I leave my therapist’s office, our session together completed, with a therapeutic opportunity, which is a special assignment meant to reflect on an aspect of my journey of recovery. But it was not just a journal prompt. This time, she made it more personal for me…as a former dancer and lover of the arts…it was a music video. She wanted me to listen to and reflect on what this song means to me and to my recovery process.
I open the link, immediately recognizing Colbie Caillat and her unique voice. A soft piano starts playing, grabbing my attention. I hear the words, and I see myself in the past saying them over and over in my head.
Put your makeup on,
Get your nails done,
Curl your hair,
Run the extra mile,
Keep it slim,
So they like you
Do they like you?
Tears stream down my face. This hit me a lot closer to home than I would have thought possible. Every day of my life, I was constantly striving for the untouchable goal of perfection, of pleasing other people. Because their approval was how I measured whether or not I deserved to be loved.
I watch the video closely, seeing how sad she looks in a dark background, all eyes on her. I see people in black and white, trying to look perfect, trying to meet society’s worldly standards of beauty so they can be accepted and loved. They were hiding themselves, their true selves.
I can barely make it through the video, the song slowly instilling in my self-conscious the important message of love.
Wait a second, why should you care what they think of you?
When you’re all alone by yourself, do you like you?
I asked these questions, and I found myself unable to say yes. I have not been able to in years. I kept telling myself that I would never be good enough, taking the phrase “there is always room for improvement” to the extreme. I was never happy with myself, both inside and out.
I know, I know, God made us all beautiful and in His image. He loves every one of us unconditionally, despite our differences and imperfections. Why can I not just accept that His love for me is enough to be proud of who I am? Because I let the world tell me otherwise. I let others dictate what they think is best for me in my physical appearance.
The damage done was not just physical. It was psychological, and it was spiritual. I lost my way. But the recovery, the realization that I do not have to try so hard to be something I could never be, the relief knowing that all I can do is accept who I am and that God loves me for being me…that sounded so selfish, which is not at all what this is supposed to be.
The end of the video showed me people literally letting their hair down and wiping off the makeup. Taking off their disguises, and embracing their natural, God-given beauty. They were finally able to just breathe, to exist. I saw them all as beautiful, wishing I could have the courage to do the same.
I learned a valuable lesson that day. And from such a different perspective, a music video, of all places. So, I took out my journal, I wrote down the song lyrics, really paying attention to their purpose. What was their message? What are they trying to tell me? That I do not have to try. That I do not have to not give myself the forgiveness and love that God has already given me. I wrote down my past experiences, my struggles with my own self-love and acceptance. I realized that other people do not define my value. God does. I wrote down my own understanding, my doubts and fears about trying to accept that in order to recover. I reflected on how this song made me feel.
This song made me feel like I could finally let it go. I can breathe again. I am human, and I have imperfections, but He who made me in His image is beautiful and loving. That love for His Creation, which I am a part of…wow. I am a part of something beautiful. I do not have to try to change who I am. I am His child. And He loves me for being me.
I went back to my therapist the next day, thanking her for showing me the video. It was as if the song was written just for me. Because every phrase, every “requirement” of perfection and beauty, I was guilty of trying. Every day of my life, I found imperfections, I found ways to tear myself down, despite being created by Someone who has loved me before I was even a thought or consideration in this world.
Through this one little video, this four-minute song, I saw myself, I saw my eating disorder punishing me for not being perfect for God, others, or even myself. Christ said that above all things, love one another as you do oneself. So, if I cannot love myself for who I am, then how can I accept and love others without judgment or bias? There is no way to truly, unconditionally do so. And that is His greatest commandment.
Healing started for me inside my heart. By accepting my imperfections as God has already done, I can see that I am worthy of love. And by doing so, I see the beauty in everyone else around me. I look past all of our mistakes and imperfections. I forgive.
That day I will never forget. That therapeutic opportunity has opened up my heart. I still listen to the song to this day for a reminder that above all thing, love everyone, including myself.