One thing that I really struggle with in life, and probably the thought which had the greatest impact in developing and sustaining my eating disorder is the idea that I’m not living life in the right way. Many people with eating disorders crave rules, and for me this was even true when it came to even big things, like life. There must be a ‘right’ way to ‘do life’, and I clearly haven’t found it.
The trouble with this thought is that you can never win. Never. This is one rule you can be certain of.
Firstly there are hundreds of different ways of living. Do you live as the healthy gym bunny, the fun loving party girl, arty bohemian or corporate master? Do you follow the manifesto in self help book A or the diet rules in magazine B? Do you model your life on that of friend number 1 or colleague number 2? Or do you recognize that these are stereotypes, that magazines are just trying to shift copies – there’s probably a whole lot going on in people’s lives that you don’t know about – and that no one really knows what they are doing but seem to be living well enough anyway?
The second problem is that you will always end up feeling bad. If you don’t behave according to a set of rules that belong to someone else there is a guilt which comes with feeling that you’re doing something ‘wrong’ and if you do, then the result is likely to be one of profound uncomfortableness as you act in a way that is discordant with your values and does not feel authentic.
The fact is that there are no rules. At 21 no one is given a manual titled ‘How To Be An Adult’ (if only!). Most people are just muddling along in the way that seems to work best for them. And if muddling doesn’t sound comfortable, think of it as fluid, flexible and responsive.
The amount of time you spend searching for the manifesto on how to live is a waste of time actually living.
So, having concluded that there is no correct way to live, this article won’t tell you any answers, but try to guide yourself towards what might be the right thing for you, try asking yourself the following:
When am I at my best?
When do I lose myself, becoming absorbed in something so much that I lose track of time and thought?
What makes me passionate?
What makes me feel uncomfortable?
When do I feel restricted or inhibited in some way?
The activities, situations and feelings that the first set of questions triggered are the things that make you shine and be an authentic and inspiring version of yourself. If you’re looking for a right way to live, surely that is it. Cultivating those activities and emotions will over time feel more natural and help you to feel comfortable in how you are living in this moment. Over time those many ‘right’ moments make a ‘right’ life. One that is right for you, that is. And as you are the only one living your life, that is what matters.
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