Attempt at light-hearted summer update

Gonna make this quick and leave it disorganized. I am having even more difficulty than usual answering the question “how are you?” (don’t get me started on “how was your weekend?”/”any plans for the weekend?”). It’s not that I don’t appreciate the nudges & check-ins, because I do! So much. I just don’t do pleasantries very well. My mind spins with thoughts like, how am I, how am I???? I’m reeling and I’m lamenting and I’m also angry, do you want to talk about the plastics industry or the patriarchy? No probably not, uh, is my bone broth done yet? And so I am sitting down right now to try and consolidate – defrag? lol – the past couple of months. And I am trying to keep it light-hearted. Just for now.

This summer, …

I made new Friends and reconnected with old Friends. This has been one of my favorite developments in the past couple of months. The most random people have walked (and re-walked) into my life and made me feel hopeful about Friendship.

I organized. I’m not big on organization and I’ve never watched Tidying Up on Netflix. I believe there’s no shame in mess and that dust & clutter are just symptoms of entropy and capitalism that I have long learned to accept. I don’t even make my bed (thanks hubby). But I do get into frenzies (it’s like being possessed by the cleaning spirit) and I went on a long organizing/cleaning frenzy sometime from June to July. It’s really more of an internal sense of chaos that I try to manage via deep-cleaning and decluttering. I purchased a hanging shoe organizer, a jewelry organizer, a make-up/bathroom sink organizer, a USB cable organizer, and went to town. I hung all my disappearing and randomly reappearing hair ties (millions of them!) on little command hooks. I donated an enormous bag of clothes to ThredUp. Threw out soap bars from hotel rooms from 2016 (ew). Found exactly 7 bottles of Walgreens Acme Treatment Gel, each with about 2ml of product left. You get the picture. This felt really good!

I started singing and playing music again. Last summer, a friend generously gifted us with a keyboard, and for the most part it remained untouched over the past year. If I had to dig deeper, I suppose this is because I stopped listening to & playing CCM (contemporary christian music) and didn’t actively try to evolve my jamming. But this summer I started playing all kinds of new music – from the Zelda soundtrack to musicals to Tay Tay (OH HEY QUARANTINE ALBUM).

I asked for help + followed my intuition about what I needed. TBH the first quarter or so of 2020 was horrible (and I don’t think it’s just me amirite?). My mental health was at an all-time low – imagine crawling around in a video game with a quarter of a heart for a few months. Therapy wasn’t helping and the amont of $$$ I was spending to cry for 50 minutes a week on Zoom was stressing me out. And I want to be a therapist! Ha. Well, after staying at rock bottom for a couple of weeks (and after making an abrupt exit from therapy), I started intuitively sensing what I needed to do. It was so eerie and cool. I would be lying in bed thinking about nothing and everything and then suddenly I would sit up and say to myself, that’s what I need to do. I need to reach out to her and be frighteningly honest about what I’m going through. I need to get help from this professional. I need to be brave and tackle this murky interpersonal conflict. I need to actually drink water. And so on. So I followed my intuition and .. it worked! I feel SO much healthier and happier physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. So I guess this summer I have learned something new about myself, that on some level I intuitively know what I need to do…and that acting on that intuition often takes GUTS.

I started at a new school program and finished my first semester (as of today. YAY!). This probably merits its own post, but I left seminary at the end of last year and transferred to a different Mental Health Counseling program in the area. There are so many thoughts and reasons behind this, but for now, I’ll just say that I am at peace with the journey I’m on.

That’s all!

A toolkit for surviving the deconstruction of my faith

*Deep breath*

I was raised in the evangelical Christian church. I don’t mean to brag, but I was pretty good at being Christian. In college, I was actively involved in multiple fellowships at the same time. Jesus was the king of my life. I thought I might become a cross-cultural missionary. And so when yours truly, having aspired and aimed her whole life to be a GCG (Good Christian Girl), married a Jesus-loving BCB (Basic Christian Boy) at the tender age of 24, I praised God, because now the rest of my life would unfold with blissful ease. I would basically live the American Dream (Christian Edition) without ever calling it that. Because isn’t that how the narrative goes?

(Answer: No. At least not for me. That is very much not how it has gone or is going or will foreseeably go.)

