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You're Not Enough (And That's Okay): Escaping the Toxic Culture of Self-Love Kindle Edition
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About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
You Are Enough
I Wanted to Be Enough
“You’re going to die,” she told me, leaning forward on the edge of her seat. Her elbows rested on her knees, and her hands were clasped as if in prayer. “This is going to kill you.”
I knew I had a problem, but I didn’t want to admit it was serious. I just couldn’t kick the habit of throwing up my meals. What started out as restricting my calories and working out twice a day turned into a cycle of bingeing and purging that, as hard as I’d tried, I couldn’t get out of.
It had started to affect my life. I’d be at a restaurant, having just finished dinner and unable to enjoy the conversation with my friends because I was thinking about how badly I wanted to get rid of the food I’d just eaten. Once, when I was working at a conference for work, I lied to my coworker about needing to get something out of my room so I could go throw up. Another time a friend caught me in the bathroom, my head over the toilet. I thought she was downstairs. She walked in and asked if I was okay. I said I was fine. She didn’t push, but she knew I was lying.
I wanted to stop. It was embarrassing. It was inconvenient. More than that, it wasn’t who I wanted to be. I’d never struggled with any kind of addiction. Before that year, I had never gone to extreme lengths to lose weight. But here I was, in a counselor’s office, hearing that what I was doing was killing me.
About a year earlier, I’d been through a bad breakup. I dated a guy for two and a half years who met all my criteria: a Christian from a good family with solid friends and a nice personality. We met my freshman year, and I thought for sure he was the one. But things got rocky two years in, and both of us were having doubts. But I was determined to hang on because I was convinced I couldn’t find anyone better.
The fall of my senior year he broke up with me. Though I was devastated, I knew I didn’t want to spend my last semester sad. But it was my last semester of college, and I was determined not to spend it sad. So I rebounded—but not in a good way.
I started going out more often and drinking more heavily. Single for the first time in my college career, I had a slew of new dating prospects. I was hanging out with people I considered the “party” crowd. They welcomed me and encouraged me to live it up these few months before the last year of college ended. The newness of it all helped numb my pain.
I also restricted the calories I consumed and spent multiple hours a day working out. The more weight I lost, the more alcohol I drank, and the more guys who paid attention to me, the easier it was for me to ignore the haunting fear the breakup had left me with: that I wasn’t enough.
Things got worse. Eventually I missed food too much to keep skipping meals, so I started to eat again, only to throw up an hour later. At first it was just once or twice a week. Then it became an addiction I just couldn’t break. I’d started to binge. When I did, I’d feel guilty and afraid I would lose all the “progress” I’d made, so I’d get rid of the food as quickly as I could.
Fast-forward to a few months after I graduated from college, and I was in a new city in a new job, and I was stuck in the same cycle. I was still going through guys and drinking too much, and I was still throwing up my meals. But I started to feel like I could no longer keep up with my own addiction, and, honestly, I was getting a little worried. I’d thought I had the power to turn it all off after the semester ended, but I didn’t. This “season” was turning into my actual life. It was one thing to me to have some college “fun,” but I wasn’t okay with this behavior becoming who I was.
So one morning at work I called a number I’d found on a list of recommended Christian counselors on a local church website. I thought the process would be simple: I’d get a few tips on how to live a better life and some mantras or mind games that would break this binge-and-purge addiction.
I believed that because that’s the popular message today: you already have everything you need inside you to solve your problems. The idea that while outside tools like therapy, medication, meditation, yoga, hypnosis, or crystals can help unlock your innate potential for health and happiness, you are ultimately healed by the inner power you naturally possess. But this isn’t reality.
Rarely does Teen Vogue publish helpful articles, but in July 2019 its site published an insightful op-ed critiquing modern wellness culture titled “Being Diagnosed with a Chronic Illness Taught Me That Health Isn’t a Meritocracy.” The author wrote:
“Women have been conditioned to believe both that our bodies are our self-worth and that our bodies are under our own control. As wellness culture would have us believe, health is a meritocracy in which ‘fueling’ your body and ‘detoxing’ and holding crystals can rocket you to the top.”
Her debilitating fibromyalgia showed her that no amount of self-care could completely heal her, and that the road to coping with her sickness was going to mean dependence on others rather than self-sufficiency. She realized that healing, whether mental or physical, isn’t a quick fix accomplished by unleashing our inner power.
We’re not enough to heal ourselves. I don’t mean that natural remedies and positive thinking aren’t at all effective; I’m saying that we don’t have some inherent mystical force inside of us ready to solve our life problems or physical maladies.
