“You’re not eating?”
I can’t even count the number of times I heard that question during my first few years of high school. And I dreaded answering it—mostly because it was difficult to explain just how hard the simple task of eating had become for me.
At some point in my early teens, I’d become unhappy with the girl I saw in the mirror. I couldn’t bear the idea of going to school, where I was surrounded by individuals I’d labeled as having “perfect” bodies, or whom I envied for the beauty I did not feel I possessed. I thought losing weight was the answer, the thing that would fix everything. So I began to starve myself. Soon, I developed a debilitating eating disorder.
I’d become unhappy with the girl I saw in the mirror.
At school, I avoided the cafeteria. At home, I lied to my parents about eating until they caught on. But even after they required me to eat, I found ways to rid myself of the food.
I allowed self-consciousness to rule my life. And even though I’d lost so much weight, I was never happy with my reflection in the mirror. I felt so alone, yet I was too self-conscious to seek help. My academics slipped as I became more and more withdrawn and self-centered, and this self-centered mind-set also affected my friendships. Anyone who tried to reach out, I pushed away.
One day during lunch, when I was by myself in the school bathroom, avoiding the cafeteria yet again, I stood in front of the mirror sobbing. Overwhelmed with the thought that I was completely worthless, special to no one, I grabbed a paper towel and angrily wiped my eyes. As I threw it in the garbage, a piece of paper in the trash caught my eye. It read: “ ‘Divine reflection’ from page 115 of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy.” I attend a school for Christian Scientists, so the fact that it was a reference from Science and Health wasn’t totally unusual. But I was definitely struck by the relevance of the message to my situation.
I looked up into the mirror and saw my reflection. My tear-stained face seemed nothing like the “Divine reflection.” But now I realized where I’d been so wrong. In the past, every time I’d looked in the mirror, I’d always been looking for a flaw. Not once had I considered myself the reflection of God—not a mortal looking in a mirror, but God’s spiritual idea, His perfect, beautiful image. I realized that since this was true, it would be impossible for me to be all the things I had labeled myself: ugly, fat, blotchy, inadequate, selfish, and so on. I walked out of that bathroom completely convinced that I was God’s reflection.
I was God’s reflection—His perfect, beautiful image.
A few weeks later, I was led to look at a familiar Bible passage. It’s found in the book of Matthew, where Jesus tells his disciples: “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on” (6:25). I realized I could read this as a message to stop worrying about my weight—“what ye shall put on.” This passage also helped me realize that what I really needed to focus on was a shift in my thought; I needed to pay less attention to my body and more attention to God and His spiritual qualities. This point was brought home to me by a passage in Science and Health, which I felt was related. It reads, “The moral and spiritual facts of health, whispered into thought, produce very direct and marked effects on the body” (p. 370). I saw that I needed to start filling my thought full of “spiritual facts of health,” and this would take care of all those lingering feelings of inadequacy—healing me mentally and physically.
I ate my first full meal that night. Today, over a year later, I’m eating completely normally and I feel strong, peaceful, and happy. Each day I continue to grow in my ability to see myself as God’s reflection. And I know now that that’s the image that really matters.