about what she just said? What's my reaction to what he just did? What's it like for me to be here with them?

The feeling of community, of being connected, of belonging, is an important part of every woman's sense of identity and self worth. Striving to create nurturing, supportive relationships is an important aspect of a woman's life. In an attempt to create harmony and connectedness, however, I have assumed total responsibility for my relationships, for making them happen, fixing what's wrong, making everything all right. It became me who has done all the comprising, me who sacrifices what I want to keep things agreeable, me who sings someone else's tune to keep the peace.

I found myself surrounded by others who don't share equally in the responsibility for nurturing a relationship. I have supported others who haven't supported me in return. People who criticize everything I do and try to convince me that I'm out of tune whenever I sing a song they don't want to hear. Discouraged, I stopped singing. Instead, I turned to food for pleasure and my relationship with food became the most important relationship in my life.

In order to recover, I must realize the beauty of my song and refuse to sacrifice it, even when feeling uncomfortable or pressured to do so. I must refuse to participate in relationships with those who don't value my voice. I must recognize that it is MY song, the truthful expression of who I am.