If you’ve spoken to me lately, you might know that I’ve spent the past two years or so completely deconstructing that narrative, and wrestling with some tough questions about the faith I grew up in and built my whole life upon. This post isn’t going to be about that journey (phew?), but I thought I would assemble a list of resources that have helped me out in this confusing, painful, and above all utterly lonesome season of my life. In the hopes that it might help someone, anyone. Because when I started questioning things, I realized that none of the “cultural artifacts” of my faith tradition had provided me with any space for mystery, uncertainty, or exploration. They all had resolute AMENS at the end of each chapter. I needed more space to move, more space to breathe.

As a disclaimer, I don’t endorse or agree with 100% of the content on this list. I’ve tried to consume stuff on different parts of the spectrum. So some of this might feature in a book study at a fairly conservative church. And some of it, err, might not.

(Side note – as grateful as I am for these heroes and artists, I am sad that not of single one of them is Asian 😢)

(Update 7/30 – I am actively adding to this list to include non-white voices. I’m still just getting starting in the work of decolonizing my theology/faith and disentangling God and the church from white supremacy, and would love any and all suggestions.)

But without further ado…


Non-fiction – religion/spirituality

  • Rescuing Jesus, Deborah Jian Lee [link]
  • Falling Upward, Richard Rohr [link]
  • The Most Beautiful Thing I’ve Seen, Lisa Gungor [link]
  • Inspired, Rachel Held Evans [link]
  • You Are Your Own: A Reckoning with the Religious Trauma of Evangelical Christianity, Jamie Lee Finch [link]
  • Every Moment Holy, Douglas McKelvey [link]
  • Stages of Faith, James Fowler [link, summary]
  • Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Pete Scazzero [link]
  • Boundaries, Henry Cloud & John Townsend [link]


  • The Crosswicks Journal (series), Madeleine L’Engle [link]
  • Any fiction by Wendell Berry [link]
  • Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis [link]


  • Reclaiming My Theology, all of it [link]
  • Evolving Faith – this
  • Another Name for Every Thing – this, this, this
  • The Liturgists – particularly this
  • Unlocking Us (with Brene Brown) – second half of this especially


  • Kings Kaleidoscope (Zeal, Beauty Between)
  • Gungor (Archives)
  • Andy Mineo (II: The Sword)
  • General permission to take a break from CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) and to wholeheartedly enjoy music that *gasp* isn’t directly praising Jesus


  • Wine
  • Zelda: Breath of the Wild + Expansion Pack
  • Enneagram
  • Centering Prayer

And while this journey has been very lonely, I have had some truly incredible people come alongside me – in little ways and big ways – to offer comfort, wisdom, and laughs. Some of them are pastors and seminary professors. Some of them don’t believe in God. One of them is my wonderful spouse. They are all priceless. They are the reason I am still showing up, still have hope, still love the light. To these wonderful human beings: thank you.

Manifesting Coffee Shops

I was struck by a fancy a few days ago. I would pretend that my living room was a deliciously cozy coffee shop. I would go on a date with my husband to said coffee shop and enjoy a novel but also nostalgic afternoon getting caught up with myself over a hot drink.

So that’s where I am now: I’m at a coffee shop…in my living room. I found a Spotify playlist called CAFE MUSIC ~STUDIO GHIBLI Jazz & Bossa~ and it is playing pleasantly over a mini speaker. The coffee machine just served me a rich mug of decaf coffee (no paper cups here!), and I feel pretty calm. It’s either brilliant or nutty.

That’s all I wanted to share 🙂

Musings on T. Swizzle

Our free month of netflix expires today. We’ve done a pretty lousy job of making the most of our trial, though we did finish whole season of Pandemic (which was great!). Last night, as I was trying to find something we could enjoy together, one of my suggestions was Taylor Swift’s documentary, Miss Americana. The other two members of the household swiftly (ha) yelled “NO”. “But it’s about her finding her political voice and stuff!” Still no. So I ended up watching it by myself last night.

Today, I’m not ashamed to call myself a Taylor fan — but sadly, this wasn’t always the case.

