Self Love vs Self Acceptance 

I’ve never been one of those people who is outgoing and confident. Even pre-anorexia. I was doing exactly what my head was telling me to – losing weight to ‘make my body look even better’ – but still, it just made me hate my body and the way it looked more and more. 

There’s loads of posts on social media telling us that we need to love ourselves before we can love anyone else, and for me, it just doesn’t seem like a realistic mantra at the moment. For me, the first step is to learn to accept my body. 

Being anorexic taught me a lot about my body and what is was capable of. In the long run and lessons learnt in recovery, I’ve learnt to be more respectful of what I put in my body and what I do to it. Eating too little and not getting the right nutrients made me so weak. I had no energy to do everyday functions, let alone the things I enjoy. 

Over the last nineteen years my body has been through a hell of a lot, even without the ED. From being born to now my body has developed and grown, and let’s face it like most people I’m completely unrecognisable from then. These changes require the right energy and nutrients, and without that your body will slowly begin to break down – just as a car would if you didn’t look after it correctly. 

The biggest shock from recovery was doing everyday things and them no longer felt like a strenuous activity. I could walk up the stairs without feeling faint, I could brush my hair without worrying about how much was going to fall out, and weirdest of all, I actually started to look forward to being on my period! Like most girls I used to dread that time of the month but now I’m actually so happy and proud of myself when I get my period each month. Again – just another way of showing how amazing our bodies are, we are able to create new lives. 

I know it’s very easy to look at other people and celebrities on Instagram and think ‘why don’t I look like them?’ And look at other girls and think why does my boyfriend want me when she looks like that?

It’s going to sound crazy but the best way I have found to accept myself and come up with an answer for those two questions is my cat. 

I have a British shorthair cat called Yogi. If you’re wondering what he looks like he’s the same breed as the whiskers cat (a black and silver tabby.) When I got Yogi, ten years ago, he was the last one left in the litter and the runt, he was a lot smaller than he should have been and hadn’t got the stereotypical flat face like male British Shorthairs do. Nevertheless, I fell in love with him and wanted him.

When you ask me about Yogi I will tell you he is the most beautiful cat in the world and has a gorgeous temperament. He lets me pick him up and cuddle him and never claws me even when he really can’t be bothered with being fussed. I know that there are more stereotypically beautiful British Shorthair cats, the kind that would win competitions, but if you put me in a room with him and 99 other stereotypical beautiful cats I would still tell you that he is the most beautiful of them all. 

I suppose the lesson is (and I know it sounds crazy) when you’re having a bad day and wake up feeling like you don’t like the way you look just remind yourself of that… Beautiful is and means something different to everyone. Looks are great but they aren’t everything. What is beautiful to one person, might not be beautiful to someone else.

You’re born into the body you’re in and there’s not a lot you can do to change it. You probably won’t wake up one morning and think yes I love me and I love how I look. It takes time to wake up and realise that this is me, I can’t change it, but I am proud of who I am and how far I’ve come and I can accept myself for who I am. 

Contributed by Megan Collins,
Service user, volunteer and supporter of First Steps ED