I recently came across a motivational quote surrounding the notion that we all live our lives, even in the context of our most intimate relationships, with an unspoken chapter. I felt so compelled by these words, that it encouraged me to reflect on this in my own life, and those that surround me.
I find it fascinating how often we are surprised by the actions of those close to us. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have said to myself, ‘I can’t believe they would do something like that!’, or ‘ I’m really surprised – I didn’t think he/ she was like that’. I think we all occupy a false sense of relational security, with the belief that we truly know the other; that we have spent long enough in one another’s lives to really understand, identify with and know that person.
My Unspoken Chapter
But, if I think about my own life and how many thoughts and often behaviours that I engage with that I rarely, if at all, share with others in my life, I wonder what it really means to know someone and if this knowledge is ever possible or absolute? I refer to this amass of unknown knowledge, the unspoken chapter.
Writing that truly connects with others, in the way that I hope for my writing to do, has to be vulnerable. Silencing our stories simply fuels the secrecy and shame associated with what it really means to be human and I know, I for one, admire and respect those who risk emotional exposure simply in honour of honesty. It’s a rare and beautiful trait. So for today’s post, I’d like to share an unspoken chapter of mine in the hope that it inspires you to do the same and forge more knowable, meaningful connections with others in your life.
One of my biggest unspoken chapters is my relationship with my body. It makes me sad to wrap words around the way I feel about my body, but I would go as far as to say that I hate it and it has been the source of disordered eating in my life since a young girl. Since a teenager, I have yearned for it to be different – for my arms to be thinner, for my bum to be smaller and for my thighs to be leaner. I rarely allow full-length photographs of myself to be put out there because I feel repelled by them.
I am not sharing this for pity or reassurance – I’m sharing it because I know these are distorted cognitions that not only I share, but we all possess yet feel, like I always have, that we are the only ones that possess them. We go about our daily lives, often with a spring in our step and a smile on our face – two things I am known very well for and yet never do we share the mental anguish.
Worth is Not a Physical Accomplishment
I know only recently, I have shared them with very close people in my life and the sense of relief to know that there are people in my life who now truly see me, rather than the version I want them to see (which by the way, still exists) is actually intangible. It’s important to acknowledge that we all have a variety of masks.
I am an incredibly introspective and self-aware person – I am constantly reflecting and working on the way I talk to myself about my body, and strength training for me with some awesome trainers is slowly supporting me be grateful for the amazing things my body can do; it’s helping me to appreciate that I am not defined by my aesthetics and nor does or will my body determine my worth as a person. I’m still working on a task enlisted by my trainer, which requires me to say something positive to myself every day.
Last week, I attended an amazing youth mental health conference where I was bestowed with the privilege of listening to a young person share her lived experience of disordered eating. This young person, of 24 years of age, shared something so poignant which I will always remember. She said that in her recovery, she came to realise that her worth was not linked to her weight or her achievements but to the connections she had formed and the memories she had made.
This was a lightbulb moment for me and it really encouraged me to reframe my own worth, as I have often struggled to identify who I am independent to my achievements; we are never taught that our worth is rather the sum of our qualities, strengths, connections, and value we add to the world simply by being. We are forever graded and placed into a hierarchy based on what we own, look like or achieve. Most importantly, women do this amongst and to other women.
Unspoken chapters are, I believe, the mental and emotional battles we engage with every day. They remain unspoken for fear of judgement and that in speaking them, we may not be accepted or loved for who we really are. The fear that we simply won’t be enough. I have come to realise however that first and foremost if I want friends and a future partner to love me for who I really am, I have to love and accept myself for who I am really am first.
I cannot and will not allow the way someone else perceives me (which is always based on their truths rather than any objective reality anyway) to define my
Speak Your Own Chapter
Even more interestingly, for a woman who is so consumed by how her body is perceived, I was told only yesterday by another woman that she was so in awe of my life and my achievements, that if she could only be doing and living her life in half the way I was, she would be happy. I have been so preoccupied with how I look, I was flabbergasted that someone out there was seeing me in this way. Why do I not have the same awe-inspiring outlook on myself?
I’m not saying that self-love comes easy in a society which takes every opportunity it can to tell us we aren’t enough. It is, however, my goal every day, as is my goal to remember that everyone is fighting an unspoken chapter every day. On good days I meet my goals, and others, not so much. But I’d encourage you to speak your chapters to those who have earned the right to read and hear them – it can only make your connection with those people that much more beautiful and meaningful as you hear the soothing, ‘me too’:) This has definitely been the case for me.