My first encounter with her music was in high school: a boy (!) had burned a CD copy (!!) of Fearless (2008!!!!) and surreptitiously passed it to me one morning before class. Listening to the album was a secret pleasure, especially since I didn’t feel that Taylor Swift’s music matched the weird Emo Indie Christian vibe I was trying to give off at the time.

The next album I listened to obsessively was 1989. This was when I was spending many hours a week driving an 11-year-old girl around the East Bay. I told myself I was playing Taylor’s music in the car for her sake, not mine, even though she definitely preferred Katy Perry. Again, I was ashamed and couldn’t really bring myself to admit that I enjoyed her music — plus, I was still trying to do the Emo Indie Christian thing.

It was somewhere between lifting weights to Reputation and running up and down Broad street to Lover that I started to feel okay owning my fandom. We also got to catch the Reputation tour in Toronto in 2018, surrounded by all of Canada’s 11-year-old girls and their parents. But I didn’t just like her music; I thought she was intelligent and honest and I respected that she was using her platform to speak out about sexual assault and to encourage young people to vote. I suspect that Taylor has two main fan clusters – those who were born when Fearless was released and those who were in high school 🙂 As someone who belongs to the latter camp, there is a strange and goosebumpy feeling around growing up in tandem with a celebrity and having them make music that continues to chronicle your evolving identity angst.

Miss Americana was thoroughly enjoyable – more than I had expected it to be. The main narrative focuses on how Taylor made the choice to become politically vocal after staying silent her whole career. And not just in tweets, but in her music, too: Only the Young is basically an anthem for disillusioned young people who’ve all but given up hope in our democracy. But there are many other aspects of Taylor’s life that we get to see as well: her songwriting process, her relationship with her parents (especially her mom), and her cat. For the first time, she talks explicitly about her struggles with body image and an eating disorder, which makes me want to give her a big hug – I think it’s incredibly brave. Obviously this is her documentary and so it’s going to paint her in a favorable light, but she does come off as an immensely likeable human in a way that would be very hard to fake.

Anyway, I thought she was likeable 🙂

I just wish I could get married again – I would’ve done our first dance to Lover and put a lot more TS in our dance music playlist. Though I’m not entirely sure the husband would agree 😍.

Helpful youtube videos

Did you know that YT had to stream videos exclusively in standard definition for a week because their servers were so overwhelmed by stay-at-homers? I can feel myself developing an unhealthy relationship with youtube during this time.

That said, there are some youtube videos / channels that have been immensely beneficial for my mental (+physical) health and overall sanity.

Relaxing Breath of the Wild Music With Rain

No exaggeration, I listen to this in the background every single day – from waking to sleeping. Unless I’m on a call or watching something else….or actually playing the game. It’s just SO GOOD.

I also listen to this one that has music from all Zelda games.

Hip Hop Fit

I do regular workout videos when I feel like it, but honestly lunges get stale after a while. Karl and I danced along to this “beginner-friendly” hip hop choreo video yesterday and had a ton of fun.

On a side note, it is annoyingly hard to find workout vidoes that don’t play on a viewer’s body image insecurities to motivate them. You know what I’m talking about. Let’s get shredded! Sweat off the pounds! Remember the body you came here to get! etc. Even if you started out feeling just fine about your body, you might subconsciously receive the message that you should be unhappy with your body and that you should want to change it. I generally like for workouts that are body neutral and low in diet culture BS.

Last Week Tonight

For COVID-19 coverage, tragicomedy style.

Bob & Brad

They claim to be the two most famous physical therapists on the internet, lol. Lots of PT exercises, tips, and self-massage techniques to relieve anything from headaches to shoulder pain.

That’s it for now!

Grocery shopping is Stressful

Brene Brown just posted this:

Comparative suffering. Empathy rationing. I do that a lot.

Example: Grocery shopping is so stressful right now.

Maybe you can relate (or maybe not) — whenever that thought crosses my mind, another thought immediately pops up and goes, How could I even think that? There’s so much privilege in that statement. I’m able-bodied, financially secure, young, and relatively healthy. What right do I have to be stressed out about meal planning and visiting the grocery store?

As it turns out, nobody is concerned about the nature of my specific stresses and whether they’re valid — other than myself. Surprise surprise.

