I started First Ourselves in 2006 as my personal blog after struggling with multiple eating disorders (including bulimia, sugar addiction, overeating, binge eating disorder, compulsive dieting, and body hatred) for over 20 years. But beyond food, my deeper issues were lifelong challenges with depression, anxiety, low self esteem, ADD, and confusion about being a highly sensitive, empathic woman.
My life story was one of self hatred, shame, and feeling unworthy, needy, too emotional, crazy, unlovable, fragile, too much, too sensitive, not enough. I was used to pushing myself really, really hard. I knew how to get straight As, how to have super high (read: impossible) expectations – and how to strive (read: kill myself) to meet them, how to perfect myself, put myself on self improvement projects, people please, endure, push, force, and bend myself to be more palatable to others.
I knew how to be a stoic and a martyr and how to dismiss, minimize, shame, and edit my needs – and my very self.
I knew how to control. I knew how to use iron will and white knuckles to discipline all those messy parts of me, to make them toe the line and behave.
I knew how to sacrifice and compromise and bend. I knew how to be kind and considerate to others.
But I didn’t know how to nourish myself. I didn’t know how to be kind to myself, to care for my needs, how to honor my sensitive, precious nature. I didn’t know how to love myself.
At some point, my life fell apart on every level – relationships, health, finances, food, safety, all of it. All my strategies to control and perfect and endure and force failed.
Healing with kindness
And so I found myself doing something radical, something that scared the crap out of me – I began practicing self compassion. Self acceptance. Self kindness. Gentleness. Lowering my expectations. Loving myself without being perfect. Letting go of control. Changing my relationship with my very self.
Rather than trying to will away, erase, cut out or overcome my addictions, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and my pain, I turned towards them. I cared for my pain. I befriended my emotions. I accepted all my hurting, aching parts instead of fighting against them. I began loving every ugly, wounded part of me – seeing these parts with soft eyes. And underneath the “ugliness” I found so much beauty – I found goodness; my desire to self protect; my tender, vulnerable, human heart.
So my journey out of food addiction has been my classroom in loving myself unconditionally. And while this journey has been painful, difficult, and challenging, it’s also been the soil of tremendous peace and yes, love. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, as it brought me the freedom I’d sought in self improvement and perfection and control - the freedom to know that I am enough – that I belong. That I’m lovable, worthy, okay and able to handle life.
My desire for everyone to feel this freedom leaves me breathless and excited and burning with passion, so full I can’t help but pour over. And it is this desire – for all of us to be free from suffering; to support my own freedom from suffering – that led me to begin writing and teaching and sharing what’s helped me.
It still astounds me that I do this work. Truly. (Sometimes I wake up and laugh – really?! Me?!!) And I always, always teach what I most need to learn – I am just a fellow wayfarer, stumbling and growing and learning and awakening as we all are.
Simply put, I want every being to experience the balm and peace and freedom of unconditional love - to look at every part of them and know that they are lovable and worthy and good.
I imagine a world where it is so. And First Ourselves, and my writing, teaching, and speaking is my contribution. So if you’re in a wrestling match about your fundamental goodness, welcome. Join me. This is not simply a place to heal addiction, but a place to come home – to return to love.
In love and care, always, Karly
Photo copyright 2010 Larry Stanley Photography