Today, Gina shares her journey with self-image and how she has gotten to the better place she is in today. -
“Somewhere in childhood I inherited the belief that I was not good enough. This wasn’t necessarily an outward message, but more of an internal dialogue. It was an uncomfortable, uncontrollable feeling of wanting to please everyone without consideration of my own needs. It was a vicious cycle of trying my best, failing to meet an arbitrary expectation, feeling like a disappointment, and knowing my best could always be better. I didn’t recognize the good within me. I didn’t see the beauty, determination, strength, or thoughtfulness I exuded. None of it registered, and I headed downhill fast as adolescence convoluted my self-image even further.
Feeling lost, I desperately grasped for control. I desired to control how others viewed me and, by tangent, how I viewed myself. I wanted to match, fit in, and feel a sense of belonging. I yearned to prove how disciplined I could be. I longed for someone to see the good in me so that maybe I could see the good in myself. I chased this idea of “perfection” past the point of pain by refusing to listen to my body’s signs and signals for respite. “Pain is weakness leaving the body” became my mantra. Therefore, my mind reasoned, if I was not in pain then I was weak. This fruitless pursuit of perfection yielded a multi-year battle with disordered eating and self harm.
At this point, depression and anxiety became a full-time job to manage-and by manage I really mean hide. Hidden under productivity and achievements the woman the world knew was a complete betrayal of my true self.
The script dictating how I appeared on the outside was more significant than the feelings I held inside reigned supreme. I learned young that there were “good feelings” and “bad feelings”; good could be savored while bad were meant to be ignored or swept away with haste. I was stuck working against myself to fit the idea of what others wanted. Honestly, I would not recommend it.
In treatment, I was blessed with the opportunity to see the storm inside myself for what it was.Therapy and medication created a space in which I could clearly see that my feelings were safe to feel, even suicidality. Because feelings are not facts, certainty, or destiny it was possible for me to feel like dying without having to take any additional action.
Without having to self harm, without having to be scared, without having to punish or judge myself, the feeling simply became a message to be acknowledged. When I am able to take a non-judgemental view of those messages, I am empowered to listen and respond to my needs.
Honestly, the same forces that created suffering in my life contributed to the strength I needed to survive. I personally continue to unravel the idea of what I “should” be in order to become the truest version of me. I am consistently a work in progress yet never broken. We are all completely whole.
My goal as a mental health practitioner isn’t to rid people of their pain but to develop skills allowing them to feel pain without becoming a slave to it. Helping others create a solid self image, safe-guarded by resilience, brings so much joy to my life. Finding joy now drives my purpose instead of desperately searching for control.
We all have this capacity to find, trust, and embrace who we want to be beyond expectations of outside influences. Take the power back from all the voices who’ve ever told you otherwise, even if that voice is your own.”