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On Growth

By: Amy Sullivan, LPC Associate
September 21, 2021
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On Growth

Growth in the fire

“This will make you better.”
Every time I asked why– Why me? Why did I develop an eating disorder? Why did I relapse? — these were the words I heard. But these were never the words I wanted to hear. When life seemed too hard to make it another moment, I didn’t want to be a better person. I didn’t care about my growth, I just wanted it to all be over with. Now, years later, I can look back and see that in the midst of the flames is where I grew the most– it just looked different from the typical “milestones” my friends were achieving.

Growth stepping out of the fire

“I always knew you would win, I just didn’t know when.”
One of the most amazing humans said this to me when I had taken the first few steps of my recovery journey. It was one of the most powerful statements anyone ever told me. Why were those words so life-changing? Because for years of my struggle she had held the hope for me. Even when I didn’t feel like I was growing, even when I felt like I was a failure, she held the hope for me that I would recover– that I would one day live a life outside of my eating disorder. And because of people like her holding that hope, I was able to recover, and now I’m able to help hold the hope for others on their journey.

Growth outside of the fire

“I hope you can recognize how far you have come.”
That same incredible human told me this other week. And I flinched because the reality is, a lot of days I can’t. Even being recovered, I still have days where I have little confidence in myself, days where the criticism I have received in the past plays loudly in my head. But this person, she saw me at my worst, when I didn’t see anything but darkness, and now she is able to see me living my life in the light.

For so much of my life I thought I had to be perfect. Perfection in school. Perfection in how I looked. Perfection in work. Perfection in my eating disorder. And eventually, perfection in recovery. I did not think growth was growth unless it was perfect.

When I held myself to the standard of being perfect, I always fell short. My “perfect” plan for my life looks nothing like how my life is today. Different city. Different marital status. Different career. But does that mean that I haven’t grown? What if I could judge my growth differently? What if instead of judging by the standards of those whom I was seeking acceptance from, I judged it by my own values? Am I taking care of my mental health? Am I making sure people feel seen and heard? Am I creating a life that I am proud of?

So maybe I have already come further than I thought. I recovered from my eating disorder. I found a career that I absolutely love. But most importantly, I have been able to start leaning into being authentically and unapologetically me.

“Be kind to yourself on this journey… You have already come so far.”
– Morgan Harper Nichols

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