Before and After – Stephanie Stevenson
Although I did not recognise it at the time, comparing myself to others was something that started in my early years and I used to do it all the time. With hindsight, I now understand that self-doubt and self-loathing were the underlying issues underneath the comparison.
Conforming to the ‘acceptable norm’ of what I thought others expected of me (which I now know was from big comparison issues), only added to the feeling of being less than others and thus being very hard on myself for perceived failures.
I started dieting around age 15 as a result of being influenced by pictures of models in magazines as something that had to be copied in order to be acceptable in the world. This comparison fuelled and confirmed my lack of self-esteem and self-doubt.
I remember walking downtown with a friend, both of us barefoot, just to get attention, pretending we were models. It was seriously uncomfortable on our feet and our necks hurt, but we kept going and then limped home!
I feel huge sadness with this now because it was so awful how conditioned I was not to allow, or trust, that it was ok to simply be who I am (whoever this was)! It is quite shocking actually to feel the emptiness and disconnection to my true self that felt so real at that time. It was always about being busy trying to be like somebody else, which cemented in the disconnection, and to feel less than others. What a ghastly choice to perpetuate – ouch! There was always an undercurrent of anxiousness in my body – my chest felt tension like a vice gripping it from around 9 years old through to the first few months of starting my study with Universal Medicine in June 2008. Since working with the healing therapies and attending the workshops presented by Universal Medicine, this tension has significantly changed.
I recently found a poem I had written in my early twenties trying to make sense of the deep sadness and the constant feeling of no self-confidence or substance to me. In retrospect, the line it began with was very poignant: “This lack of self-confidence is almost a curse ...”
I really hated having my photo taken as photos always looked a bit odd and disjointed somehow. Looking at the few photos I have, it surprises me now to see something is held in front of my body to hide the perceived unsightly areas I could not accept about myself – ‘perceived’ being the operative word here.
Looking back on the photos was a painful experience as I could see it was my perception then that was so far from the truth.
I remember feeling like an elephant in a dress (no disrespect to elephants!). I felt so huge and wanted to hide away under baggy, shapeless clothes for many years of my life.
Thinking I was grossly overweight and unacceptable was finally exposed as a total myth as I reviewed the pictures with fresh eyes of self-acceptance. I feel slender and gorgeous now. I realised that, although I distinctly remember feeling huge at age 14 and into my early 20’s, in fact my weight was about the same weight I have returned to now (in my 60’s) since attending Universal Medicine presentations. I feel the pain of this now. The pain is in seeing the lie, which I believed to be true and carried for all these years, deeply influencing my life experiences and how I felt about myself. This highlights how it is impossible to appreciate anything about ourselves when we are stuck in that consciousness of trying to fit into an ideal. Now I feel very different about myself and I celebrate and appreciate this every day.
Weight became an issue for me because I genuinely felt it was all about how I looked and what people would think about me – hence the constant dieting so I could be skinnier and look like a gaunt model!
I now realise that it was not about the weight at all; it was all about my self-worth – a long-term plague for the majority of women.
By the time I was in my mid 20’s my weight was going up and down like a yo-yo, with on/off dieting. It would be good for 5-6 weeks, and then all the triggers to overeat would kick in again … and overeat I did. Again, on reflection, it was emotional baggage and self-worth issues running this.
Dieting was an obsession in life. Every diet possible was worked through and with each one I hoped that ‘this one’ would ‘fix’ my problems. For example: the grapefruit diet, maple syrup fasting, weight watchers, slimmer’s world, macro-biotic eating, eggs diet, meal replacement, deadly nightshade family exclusion (potatoes, tomatoes, capsicum, aubergine), candida diet and various others – hoping that one day there was going to be the one that would finally break the pattern of using food to deal with my self and life. It was a never-ending, self-perpetuating cycle of lose some, put some back on, lose some and ultimately continually put more weight than ever before back on again. I always felt as if there was something very wrong with me.
At age 14, I was screaming out on the inside for someone to know that I was completely at sea inside, even though I looked okay on the outside. It was as if I was looking out from behind a wall. I always knew there was something more, something strong and permanent, yet highly elusive. This knowing is what got me through most of my life, even when I felt incredibly low and thinking how terrible I must be.
It seemed that every time I stayed true to myself, there was a put-down from significant people in my life. I ended up covering myself with weight so I could remain hidden and not stand out, which is why I overate – the beginning of the horrible cycle of abuse and self-sabotage that occurred any time I was feeling okay about myself or ‘shining brightly’. I know now that not dealing with my underlying emotional issues (sadness, pain, rejection, loss and anxiety) was what was stopping me losing weight and was the reason I was continually feeling not good enough.
This is a huge OMG realisation, which I have felt deeply whilst reflecting on my life when writing this.
I ate to try to fill up a seemingly never-ending big void, a huge pit of sadness – always knowing there was something more to life, which I could not find so I filled from external sources, e.g. food, conforming to being ‘nice and good’ from wanting recognition and approval, and to feel I was loveable and acceptable, even though I was feeling very unacceptable in myself.
I had an Esoteric Healing session with an Esoteric Healing practitioner around 2010 and he pinpointed self-loathing in my body. I remember the shame and meltdown that came with that. ‘Loathing’ felt such a huge, horrible word. Why? ‘Loathing’ . . . just hearing that word showed just how much self-hatred I actually had for myself.
