Smile and Mean It. A Sure Way to Improve Self-Esteem.

Guest blog by Monica Carbone

My mom has a quote written in blue marker on her mirror in her bedroom. It says: “Wake up in the morning, smile, and mean it”. She used to tell me when I was younger that that was her goal. Back then, I never completely understood how you could smile and not mean it, until I battled my eating disorder, depression, self harm, and anxiety. Now, I’ve made it my goal too.

When I was 12, and for the following ten years, I hated myself. Every time I looked in the mirror, it was like I was in a fun house. I would stare at myself, blink really hard, close my eyes, shake my head, open my eyes, and the distortion was still there. I pinched and pulled and squeezed my body, often crying, and wishing to be different. Wishing to be thin…even though I truly was. My eating disorder was my way of punishing myself for not being perfect, a way to stay in control, a way to deal with changes and incidents I couldn’t quite cope with.

I was secretive, constantly lying and making excuses, especially when it came to avoiding food. I had mastered putting on a brave face, a happy face, and acting like everything was fine when in reality I was crumbling. I was spiralling downward, and after ten years, at age 22, I finally saw that what I was doing to myself was slowly killing me. I got angry. My eating disorder had taken away pieces of my life that I would never get back again, and I had enough. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired, so I put myself into treatment, and decided to learn to love myself.

It was hard. It was probably the hardest I have ever worked in my entire life. I had to undo years of damage that my eating disorder had caused my body, and especially my mind. I had to really get to the root of why my eating disorder started, and learn to cope in healthy ways. I hated it at first, all the crying in therapy, breaking down, feeling weak, feeling like I was giving up “my best friend” who got me through rough patches. Then I realized that my eating disorder wasn’t getting me through tough times, it was my tough time.

Now, 3 years later, I’m me again. I’ve found things that I love about myself, like my silliness, my nurturing personality, my optimism, my fight. And you know what? None of those things change with how much I weigh. The numbers don’t matter. I matter. My happiness matters. Not everyday is easy by any means, but I work hard so that it becomes a little more natural each morning to wake up, smile, and mean it.