Raise your hand if you have ever strived to be “The Perfect Girl.” Okay, I’d say most women at one point in their life or another went through some “perfect” phase where you either tried to be the perfect child, the perfect spouse, the perfect mother, the perfect employee, or you went for the grand slam and just tried to be the all around perfect woman. The whole illusion behind the skinny jeans dream is that once you get back in those jeans your life will be “perfect” once again because everything is supposed to be perfect when you’re thin & pretty. It’s never the reality, but hey, it’s a fantasy and we like our fantasies to hold perfection.
Today’s theme song is “Perfect Girl” by Sara McLachlan. This is another song, I felt was written by the artist who had a conversation with my soul because it describes who I have been most of my life, the perfect girl who built her world around creating the perfect image, always doing the right things, and making everyone happy and proud of her. My favorite lines in the song:
Don't worry you will find the answer if you let it go
Give yourself some time to falter
But don't forgo know that you're loved no matter what
And everything will come around in time
I can tell you without a doubt that being perfect is not a virtue, it is a prison. Worse, it is a prison where your fears are the prison guards, and you are the one who put yourself in that jail until some judge (again you) decides that you can get out. Perfectionism ended for me when I turned 34, had a nervous breakdown, and was put on medical leave from work for 3 months.
Yeah, at the time it was really ugly and it was such a mess that even my super perfect girl skills could not fix this one. As well, I was just tired. I was finally sick & tired of trying to be “Miss Flawless.” In hindsight, the “breakthrough” (as I like to call it now) ended up being the best thing that could have happened to me because it forced me to become real and to face my pain for the first time, and it forced me to out my dirty little secret , bulimia.
With everything ending, there is always a new beginning, and I found mine on a bulletin board.
Discovering Alternative Healing
The break-through was the beginning of a healing journey that brought me to places to learn more about alternative ways of healing. I went to visit my first holistic healer after seeing a flyer on a bulletin board at one of my favorite metaphysical book stores, the East West Bookstore in Mountain View. Years of traditional western medical treatment therapy & pills was no longer helping me in my bulimia battle, in fact I felt it was keeping me sick. I turned to Holistic and Alternative medicine modalities and have seen major improvements ever since.
Personal philosophy in treatment is something very individual, and my turn to the holistic approach came about more because after nearly a decade of doing it the western way, I was still bulimic, and it wasn’t like I didn’t do the work. I too got tired of insurance conglomerations dictating my healing. At one hospital, my insurance company told me that they would only pay for 12 therapy sessions that year. I was shocked, so I asked them, “Are you serious? I’m supposed to be cured of almost 15 years of bulimic behavior in one session a month?” There was silence on the other end followed by the standard corporate shpiel.
...My inner 19-year-old was filled with hopes and dreams ...
Why turning 40 was a relapse trigger
When I started the heavy metal detox, I mentioned that I had to do work with my inner 19-year-old. This came about because my doctor asked me at what age did bulimia start for me, and it started when I was a 19-year-old sophomore living in the dorms at college. That 19-year-old was filled with hopes and dreams of being either a filmmaker, an architect, a designer, or a media personality but she couldn’t fulfill them because her parents wanted her to become a doctor. Those of you who grew up in strict Asian families know exactly what kind of pressure I’m talking about. And, oh yeah, let’s throw in the fact that I was the oldest child and the first child on both sides of my parents families (50 cousins total) to go to college in the United States. Yeah, the pressure was thick.
When I was 19, and you asked me what I thought my life would be like at 40, I would have said, “When I’m 40, I will be married with at least one child and another on the way. I’ll own a big fancy house on the water with a huge island in the kitchen, and I will be an Executive.” Mind you, I didn’t know what kind of executive I wanted to be, I just knew that I wanted to have an important job title making loads of money jetting all over the world. And for some reason in my mind, having an island in your kitchen was some kind of symbol of success. Who knows where I got that silliness from.
To my inner 19-year-old, on my 40th birthday, I was a failure. Did I mention how un-relenting some of my inner critics are? Although I’m a recovering perfectionist, I still thought that I would have had at least one of the things I wanted when I was 19. I had not one thing on that list, and my life resembled more of a broke college student still depending on mom & dad, then that of a successful, independent adult. One night I was going to fill out a Match.com profile, and for the life of me I couldn’t think of anything to write because my inner 19-year-old kept screaming, “So what are you going to write, that you are 40 broke, with no job, and mommy & daddy are still paying your way?” I sounded like #3 on one of those “Avoid these 10 dating chumps” lists.
My 19-year-old fault finder would not stop reminding me that at 40, I was living in an old rented apartment with my boyfriend who I knew was not on the same page as I. I have never been married or engaged. I quit a lucrative and high profile job at Microsoft after only being there for 4 months, and was again without steady income. And the job I had, although high profile was about 7 levels down from being an Executive of any kind. I have no children, and the only thing I have to show for from my millionaire days because of my poor financial skills is my Mercedes. So in a nutshell, after the breakup, the tape that kept running in my head was, “I have no husband, no house, no children, no Executive position, no money, and no sense when anything is ever going to change.” Brutal, I know.
