Tied Together with a Smile

I don’t know what this all means. I don’t know where this is supposed to go but I’ve decided that for all those times I’ve joked “just do you,” I’m finally going to take my own advice. So here’s me. Doing me.

When I walk down the street people tend to notice me. Whether it be friends, acquaintances, or strangers, it is a normal occurrence that I am complimented in some way, shape or form multiple times daily; most often because of my physique, but sometimes because of my smile or big hair. I don’t say this to prove how attractive or ‘special’ I am — don’t worry, my inner critic does an extremely good job of ensuring I think otherwise — but to paint a picture.

I mean I’m only human, so when a man recently leaned out of his car to tell me I had the most sculpted body he’d ever seen, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy a moment of satisfaction. But as quickly as it came, that voice in my head swooped in to scoff at me and squash any appreciation I may have taken from the complement and any boost in self esteem that might have occurred.

Really, every time I hear something similar, it only solidifies the feeling inside of how much of a fraud I really am. Just as often as a compliment can make me smile, I am able to turn it upside down and use it against myself; as proof that I have everyone fooled. Because if only they knew…

Because you say I’m a hard worker and I think of all the hours I’ve wasted in my head.

Because you say I’m successful and I think of the dollars I’ve literally vomited up and flushed away.

Because you say I’m beautiful and I feel guilty for having manipulated you into somehow believing that I am.

Because people are looking up to me and I feel like I’m letting them all down.

Because as strong, confident and awesome as I may truly feel in some moments, I feel equally as weak and worthless when I’m struggling and on my own…

I rationally understand that struggling with personal demons does not make me a lesser person. I know that just because I continue to struggle with binge eating and self esteem issues doesn’t mean I am less qualified to help people reach their own form of healthy. I am aware of the fact that no one actually expects me to be perfect. Rationally.

But so often the rational takes second seat to the emotional and the emotional tells me I am never going to be enough. Never going to be able to learn enough. Say enough. Help enough. I’m never going to be able to do enough to outrun the fact that externally I’ve become a figure of inspiration, of health, of motivation while lost, scared and alone on the inside.

There’s a Taylor Swift song called Tied Together With a Smile that has stuck with me since I was 19. And as much as I hate to say that of all songs it’s T Swift that has left a lasting impact, I think the lyrics are gold. Because for a decade now I have felt as though I’m tied together with a smile and am constantly on the verge of coming undone.

Daytime Jamie always smiling and home alone Jamie regularly in tears. The beautiful Jamie. The broken Jamie. And over time, with every faked smile, the fork between these two selves has been driven down deeper and deeper. So far so that I’m left completely unaware of who the real Jamie is.

I guess that’s a part of what this all is; finding out.

For the longest time I told myself the story that no one understands and I’m all alone. But really, I wasn’t actually willing to open up enough to have anyone understand. I didn’t want anyone to understand all of me because in my mind when everyone found out the truth, they would finally realize I’m not that special. That I really didn’t have anything to offer. That I don’t deserve to be where I am and have what I have.

I don’t share this because I want everyone to pat me on the back tell me how great I am and that everything is going to be okay. I share this because what I’m learning to be true is the exact opposite of what I thought for so long and I am giving myself permission to finally step outside of those beliefs. It is not about needing to fix these parts of myself, but about being true to myself.

I am not one version or the other. I am a beautiful combination of the two. We are all a beautiful combination of our good, bad, and ugly selves, and the more we hide our struggles, the more disconnected we become. I know not everyone knows what it means to have an eating disorder, but I do know everyone knows what it means to feel alone. And when we break ourselves into parts instead of owning the whole, I’ve learned the hard way that it is not without consequence.

Jamie Snow