if you have an external locus of control

i put on a pair of pants today, and they fit, and now my day is ruined.

“fit” in this instance means they’re a little too big, but not too big enough. i read the size before i put them on, which is always a mistake when you base your self-worth on numbers written by total strangers on a piece of fabric half the size of your palm.

i probably should’ve followed the very sage advice that i’ve encountered in pretty much every article and book i’ve ever read on recovering from eating disorders, body acceptance, and positivity and cut the tags out of my clothes as soon as i brought them home but i didn’t because that would’ve been a good idea and i often avoid following through on those. besides, part of me still really wants to know.

part of me is afraid to let go of external judgments. if i don’t have them, how can i be sure that i’m okay?

but the numbers don’t make me okay. it only takes a moment for the wrong number to show up somewhere for me to become convinced that i’m a failure, an utter waste of skin, with no redeeming value.

because if i was worth something, the numbers would be smaller.

because smaller is better.

because to be worth something when you have an eating disorder is to seek to be less than.

be less of who you are, less of what you are, and more of what your eating disorder tells you to be.

take up less space.

consume less.

occupy less.

be happy less.

live less.

it’s problematic when your sense of self-worth and feelings of value come from outside the self. when there is no sense of intrinsic worth. i am not valuable because i am, i am only as acceptable as what i bring to the table. literally, at times.

this is not an issue that is confined to people with eating disorders. too many of us base our value on what we do and what we accomplish, rather than believing we have value simply because we are.

it used to be that i could never show up at a friend’s house empty-handed. i had to have something with me, some gift that showed them they were right to invite me, right to tolerate me, right to deign to be my friend. it never occurred to me that they could like me for me.

i am what i give to the world, after all.

i’d show up on friday evenings with wine and doughnuts, or a pizza, or chips and dip and a movie. anything but show up with me as the only offering.

how could i possibly be enough for others as is, when i don’t consider myself to be enough for me?

i got challenged on the behaviour, once upon a time. a friend pulled me aside and told me it was unnecessary, that i didn’t have to buy my way into their home, that they just wanted to see me. i didn’t believe him but felt so flattered that i went out of my way to be nice, kind, agreeable and giving.

i never disagreed, stood up for myself, expressed a preference, or argued. since i was empty-handed, i felt the need to prove myself in other ways. i felt the need to be the perfect friend and companion. my needs and wants were irrelevant.

i’ve always considered them to be so.

i’m okay if i’m agreeable, i’m okay if i bring something physical to the table, and i’m okay if the number on the sizing tag is small enough.

what it i decided to be okay, just because?

what if i decided that i was sufficient, as is? what if being depressed, and anxious, and neurotic and struggling was okay? what if i could get angry, speak my mind, and enforce my boundaries without that sick fear of rejection circling my gut?

what if i decided that i was like everyone else, deserving of love and respect just because i’m me?

i’m not sure i’d like it at first. it’s hard to make changes even when you want to. even when you know that doing so could make things better.

small steps are generally best. like saying no to an invitation and learning to believe that it doesn’t mean you’ll never get asked out again. like expressing an opinion on the lunch-time menu and not feeling like you’re risking rejection because you dared to dislike bacon. like putting on a pair of pants and allowing yourself to like them, regardless of the size, because they’re a pretty blue colour and feel good on the skin.

time to get out the scissors, i guess, and get rid of some tags. i’m tired of having things that don’t matter trip me up.

3 thoughts on “if you have an external locus of control

  1. Such hard work – but fantastic that you’re challenging yourself. This isn’t easy. You’re not alone with it.

    Somebody in recovery, who I trust, suggested that it would be better if I got rid of my scales and allow my psych/medical team to be in control of weighing me. They were kind enough to explain how hard this was for them when they were moving into recovery.

    I’ve done it, but it’s really scary. I put some skinny jeans on yesterday that still fit my waist but are now tight around my lower legs. It panicked me. All I could think of was to weigh myself. Its distressing that I can, but brings me relief that I can’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. it’s so hard. and so annoying. i don’t know about you, but for me, in addition to feeling bad because of the external numbers, i then make myself feel bad, for feeling bad. i judge myself for the feelings i’m having. it’s a vicious circle. i’m glad you got rid of the scale. it’s so hard but over time, i definitely felt better having it gone. give yourself a big hug for doing so – you deserve it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You to Michelle. And yes – I give myself a hard time about so many ways in which I perceive that I’m getting “it” wrong. Letting go of control is scary, and new. And if I’m not doing it perfect them I don’t see myself as being good enough. But I would admire somebody else for doing the same.

        Liked by 1 person

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