Since the dawn of our earliest days language has been incredibly useful. For seemingly instinctual reasons within our evolution as humans, we have developed the ability to make intelligent, complex sounds that have acquired meaning over time. This has made it possible for societies of people to accumulate knowledge between generations, allowing us to participate in a shared past and future so that we can not only talk about and thus learn from where we’ve been and what we’ve done, but also discuss where we’re going as we plan for a better tomorrow.
The very essence of a shared social experience includes the ability to come to a similar understanding of the events that occur which help to shape our lives. Language is not just a way to label objects. Embedded within it are ways of looking at the world. So, “thinking and perception are not only expressed through language but are also shaped by language. Rather than objects and events forcing themselves onto our consciousness, it is our very language that determines our consciousness, and hence our perception, of objects and events” (Quoted from an old sociology textbook and sorry I can’t reference it here; just making it clear that those aren’t my words.)
Similarly, the way in which we talk about (or don’t talk about) love shapes our perception of how we are supposed to treat someone we love and how we should be made to feel by someone we love. Not to mention, the way we should love and treat our Selves. The way I learned to experience love was through denial.
They say food is love. Throughout high school I scrutinized, avoided, binged and purged food before finally deciding it no longer served a purpose in my life. But before that I perceived love as something that perhaps I would be worthy of if only I looked like all the skinny, clueless women in every ad and magazine. Yet at the exact same time, I resented society’s standards and threw my nose up at women and men for thinking beauty could ever be so one dimensional (almost literally).
Just as food is a basic need, we cannot argue the power of love. Love is nourishing. It is a life force. It is what drives us to contribute even the tiniest shred of decency to the world. By denying myself a basic human need–food–I believe I was actively rejecting that which has been withheld from me and that I consequently didn’t feel deserving of–love.
While I was bulimic I would often find myself sneaking into the kitchen late at night. It was something I would anticipate and plan out in my head hours ahead of time: What and how much am I going to eat? Who do I run the risk of getting caught by and which bathroom should I use afterwards? Always, always I would eat so much in so little time that the guilt would overwhelm me and I felt I had no choice but to make myself throw up. I wanted to conceal my “weakness” by expelling any trace of ever having such a need. And even though I was smart enough to know that what I was doing was absurd and not healthy for me, it was also something I had to work through before I could begin adopting a new mindset.
So here I am, still working through an old mindset of denying myself that which sustains, only this time it isn’t food. But I know it’s foolish and that the first step out of this mess is accepting that I have needs. And that I am entitled to the most basic of them all……..