Outgrowing Ed’s Clothes
**Content warning: This is one person’s story; everyone will have unique experiences in recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, and symptoms. Please use your discretion when reading and speak with your support system as needed.
While navigating her own recovery journey at The Emily Program, Teresa Schmitz discovered a hidden gift in being known as a great listener with a compassionate heart. Being earmarked as an IT Leader who was more into the people on her teams than the technology they were building, she realized her purpose was beyond her title. She connected the dots and soon realized her purpose was to help empower others. She pursued her dreams of becoming a coach and launched her own coaching business, My Best Self Yet. She now helps women feel empowered to navigate the journey of loving themselves unconditionally. She also empowers others to know and use their character strengths in the In It Together group coaching program. Learn more about Teresa’s story and follow My Best Self Yet on Facebook, Instagram, and her blog.
Self-love journeys are not easy. They cause you to reflect on your beliefs and challenge what society has taught you about your worth and your body.
About three months into my own self-love journey, I spent a few hours doing something that challenged some deeply rooted beliefs. As homework in between my weekly sessions, my therapist suggested that I part with clothes that no longer fit me. She told me it would set me free. I didn’t realize how emotional this would be when I decided to do it one Saturday afternoon.
I went through my closet and gathered up clothes that I’d been shaming myself with. These clothes had fit me only months before when I was on an appetite suppressant that resulted in weight loss. But they no longer fit me now. Former diet plans taught me to keep these clothes as a reminder of what I once could fit into and should aim to return to. Shaming was an everyday approach to getting into those clothes again (along with the next best diet). I thought it was what you did to love yourself. You kept the smaller clothes as a reminder, and you quickly got rid of ones that became too big. I spent hundreds of dollars on clothes in a short period of time. How could I part with the clothes I bought at a “normal”-size women’s clothing store? I thought.
The clothes sat piled on my bed. I tried on each piece to determine if it fit (even though I knew full well that none would). One by one, I moved the clothes from one pile to another: from “not tried on” to “tried on and doesn’t fit.” I sat in my pile of clothes that no longer fit, sobbing. The eating disorder voice got louder and louder. I had attached so much meaning to these clothes, and it was becoming pretty clear to me at this moment. Wearing a certain clothing size meant I was “normal” and “healthy” is the meaning I was attaching.
Through tears, I gathered the clothes into three piles: ones that I would sell to a second-hand consignment store, ones that I would donate, and ones that I would toss. I knew I needed to get rid of these clothes as soon as possible if I was to “succeed” at this homework. With them hanging in my home, more shaming could happen.
Throughout this experience, my eating disorder wanted power, so shaming me was how he could weasel his way in as I made progress in other areas. I would journal those thoughts shortly after this experience. At the time, I thought these were my words. Yet now, well into my self-love journey, I know that much of what I journaled was the voice of my eating disorder:
“I’m in tears. I’ve just spent 45 minutes going through my closet and have had to pull most of the clothes out because they don’t fit. This is the hardest thing I’ve had to do. I’ve let myself go. I’ve gained X pounds in the last year. I let myself go. I feel so ashamed. I cannot look at myself in the mirror. I see fat. I see burden. I see pain. I see hurt. I see fat. This is the hardest thing in my life at the moment to do. So many clothes. So much money. And I’ve let myself go. I didn’t think I had gained that much weight back. I thought I’d get back to about X and stabilize there. But the scale said X on the day Abbie [my dietitian at The Emily Program] weighed me. My lowest was X. I feel so fat. So unlovable. I’ve got to stop. The only way to heal is to love myself. This is who I am now. I am still the same person inside. Well, maybe mentally I’ve changed for the better, yet I’m still Teresa Joan Schmitz.”
This was the hardest thing I had to do at the time on my journey toward freedom, as you can see how much my eating disorder voice came out to attack me at that moment. I was trying on clothes before deciding to get rid of them. That was Ed making me feel ashamed. It felt hard because it felt like my identity was out the window. Hard because there was a lot of money that went into those clothes. I had already gotten rid of “big” clothes before, and now I was doing the same, only a different size. Up and down like a yo-yo dieter. It highlighted the pain of never being happy with myself, including my body.
Loving your body is not easy. You see so many flaws, yet you know it is the only body you have and that it needs love and compassion to survive. You can’t live a full life if you continue to bash your body, and in turn, your soul. Your soul longs for love and acceptance. Once you learn to accept your body as it is, your soul will be free. You can love yourself for all your imperfections. I will stay awake and fight for my own health and my own needs so that my body no longer has to endure the pain and the abuse. I may never lose a pound again, and yet my body is worthy of love. Every ounce I can smother it with. There is no better love than this. To offer myself the same unconditional love my puppy offers me will set me free.
This experience forced me to challenge old beliefs. And that’s the deal. If you hold on to those old beliefs, you won’t come close to freely loving yourself.