So let this be my uncomfortable and unfettered attempt at owning how stressful I am finding meals and groceries right now.

I find myself unconsciously holding my breath when I’m outdoors, especially when there are people nearby. As you might imagine, this causes lightheadedness and other weird sensations.

Two people eating three meals a day at home go through a lot of food. It’s hard to come up with twenty meals every two weeks – and meals that will be enjoyed by two people who are often not on the same page about what they want to eat.

When I arrive at the store armed with a grocery list, I invariably find that most of those items are not available. In fact, there isn’t much of anything. But I must not leave empty-handed, because then I’ll have to come back and experience this all over again.

There is so much palpable panic in the air. I have almost crashed into other store patrons multiple times because we find ourselves doing a weird frenzied dance to avoid contact with each other.

I have no hand sanitizer. The store is often out of wipes.

Everybody is talking about COVID-19.

Things are changing on the daily. Limits on eggs. No store returns. Masking tape on the floor. Seating area closed. Change is stressful, even if not on a conscious level.

There you go. My little inner critic is screaming at me right now for whining about something like going grocery shopping. But my point here is that I can own and process my stress while ALSO being appreciative of all the things. I can be stressed about my ‘small’ stuff AND truly mourn and grieve how this epidemic has disproportionately affected more vulnerable folks.

And finally: This is an incredibly challenging time for anyone struggling with disordered eating or any obsessive/compulsive behaviors around food. Especially because they might not feel that their struggles are as valid as other struggles. If you are that person or know that person, please be kind <3. Also, check out this fantastic resource.



The tree outside our home has decided to bloom.

The mystery I have been pondering this week: social media, influencers, and the ethics of consumer awareness. This is really bugging me, but I haven’t found a good way to think about it.

The book I have been reading this week: Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang. So far, a little uneven. I preferred his first collection better. I did like the title of one of the stories, Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.

Something I have been cooking this week: Poached eggs on toast. I realized I hadn’t poached an egg in over five years. They’re so good and the clean-up is minimal.

It’s been a dark, tumbling year. I know this blog was originally supposed to chronicle my career transition, but I feel sheepish and as though I have nothing to show for the past few years. I am often at a loss for words, even with my closest friends. I don’t know how to explain the things that have happened, the things I’m feeling, and where I am now. And I also don’t know if it all needs to be said – explained, rehashed, justified – over and over again.

I think I am learning to be at peace with that.

The way to become a lifestyle influencer is to embody all sorts of ideals that live just slightly underneath the surface of the conscious mind. Then you can sell anything. People will forfeit the opportunity to do interesting things in real life in order to watch you do mundane things on the internet. We are secretly desperate to move closer to the arbitrary ideal of any given place and time.

The way to become the opposite of a lifestyle influencer is to think critically about those ideals. It will sound tone-deaf, off-beat, and overall plain bad. It will be unpopular and you will most likely not sell things. But… there is no but. There is no real upside.

Now, I don’t know if this is something to brag about, but if I had to summarize the past few years, it would be like this: The Shattering Of Almost All My Ideals. And with the shattering, an incredible loss of identity and community. I’m left with nostalgia and memories of the past, but no real way to connect with those values and those people.

I’m sorry for being vague. I know this is not tumblr in the 2010s (though u gotta love tumblr in the 2010s). And thus I present my musings on the threshold of Spring 2020.

On a totally unrelated note, here is an incredible conversation I had with Karl early this morning (aka when I am having insomnia and he is having the opposite of insomnia):

R: Baby, what’s your favorite color?
K: *grunt*
R: Is it yellow? Mustard yellow?
K: mm-mm (no)
R: Is it green?
K: mm-mm (no)
R: What is it?
K: Hotdog.*

*Except we don’t really know if he said Hotdog or Hoddeok. The latter is plausible because we watched a video on how to pronounce Hoddeok the previous night.

**If you know Karl and want an audio recording, I have it.

Self-care in the time of COVID-19

How are you holding up?