I learned the same lesson in my counselor’s office. Though I reached out to her because I knew I needed help, when we started, I thought the process would be one of self-empowerment. I figured she’d give me the keys, and I’d unlock my own capabilities to stop overdrinking, ditch the unhealthy relationships, and quit the bingeing and purging.
I was a product of the mainstream messages of our day. Though my mess of a semester should have taught me that “doing me” led to a dead end, I didn’t want to give up control and I didn’t want to decenter myself from my world. I still wanted to believe I was enough.
But the counseling sessions weren’t as straightforward or as focused on self-empowerment as I would have liked. At first the counselor just listened. Then over the course of a few weeks, she helped me peel back the layers of defensiveness and delusion I’d used to bury the sting of rejection and fear of loneliness. She helped me see that underneath all my behavior was my crippling fear of insufficiency. The attention I was getting from new friends and flings made me feel better about being rejected by my longtime boyfriend, and I’d convinced myself that being skinny was the thing making these new friends and flings possible. If I lost the “progress” I’d made, I wouldn’t be wanted or accepted anymore, and I’d have to face the pain of being rejected. That would mean I have to answer the question I didn’t want to ask: Am I enough?
I knew I wasn’t enough for the guy I thought I was going to marry, so I wanted to at least be enough for myself. I’d prove that I was fine on my own by doing the things that made me happy in the moment. And when the things that made me happy eventually made me miserable, I still assumed I had the power to take back control of my life and get myself on the right path.
It was clear that I didn’t. I was actually enslaved by my lifestyle. While my fear of insufficiency fueled my addiction, it also changed me for the worse. Before that last semester of college, I professed and lived Christianity. But after the breakup, I put my faith on the back burner to “focus on myself.” I feared that if I turned to God after the breakup, he would make me sit in my sadness while he healed me. I just didn’t have the patience for that. It hurt too much. I wanted quick relief, even if it was fleeting.
I’m grateful for a counselor who pointed me back to God and his Word and told me that not only was what I doing sinful, it was also dangerous. Her four words—“you’re going to die”—stopped me in my tracks after a few months of meeting with her.
After that appointment I got into my car, put my head in my hands, and broke down. I cried out to God with a million questions: How did I get here? And how do I stop? Can I? Can I really let go of this? What will happen if I do? Are you going to be with me? Will you help?
And he did. After that day the binge-and-purge cycle stopped. While I know this isn’t everyone’s experience with eating disorders, it was mine. God graciously and immediately gave me the grace to let go of the thing I thought was holding me together. In reality, it was tearing me apart.
I’d been deep in the culture of self-love: doing what I wanted and focusing on my wants in an effort to live my “best life.” Ultimately my self-centeredness blinded me to the damage I was wreaking on my life.
I don’t know what you’re facing now. Whether it’s more or less serious than what I faced in college, I can tell you for sure: you’re not enough. Just like me, you don’t have what it takes to heal yourself: from the addiction, the rejection, or the depression. Your self-contrived solutions to your problems won’t work, and your attempts to fill your emptiness with more of yourself will fail. Your insistence upon “doing you” by choosing only what feels good in the moment will only defer the pain until it becomes a crushing burden.
The first step to getting out of whatever unhealthy cycle you’re currently in is realizing just how not enough you are. That means letting go of the responsibility to be your own source of fulfillment—a responsibility that was never yours in the first place. --This text refers to the hardcover edition.
- Publication Date : August 11, 2020
- File Size : 1120 KB
- Print Length : 204 pages
- ASIN : B07V78P3P8
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Publisher : Sentinel (August 11, 2020)
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Page Numbers Source ISBN : 0593083849
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- Language: : English
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #25,878 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Allie does such a great job pointing out and dismantling the lies that can be so subtle, but are so pervasive, even in Christian culture. I really appreciate her emphasis on Biblical truth and sound theology, and how she addresses each of the self-love myths in the book from all angles - political, cultural, and spiritual. I highly recommend this book and Allie's podcast, Relatable, to all Christian women, especially young women, as we are so easily influenced by social media and the culture around us. You can see videos of her podcast episodes on YouTube, too!
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, but I also purchased a physical copy - that's how much I loved it! Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
I've been following Allie's podcast for the past year and I was very excited to read her book, because I do relate to her. The book did not disappoint - it is Relatable :)
I will definitely read it again!
She tears down the lies culture tells women on a daily basis about who they are, who they should be, they are enough, you need to love yourself, and many more. She once believed these same lies until she had to make a choice. She doesn’t hold back on her struggles that she went through, to a point we can all relate to those, but seeing how the Lord worked in and through her is amazing.
Ladies, I recommend reading this book.
I graciously received an advance e-copy from netgalley for review. All opinions are my own.
Top reviews from other countries
I am not enough and that’s ok. I hope that this books shows me ways to let God fill me completely.