Failure Isn’t a Feeling, & Feelings Aren’t Facts

Food tastes like failure.

I don’t savour beautiful textures and flavours. I never mindfully and sensuously nibble delicacies, inhaling aromas and luxuriating in the tantalising sensations on my tastebuds. When I eat, I scoff food down like a starving woman fighting a horde of ravenous dogs, scratching around for the last morsel on a carcass. Washed down with guilt and loathing and fear, and an overwhelming sense of failure – I’ve done it again. I’ve eaten food I didn’t want, in a manner I didn’t like. I’ve failed myself. Food tastes like failure. Day in and day out – I eat failure or I don’t eat at all.

And that failure is an emotion so powerful it’s almost tangible – I could reach out and touch it. Food tastes like failure and failure is a feeling.

But that’s a lie.

Failure is not a feeling – it’s a perception. Eating food is not failure. My reaction is a learned response to what for most people is a normal, healthy and essential part of life. Like walking and talking and breathing. People eat food. Those who don’t, die. Some eat well and some don’t, but eating in and of itself is not failure. That is a lie I was accidentally taught and have since ingrained into my heart and soul.

That lie has turned failure into a feeling. But those feelings are more accurately categorised as shame and anger and being overwhelmed. Which according to the feelings wheel, translates to sad, mad and scared. I live my life sad, mad and scared. Or in clinical terms – anxious and depressed.

There is a second lie deeply rooted into my soul. I believe feelings are facts. That when I feel like a failure – when I’m ashamed and angry at myself, and overwhelmed with the sense of inevitability of my own stupidity – that these are facts. That not only do I feel stupid, I AM stupid. Not only do I feel fat, I AM fat. I am not worthy or capable of recovery. I am not strong enough to make changes. I am fat and old and ugly, and despised by others for my weakness and self-absorption. When I eat, I feel these things and they feel like facts.

Another lie. They are feelings – that is true. But they aren’t necessarily facts. They can be challenged. The very loud voice inside me – the voice that says I’m not good enough and I’m going to fail – the voice that speaks with confidence and certainty and has drowned out the timid voice of reason for so long I can no longer recognise fact from fiction – that voice needs to be silenced. It is telling me lies and the lies will destroy me.

This week I’m practising to eat food that isn’t failure. I can’t manage it all day long – but I’m getting there at breakfast. I’m learning to eat breakfast and not feel like a failure. To not feel ashamed and angry and overwhelmed. The voice of reason is strongest in the mornings – when the day is fresh and full of hope. And from this baby step, I hope to slowly learn that failure is not a feeling, and feelings aren’t facts.

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