I want to reflect on (and try to remember!) a few things that I’m trying to do to keep myself grounded in this weird and unsettling time. Caveat – this is just me, your mileage may vary :p

Self-Care List

  • Check in via text/call on all the people that I’ve been meaning to reach out to in a long time. It is a safe and easy gesture that can help to combat loneliness/isolation.
  • Get my blood pumping at least once a day – preferably via funny dancing.
  • Find ways to laugh – for me this has been 90% youtube and 10% spouse.
  • Cleaning has been extremely therapeutic. It’s embodied and rhythmic, it feels productive, and it’s satisfying to see things shine. Also, hygiene!
  • Acknowledge my anxiety and stress, rather than try to shame it away.
  • Jaw and head/neck massages.

What does self-care look like for you? <3

Urinary Tract Infections: Mistakes & Tips

It’s a typical weeknight and I’m about to fall asleep. “What’s on your mind?” asks the husband. We have some of our deepest conversations in this precious space between waking and sleeping.

“My urethra,” I reply. And then I get up to go to the bathroom even though I went about two and half minutes ago.

I have been on a long and winding journey in the past year in my battle against UTIs. Just like with everything else, there is a ton of misinformation floating around the internet. Even healthcare professionals can, in their haste, prescribe antibiotics that will wreck your gut flora and still fail to address your infection appropriately. As a disclaimer, if you are experiencing UTI symptoms (burning, urgency, frequency, cloudy urine, etc), I think you should 100% consult a medical professional and follow their directives. This is not medical advice. This post is solely intended to help any sufferer navigate their care process with eyes WIDE OPEN. Plus, hopefully you’ll find some practical tips to save you time and money because isn’t that what we all want??

Despite being rather proficient in scouring the internet for evidence-based research and recommendations, I’ve made several mistakes in my attempts to cure my UTIs. Hopefully you can avoid these mistakes, enjoy these tips, and get on the fast track to a symptom-free, happy, and healthy bladder!

Mistake: Diagnosing and treating without a urine culture

A UTI is an infection of the urinary tract that is caused by bacteria. 80% of UTIs are caused by the bacteria known as E. coli, but there are several other kinds of bacteria that can give rise to an infection as well.

It is important to know what type of bacteria you have, because different bacteria are susceptible to (i.e. can be attacked by) different types of antibiotics. The only way to find out what strain of bacteria is affecting your urinary tract is to get a urine culture (different from a urinalysis) done at a lab.

Moreover, antibiotics aren’t really a neutral medication that you want to be taking willy-nilly. They disrupt your gut (hello diarrhea!) and cause resistance when they are taken without need.

AZO test strip fail

The first couple times I suspected a UTI, I decided to purchase these UTI test strips made by a brand called AZO. Who wants to go to the doctor when you don’t have to? Unluckily for me, they have always been negative — even when I have definitely had an infection. The strips aren’t always reliable, and in my mind they aren’t worth the $10 because if you do have an infection you’ll want to go to the doctor, and if you don’t, it could be a false reading and you should still go to the doctor. What the negative test result ended up doing for me is delaying my trip to the doctor because I wasn’t convinced I had an infection.

Lesson learned: Don’t bother with at-home test strips.

Christmas Eve Telehealth

It was Christmas Eve, I was in the airport, and I couldn’t get a hold of my doctor. Our flight was delayed, and I had maddening UTI symptoms. What did I do? I took advantage of a tele-health service provided by my insurance company. For $30, I talked to a doctor on my laptop for four minutes and ended up with a prescription for an antibiotic named Bactrim.

Unfortunately, Bactrim did nothing for me. A few weeks later, when I was able to get a urine culture done, I found out that I had Group B Strep bacteria – which Bactrim isn’t generally very effective against (source). My doctor then started me on a course of amoxicillin (penicillin), which cleared the infection right up.

Tip: How to get a urine culture

Hopefully your physician will be able to do this for you. You might have to ask for it. But if you’re in the US and you simply can’t get a hold of your doctor soon enough (been there), you can order your own culture via Walk In Lab. You can go to any LabCorp or Quest Diagnostics location near you. The results should take a couple of days to come back, and will include information about what type of antibiotics are likely to be effective against the bacteria found (if any).

Mistake: Buying a $10 bottle of organic pure cranberry juice

The cranberry juice is still sitting in the fridge.

There’s no solid evidence that drinking a few shots (or even ‘chugging’) cranberry juice can help either flush out or prevent a UTI.

