Feeling Proud Of The Things You DIDN'T Do

It's really important to be proud of your achievements, whether they're big or small. And, in eating disorder recovery, feeling proud of yourself, despite not being something that comes easily, can not only be the difference between having a good day or a bad day, but recognising your achievements can also make the whole recovery path so much smoother if you're able to give yourself credit where it's due.
I have days when I feel like the worst person in the world, of course I do, because I have the loud voice of an eating disorder screaming at me all the time, and some days, I'm just not strong enough or powerful enough to ignore it and live my life. Some days I'm weak and the eating disorder wins. Some days I view everything I've ever done as a failure and I'm completely unable to find any positives in my recovery, despite the fact that I've come a really long way since the beginning of my battle with food and body image.
However, something I've definitely become better at is acknowledging my achievements, whether that's eating a meal I once would deprive myself of without even thinking about eating it, wearing an item of clothing I once avoided out of fear of how it'd make my body look, challenging a family member on their toxic views on diets, ignoring a Weight Watchers advertisement on TV instead of thinking about it for the rest of the week or deciding that I'm going to enjoy my day by going outside rather than sitting in a pit of self hate, tucked away in my bedroom. I'm definitely better now at recognising my small victories, because they aren't small to me, no matter how pointless and ridiculous they may appear to someone else. Because, as a person who lived through the whole of my teens eating less meals than I had friends (and I didn't have many friends) and who wasted so much precious time going to war with my body instead of enjoying moments I will never get back, it has taken so much effort and strength for me to get to where I am. Every day, I recommit to fighting the fight and recovering, but those days are definitely easier when I give myself a pat on the back for relearning to do the things I once forced myself not to do - because that's a massive part of what eating disorder recovery is, learning how to live again.

But, as cool as it is to celebrate your tiny victories, I think it's also important to reflect on life and be proud of the things you didn't do because, ultimately, they got you to where you are now.
I didn't go to university, because it wasn't right for me. I definitely felt the pressure to go, and I did apply and attend many university open days (I literally went to Scotland for the day because I actually did fully intend on going) but that's only because I wasn't aware of my other options at the beginning, so I told myself I would go to university to study a journalism degree, and it was only last minute I was made aware by a college tutor of another route. Instead, I studied a year long journalism diploma which got me the qualification I needed, as well as so much experience and education. I would've wasted, not just three years of my life studying a journalism degree, but so much money and my happiness knowing my heart fully wasn't in it. For my chosen path, university wasn't necessary, and I emphatically reject the assumption that I didn't choose the right option because I didn't go to university or that I'm not smart enough, because this bitch definitely was.
However, in retrospect, not going to university saved my life, not just because it saved me money, but I would've been going during the peak of my eating disorder. I applied before I seeked any help for my illness and I was willing to move out of my home and live in another city, away from my family. At the time, I didn't see anything dangerous about this, but I now understand so clearly that I wouldn't be alive today had I gone to university and been left to my own devices. I would've continued to starve myself, only this time I wouldn't have had the safety net of my family around me to at least give me one meal at some point. I would've been left alone to hate my body without anyone to pick me up when I needed care. Who knows what could've come of those situations because I was in such a bad place with my eating habits then, that I didn't care what happened to me and I had zero aspirations to do anything with my life or throw myself into anything wholeheartedly, and having to fend for myself and live alone at that tender age could've only ended badly.

But, like I say, I didn't go. I chose a better, safer path, and I'm alive today and seeking help for my eating disorder, something that would've only been put off and put off more if I chose a degree. My life is, undoubtedly, better because of that one thing (which would've actually been a drastic life change) that I didn't do. And I now am able to celebrate that.
Of course, it's cool to feel proud of the small things you didn't do also. I didn't pluck my eyebrows super thin in the 2000s when I got hold of my mum's tweezers and I didn't initiate an argument with a stranger who walked into me in the supermarket.

Everything you both have done and haven't done have shaped you into the person you are today, and you can't turn back the clock and change those things, but you can appreciate what they did for you and learn from them. And, of course, if there are things you didn't do that you regret, there's always a chance for you to do them again one day. I could go to university one day if I so wished to so long as I was in a healthier place, but for now, I'm good without a degree.

My point being, I guess, life shouldn't just be about celebrating the trophies, the medals, the moments everyone claps for and recognises as milestones. Life should also be about celebrating your own personal wins, because you know what it took to conquer the obstacles in the way of them, whether those are things you worked your ass off for, whether they're mundane things like simply getting out of bed in the morning, or things you didn't do, like not getting out of bed one morning because you recognised that your body needed to rest.

Celebrate everything life has given you, because they've all made you YOU and people love YOU for the unique person you are, no matter how messy and chaotic you and your life can be. Everything you haven't done has probably been for a reason, and you should never feel the need to justify that to anyone, perhaps those things even brought a greater opportunity your way without you realising.

So yeah, be proud of what you didn't do. Not doing stuff is cool.

Love, Emily

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