I realise now that it was devastating to hear the words self-loathing because I had done it to myself. Always feeling that I was not enough – it had never occurred to me that I was turning inwards and constantly setting up sabotaging myself. When this was first exposed I nearly fell off the table! It was too big; I had been so abusive towards myself, and never recognised it.
It was my study with Universal Medicine and all that was being presented by Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine practitioners that was the turning point in helping me deal with knowing that it was self-loathing – the hidden cause of all my overeating.
Any confidence I had before Universal Medicine was false confidence – it was not me, more like a cardboard cut-out walking around, appearing very calm on the surface and yet always anxious on the inside! As soon as I heard Serge in the first course I attended, some old ideals and beliefs were turned upside down and inside out, such as feeling fat when I wasn’t! Now I don’t feel fat at all. The only difference is how I feel about myself – showing how much has changed for me through making different choices, as inspired by Serge Benhayon.
The different choices I made to change have been very simple, but it hasn’t been easy! I can honestly say, "Thank God" for all of it and for Serge Benhayon and the Ageless Wisdom teachings that have supported and inspired me to make new choices and see things in a totally different way.
I am far more responsible now, appreciating how far I have come, but also recognising that I am not perfect. For example, in the past when I was feeling less than others I turned to food – especially sugar or something sweet. I know now that I am not appreciating my (innate) sweetness when I reach for something sweet to eat; ‘sweetness’ being a quality, a resonance, something that opens me up, rather than something awful (sticky), which I used to think it was. Attraction for sweet foods can still be there. Appreciation and acceptance have been the keys to move away from being tempted by sweet food and the belittling consciousness that once owned me. Seeing through new eyes has brought me a deeper level of appreciation and understanding.
Ah ha! So I made different choices: for the first time since my early teens, in 2008 I stopped dieting and trying to lose weight, stopped leaping onto weighing machines and began to choose to take more care of myself with loving choices for my body – choices based on healing rather than harming myself. In time I have become more aware of feeling my body as an integral part, rather than separate from me. By experimentation and choice, I am now gluten, dairy, sugar and alcohol free. Once I truly felt the energetic impact of alcohol (which is like drinking a glass of neat sugar), and gluten and dairy in my body, these ‘left’ me – it was not like having to give anything up or feeling deprived as I always used to feel on a diet.
And … my weight is now stable! Since June 2008, approximately 94 pounds (43 kilos) in weight has literally ‘dissolved away’ from my body – without dieting or suffering! The amazing thing for me is that in the seven years plus that I have been working with the Ageless Wisdom teachings, my weight has remained almost constant.
However, I can still get caught out with the mental image of size – in a dress shop I often pick something that I think will fit well – only to find that there is ‘room for two’ of me in the size I am trying on! The tricks of the mind are always ready to step in! Why did I still think that my size was so huge when it so obviously wasn’t? This highlights how strong is that old way of how I thought I looked – the ‘elephant in a dress’ syndrome lurking in the background!
What has really changed now for me is feeling appreciation, love and deeper acceptance for myself. There is less hardness and more tenderness in my body now.
Another huge difference is in my body’s flexibility – in my teens and through to my late 20’s my body felt like a plank of wood, very stiff and inflexible, the result of being so ingrained in my mind and having little awareness of my body. Over the years it got a little less stiff, from pushing myself through some ‘good’ exercise routines.
Since attending Universal Medicine presentations my actual body physiology has changed dramatically without hard exercise, only gentle walking and being consciously aware of my body.
I am more supple and graceful now at 66 than I have ever been in my life, which is amazing and joyful to experience. Every time some other layer of hidden emotion is exposed, my body shape re-arranges itself to a new configuration, so even though the weight remains constant people have often commented that I look slimmer!
Also, I am really appreciating seeing my eyes reflecting back at me in a mirror. I can feel when I am not connected to myself through my eyes now. I can look in a mirror and ask, “Where are you?” and instantly there is a change of configuration in the quality in my body and eyes. Previously mirrors would have been used only to be judgmental and self-critical.
Now when I look in the mirror I am seeing myself as I really am – I see a beautiful woman with joy in her body, clear skin and sparkling eyes. I am now a woman who deeply cares for herself and has a new vitality for life. I love that I feel amazing, accepting that at age 66 there are still 'rounded' areas and some signs of ageing on my arms, etc (these are no longer of importance – it is ok for them to be seen).
I have a newfound confidence in life; my previous struggle with self-loathing and comparison has changed completely. Before I found that self-expression in any form was excruciatingly painful and my throat would just close up if had to speak about myself and this meant that real interaction with people was limited – probably non-existent in fact. Now it is amazing to feel the ease I have with others.
I love the freedom I feel in my body, the feeling of walking with gentleness, awareness and being fully present (re-connected) with myself – really feeling how my body is feeling in the moment, knowing when to be more gentle with it and not push myself beyond what is acceptable for it (in the past I avoided exercise at every opportunity, worrying about how I looked and what people would think of my ‘wobbling about’). I feel glorious.
Now, having my photo taken confirms the way I feel about myself.
The difference between how I was before my study with Universal Medicine and now, eight years on, is palpable in the photos, especially these photos taken in 2014 (although here still a little hesitant and somewhat self-conscious) and 2015 (showing how much I have re-connected to the inherent stillness within).
No wonder I never liked photos being taken of me in the past – they weren’t ‘me’!
Self-loathing is out and self-loving is in – what a glorious transformation!