However, there is some good science and anecdotal evidence to suggest that a compound found in cranberries called D-Mannose can be effective for both treating and preventing UTIs — wow! Even the New York Times ran a piece about UTIs and mentioned D-Mannose. Could it be true?

Side note: D-Mannose is not the same as Cranberry. If you go to your pharmacy, you might see bottles labeled ‘Cranberry’ or ‘Cranberry Extract’ — you can still try them, but they aren’t as potent.

Mistake: Buying D-Mannose

A few weeks ago, I went to see a urologist because my infections kept recurring. She recommended taking 1,000mg of D-Mannose a day. Eager to supplement my infections away, I purchased a ton of D-Mannose powder from vitacost and started dutifully dissolving suspicious-looking white powder in my morning glass of H2O.

I was reluctant to admit it, but it didn’t help.

Tip: D-Mannose is the miracle cure – but only for some

Back to the internet. My research told me that D-Mannose was only effective against E. coli bacteria (source), which I have never had in my urine. Thanks, urologist.

If you do find that you have E. coli bacteria in your culture, look into pure D-Mannose powder. Some people say that the powder is more effective than the pill form, though there aren’t studies to back this claim up.

Gram positive vs. gram negative

The Gram classification of bacteria (positive vs negative) tells you what kind of cell wall structure the bacteria have. E. coli is classified as a gram negative bacteria, whereas the type of bacteria I had – Group B Streptococcus – is classified as a gram positive bacteria. This distinction is part of the reason why some treatments are effective with some types of bacteria and ineffective with others.

Since, D-Mannose is ineffective in the treatment of gram-positive bacteria, what am I supposed to do???

Potential Tip: Lauricidin/monolaurin for other forms of bacteria?

I haven’t tried this yet (still on its way), but some studies have shown that Monolaurin, a compound found in coconut, has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties that can effectively work against gram-positive bacteria (source, source). Coconut oil has been touted as a home remedy for UTIs, but honestly, you’d have to consume nearly a whole jar to get the equivalent of one serving of monolaurin. The brand that was recommended is called Lauricidin.

Potential Tip: Invest in a good probiotic?

I have no idea if taking a probiotic has helped me with my UTIs, but I think it’s important, especially with all the antibiotics I’ve taken. Some people say to avoid taking the probiotic and the antibiotic within an hour of each other so they don’t ‘cancel each other out’. There’s some controversy about whether probiotics need to be refrigerated, so I just err on the side of caution and purchase Garden of Life Raw Probiotics – Vaginal Care which comes with an ice pack.

There’s evidence that two probiotic strains are particularly beneficial for UTIs: Lactobacillus rhamnosus and L. reuteri (source).

Tip: Don’t overthink hygiene

More than 50% of women will get a UTI at some point in their lives.

You can have excellent personal hygiene and get UTIs all the time. You can have terrible hygiene and never get UTIs. Of course, use your common sense and please wipe from front to back. However, both my urologist and the internets agree that showering too frequently and washing down there too often (especially with soap) can actually be counterproductive (source). This is because soap can get rid of your body’s natural micro-organisms that help your body to defend itself against bad bacteria.

Tip: Take a deep breath

Having recurrent episodes of urinary tract infections has been very stressful.

When I have an active infection, I’m anxious all the time about whether and when I’ll be able to use the restroom. This makes being out in public or being at work very difficult. Some nights I am so uncomfortable that I start crying out of frustration. When I don’t have an active infection, I am always on the lookout for any signs of a UTI.

My urologist has suggested (and I think she’s right) that anxiety and stress can contribute to UTI-like symptoms, especially a sense of urgency.

So if you have a UTI and are stressed out about it, hi five. Take a deep breath. Identify one small step you can take towards better health, and focus on that.

Tip: Maybe it’s your pelvic floor muscles

At some point a few months ago I noticed how tight my pelvic floor muscles were feeling. No surprises there — I was constantly clenching and guarding against having to pee. (I have my yoga training to thank for helping me with my pelvic floor awareness). As it turns out, UTIs can really wear your pelvic floor muscles out, which can in turn mimic symptoms of a UTI (source). I spent some time working with a pelvic floor physical therapist, who taught me some useful breathing and relaxation exercises.

