Photos c/o Kat Harris
“Our life is a becoming rather than a simply being.”
I stumbled upon that quote recently, and have been struck by how accurately it describes the shift that’s taken place in me.
Today I feel more beautiful than I have in a long time. The woman I was a few years ago is so different from the woman I am now. I am grateful for every mountain and valley I’ve encountered, but those valleys were deep, and they were dark.
When I was 18, I lost myself. I was wrapped in a web of anxiety and depression, and I experienced a total breakdown. I was heading to college in the fall, to a school where I knew no one. I was enrolled in a highly competitive, rigorous program, and I was terrified I wouldn’t measure up. I felt totally out of control, and I didn’t know what to do.
So I turned to the one thing I could control — and that was food.
It all started innocently enough. I didn’t intend to have an eating disorder. But I cut out food group after food group, and it didn’t take long until I was starving.
Just three weeks into my first semester, I had to withdraw. I was so sick that the university doctors would no longer authorize me to stay in school. I packed up my belongings and said goodbye to my new friends, too embarrassed to tell them what was actually wrong.
I went home and signed into an inpatient treatment program. My diagnosis: anorexia nervosa. I was told I was so malnourished that if I didn’t make some major changes (and very quickly), I was going to die.
Hearing that left me feeling weak, ashamed, and helpless.
But I was determined to gain my life back. I knew that my story wasn’t meant to end here. This was going to be one chapter in the book of my life.
After a few months I was able to reach a stable weight and leave treatment. I re-enrolled in school and, for the most part, life went on as usual. No one knew about my past. I joined a sorority and graduated summa cum laude. I moved to New York City for a job as a magazine editor, and everything seemed to be going according to plan.
I was consumed with having the “perfect” life: the right career, the right relationships, even the right clothes. I wanted to live the New York lifestyle I’d dreamed of — if I could make it here, I could make it anywhere, right?
Yet as the years passed, the things I thought I wanted slowly drifted away. I have begun to really heal — body and mind and soul. I’ve met women who encourage me to be myself, who love me despite my flaws, and remind me that life is about more than the way I look or what I do. They demonstrate that true beauty comes from every up and down we experience.
We are beautiful exactly as we are.
For much of my life I have been wrapped up in guilt, shame, and debilitating fear. Now I finally understand that I am not perfect, and I do not have to be. I don’t want to be!
I see the beauty in the mess — the beauty in becoming.
Sometimes the desires for perfection, approval, and control crop back up. The difference is they no longer dictate my life. While I still have to be conscious of my health, I am fully in recovery.
Being honest about my struggles has brought a lot of freedom, and I’ve developed stronger, more life-giving relationships because of it. I am happy in my own skin and excited about who I am — a woman who is fearfully and wonderfully made.
I’m weeks away from my 26th birthday, and I’m truly becoming the woman I’ve always wanted to be. I don’t have a wedding ring or a boyfriend. I don’t have my dream job, and I don’t know what’s next for my career. I don’t have a five-year plan (or even a one-year plan).
What I do have is an underlying sense of joy. I’m becoming confident in who I am — what I look like, what I believe, and what I’ve been through.
I know I’ve been put on this earth with a specific purpose. The valleys I’ve experienced are no coincidence, and they have shaped me into the woman I am today. I’ve seen what it means to have real faith and hope, and a second chance. And I sincerely believe God has bigger plans for me than I can imagine.
Beauty is… becoming. Becoming alive again. Becoming a woman who is flawed yet whole. Becoming who I was created to be and believing in myself every step of the way.