As I was out for a walk this morning, I was thinking back on my past. I have got a lot of comments lately about how inspiring I am and I was once again reminded of how much life really has changed.
I was not always like this. I was once a very selfish and miserable person. Last year at this time, my biggest concern was how I would have enough time in the morning to get my makeup on and my hair straightened before I took Autumn to kindergarten every second day.
I wanted to share with you a little bit of my past and how I decided to declare a war on selfishness.
I have always been a self-conscious person, even from a young age. I always worried what other people would think of me and I was always a people-pleaser. At the age of fourteen, I got pregnant by my first boyfriend, the first guy who approached me and showed an interest.
Things didn’t work out as we were both so young and I found myself a single mother at 16 years old, with an 18 month old daughter.
In 2006, I met Craig, but I was still struggling with major insecurity. I had stopped attending school, but was taking courses at home and trying to find my place in the world, as I didn’t seem to fit in anywhere. I didn’t want to go to school because having a child so young, I didn’t fit in there at all.
I guess I thought having a boyfriend would make life better and bring me happiness, but it just wasn’t so.
I went back to high school, to finish grade 11 and 12 and I changed my hair color as often as I changed my mind.
My weight crept up to 200lbs, as my happiness plummeted and I fell into depression.
After I graduated high school, I got pregnant again and moved away with Craig to Arborg. I decided I wanted to leave my old life behind and start anew. I was really hoping for life to change for the better and to finally be happy. I guess I thought the move would bring me that. Craig got a job out here and I stayed home with Autumn, spending much of my days eating, sleeping and watching T.V.
By the end of my pregnancy I was up to 240lbs and it was really hard on my body. I was happy, but still life didn’t hold that much excitement for me and I had still not grown into who I needed to be.
After my second daughter Kesara was born, I began to lose a lot of weight. I hadn’t been trying to lose weight, but the baby weight was coming off and even more went with it. At the time, I was becoming a happier person and discovering who I was. I started taking bible studies and getting out for walks, I had made some new friends, who also had kids and was beginning to find myself.
In just 4 short months, I had lost over 50 lbs. Everyday, I was losing more weight and people were noticing.
I started to get so many compliments about my appearance and how great I looked. One comment was made to me that particularly stung, “You look so good now, Craig must be so happy!” This one crushed me and sent my insecurity through the roof. With all the comments people were making and how accepted I was because of my weight, I decided that I never wanted to become fat again.
In December 2008, Craig and I got married, but still things were not happy behind the scenes.
I started exercising and restricting my calorie intake. I carried around a little notebook that I would write down everything that I ate in. I kept my calorie intake very low and if I ate more than I thought I should have I would exercise even more.
Life was all about me.
and yes, I took a million stupid pics of myself at all different angles, as many young girls do.
I will embarrass myself and share a few, to prove my point.
Days consisted of me waking up, putting on makeup and doing my hair for hours. I would weigh myself dozens of times throughout the day. I was so scared to gain any weight. Exercise was always a requirement or used as punishment on myself if I overate. I spent all my money on new clothes and make-up and made regular trips to the mall.
I was still getting compliments all the time about how beautiful I was and how thin I was. People were really impressed with my appearance and accepted me because of it. I was getting all the compliments that I thought I wanted, but I had also become completely dependent on them.
Months went by where I continued to restrict my calorie intake and I had also began to throw up everything I ate. Some days I would just spend all day eating and throwing up. I was terribly sick and weak and was the least happy I had ever been in my whole life.
My whole world seemed to be crashing down around me. Although I had a smile on my face, inside I was dying and the truest part of myself was not being let out. I was controlled by my eating disorder and my insecurities. My happiness was based solely upon my weight and other people’s acceptance of my appearance.
I tried my best to be a good mother, but I was sinking fast in selfishness and although I was living a completely selfish existence I still did not know who I was at all and I was not being true to myself and what I really needed. Craig was at his end and was about to leave me.
I always had faith in God and kept asking for him to change me. I would beg and plead for God to intervene and fix this mess that I made. I wondered why all this was happening and why God wouldn’t just make everything better.
That is when I reached my breaking point and discovered that I had a part to play. I realized that I was responsible for my life and God had already given me everything I needed to make it through this and put my life back together. I lay on the bathroom floor (after another binge and purge), sobbing, knowing exactly what I needed to do.
I had to finally come face to face with myself and how I had been choosing to live my life. I had to take a good hard look at where my choices had got me and why I had been allowing myself to be controlled by others opinions of me for so long.
I had to journey through a lot of pain and past hurt and unforgiveness. I had to take full responsibility for myself and stop allowing my life to be controlled by others. I had to accept and embrace all of my past, exactly as it is and leave it in the past. I had to let go of blaming my parents or anyone else for why I was acting this way now and most importantly, I had to take a look at the blessings that surrounded me and admit to myself how truly ungrateful I had been.
It was my encounter with my inner darkness that led me to the light.
I finally opened my eyes and saw what I was putting my little girls through and what kind of an example I was setting. At first it was NOT AT ALL EASY! This part of my life had been a secret to so many, including my family, but at this point, I just knew that I needed to get help. I knew that it wasn’t fair what I had been putting my family through as a result of my selfishness.
I made an appointment with my doctor and got counseling for myself. I attended some eating disorder groups and I met other young women who were going through the same things as me, under different circumstances. We shared with each other and encouraged one another. Life seemed to be a lot less lonely.
I realized that my biggest concern was not what I looked like, but why I cared so much about what I looked like. “I’m fat” was just a cover for avoiding feeling anything at all, good or bad. My preoccupation with my weight had always been a distraction from actually finding out who I was and allowing my light to shine. I was so afraid to just be me.
I began to see the gift that all of my past presented me, an opportunity to change. I realized I didn’t have live this way anymore. I was beginning to take care of myself for the first time in my life and listen to what Tiffany really needed. I started to actually take what I had learned and what I had always professed to believe and applied it to my life. I began to listen to my true self and what really made me happy. I declared a war on selfishness and decided to take care of and love myself, so that I could love others.
I stopped going to the mall and spending all my time putting on makeup, weighing myself and reading fashion magazines. I gave Craig my calorie book to rip up and throw away and we put away the bathroom scale. I got rid of my exercise DVDs that focused only on getting a hot body and we started going for walks together as a family. I practiced looking into my eyes when I looked in the mirror, instead of a part of my body that I hated (which was really hard to do). Slowly but surely, I healed my relationship with food and began to use it for what it was made for, to nourish my body, mind and spirit.
My self-worth was beginning to be based on more than just my appearance and I finally was able to see this.
Soon I began to smile a real smile, not just one I was hiding behind.
Life got better.
It brings tears to my eyes now as I look back on all of this because life really has changed. Things are so much better now that I stopped trying to be somebody else and made peace with being me. It’s hard to believe I ever lived like that.It makes me sad to think of all the young girls who are also swimming in insecurity, struggling with their identity and looking to this crazy world to find it.
What I would like you all to know is what I had to learn the hard way. You cannot find true happiness in this world or in any things. I want my story to inspire others to realize that there is so much to be grateful for always, no matter what has happened in the past. Happiness is a decision that you must make. It is not dependent on any one or anything especially your appearance.
My biggest aspiration in life now is to spread this one message: If I can do it you can do it! If I can make the decision to release my past, you can too. If I can heal from an eating disorder and make peace with my food and my body, you can too. If I can fall in love with life, you can too. You can have in life whatever you want to, there is so much available for you to experience. It is only a matter of whether or not you will choose it.