Then, what hit me hardest is the cold hard reality that my desire to have children may never happen the traditional way because I am 40 and menopause could hit now at any time. I know there are many ways to have a family, but I really would like to experience being pregnant. My mom who is a nurse that delivers babies likes to remind me that because of modern technology women can have babies up to their 50's. There is some comfort in that, but I think I am more scared because somehow I always thought I had time, lots of time. I never wanted to just have kids. I want a family of my own which to me is dad, mom, and kids. I also know that obsessing and worrying about getting married and getting pregnant right away is no way to attract the right guy. That kind of desperation can be smelled miles away. So, I wonder now, how do I keep the desire alive yet detach and trust that God will bring my family dream to fruition?
When you focus on lack
Now, from the outside, can you see that when you start focusing on your lack what kind of havoc that can wreck on your psyche and just fuel and reignite the insecurities and feelings of inadequacy. Can you see how something like your old nasty habit bulimia starts to look comforting, so you go back to it like that non-committal man who treats you like crap but you just can’t stay away from because of some twisted need to punish yourself. When you focus on what you lack and what you don’t have, you start believing you are a loser and start treating yourself that way. Our inner critics really have that much power over us, and again this is why I always, always emphasize t he importance of working with medical professionals and trained healers when you are going through painful emotional times. You need to start seeing these people as your partners in prosperity. Perfect girls have a tendency to be lone rangers who think they can do everything themselves because they always have.
Your health advisors are there to help you see what you cannot, and they are there to help you heal. I don’t care who you are, you cannot heal alone and anyone who has been through a healing process and come out the other end much better will tell you the exact same thing. Yes, you are the only one who has to do the actual work on yourself, but you need a support system. But mostly, you need to let go and be okay asking and receiving help. It’s not a sign of weakness. It really is a sign of great strength.
...Our inner critics really have that much power over us ...
Helping the inner 19-year-old see the light
Now, on the upside, what my inner 19-year-old had neglected to mention is the abundance that “we” possess. When we focus on our abundance we feel good about ourselves. I did get to jet all over the world and stay at 5 star hotels and eat at 5 star restaurants, and I got to do it on someone else’s dime (work). I became a millionaire when I was 33 years old, and was the first self-made millionaire in the family. I can tell you the old Asian relatives loved to brag about that one. I may have lost all that money, but if you can do it once, you can do it again. I got to take 2 years off from ”work” and enjoy real living. I am on my second career and finally working on things that I truly love and that matter to me. It doesn’t feel like work because my soul is happy. I created a blog that is making a difference in other people’s lives and helping them grow and feel less alone and less shame. I picked up a digital camera for the first time last year and have been told that I take magazine quality pictures. I am self taught in graphic and web design. I can even imagine how good I would be if I got some real training.
I am physically healthy without any major pains or disabilities. I have a couple handfuls of friends whom I would trust the lives of my children with. I have parents who believe in me and are there to support me 100% in everything in my life. I have 3 beautiful and funny triplet nieces who despite being born 3 months premature at 1.6-1.11lbs , are healthy and thriving. They are fighters like their auntie/godmother. And yeah, I am a fighter. Even when I have been knocked down to my lowest point, and feel like checking out of the world, somehow some ray of hope manages to get a hold of me and I keep going another day.
On the love side, it didn’t work out with the man I loved with all my heart and soul, but I did get an opportunity to love with all my heart and soul, and if it happened once it can happen again and this time with someone who is equally devoted to me and the success of our relationship. He’ll be my teammate in life. And best yet, I look pretty damn good for a 40-year-old. I may not have scored with any skinny genes, but I scored with some of the youth genes. Well, good sunscreen and water helped too.
After my visit with my doctor, on the day I got the heavy metal results, I went and spent the day with my inner 19-year-old. I told her that the day was all about her and we could go do whatever she wanted to do and that I would listen to whatever she had to say because back then, no one gave her the chance. No one let her be her glorious creative self because she had to be perfect. And best yet, this time around she has me, her 40-year-old bad ass self who is wiser, physically stronger, and smarter to protect her and be there for her when she felt scared and threatened. I would not let anyone physically or emotionally abuse her ever again.
In the past of many women suffering from an eating disorder is usually a story about some sort of abuse whether it be physical, sexual, emotional, or mental at the hand of someone we were supposed to trust and who we were supposed to feel safe with. When we can start to heal that core pain and hurt, we can start to heal ourselves from our un-loving patterns. In part III, I'll share what I'm doing to heal so I can move forward to a more vibrant place in my life.