The end…not

This isn’t one of those stories that ends with “…and I have been UTI free for five years now!”. I’m still in the thick of it, but I feel like I have learned a lot (and also spent a lot of money). I’m extremely grateful that I have access to healthcare and the internet and can get fancy supplements shipped to me.

Here’s hoping that I’ll be writing a post in 5 years that will declare me UTI-free.

Body Respect & Codependency

What is codependency?

I’m a few years late, but I finally started doing some research on codependency and what it actually means. It’s definitely become somewhat of a buzzword, but I think it describes a very real phenomenon. The slightly less ‘pop psychology’ term for codependency is enmeshment, or a lack of differentiation. In simple terms, your sense of self is bound up in someone else. You are an overlapping venn diagram. When the other person experiences a failure or makes a mistake, you feel implicated. When they are hurt, you feel responsible for healing them. Codependency can be quite subtle, but telltale signs are feelings of clinginess, neediness, constant insecurity, and an inability to set boundaries (either positive or negative ones).

But isn’t that the point of being in an intimate relationship??? I know, it took me a while to start believing that codependency could be a negative thing to begin with. Especially because I grew up steeped in biblical language such as “two becoming one” and of course the wonderfully delicate topic of biblical submission (which I will not get into…for now).

If you are curious about codependency and its healthier alternative, interdependency, here’s a great video by a licensed marriage & family therapist.

A void in one’s sense of self

One of my lightbulb moments in understanding what drives codependent behavior is that it stems from a void in one’s sense of self. In my mind, it helps to think of this ‘sense of self’ in three stages:

  1. Knowing myself: my values, interests, goals, and needs
  2. Respecting myself and the values, interests, goals, and needs that I have
  3. Committing to pursue those interests & goals, staying true to my values, and fulfilling my needs

It was dumbfounding and a little embarrassing to realize that even in my mid-twenties, I was still stuck at stage 1. I didn’t know what my hobbies were. I didn’t have goals (I just made them up for job interviews). I absorbed the values of the people around me or perhaps worse, people on the internets.

It seems logical to me that when a person doesn’t know, respect, or commit to their sense of self, they will naturally turn to their relationships – especially intimate relationships – to feel fulfilled, happy, and even just okay. There is no shame in codependent behavior. It is an adaptive behavior that becomes maladaptive. However, I think it’s important to address the root cause of codependency rather than just trying to force non-codependent behaviors. It doesn’t make any sense to tell someone to start saying ‘no’ to what they don’t want and ‘yes’ to what they do if they don’t even know what they want to begin with.

Body image and self-worth

Alright, so there’s a lot of stuff written on the internet and in books and podcasts about codependency and I don’t need to belabor it. What I’ve been getting curious about in my own life, however, is how body image relates to our sense of self, and therefore, our relationships with others.

But first: did you know that 90% of American women are dissatisfied with their bodies? (source). That is heartbreaking.

For better or for worse, our body image – how we perceive our flesh and its shape and texture – is a big part of our sense of self. When I was single, I remember having loud voices in my head that said, “Your body is unloveable. No one will ever love you because no one will ever love your body.” Yikes. Sadly, I don’t think these thoughts are that uncommon. And of course, beginning to dismantle such ugly lies that were etched so deeply in my psyche was a lot more complex than just reading some article or blog post.

However, I think a big turning point for me was to realize that the next step after body hatred is not usually body love. Instead, body image is a spectrum:

body image spectrum
Source: Courage to Nourish

It was encouraging to know that it’s okay (and very normal) to I feel like I will never love or feel confident in my body. BUT, disliking my body’s appearance and respecting my body are not mutually exclusive. You might have to figure out what body respect means to you, but for me it means certain non-negotiables like: I don’t skip meals, I don’t cut out food groups, I am intentional about putting an end to critical body thoughts, I am intentional about putting an end to body checking or comparisons, I take care of my personal hygiene (including teeth), I don’t exercise if it doesn’t feel good, etc.

I might still wish my body were different. But practicing body respect is an enormous step towards liberation, even if it the process feels wobbly or slow.

Body respect & codependency

To put it all together, how we feel about our bodies is a part of our sense of self, and our sense of self affects the way we show up in our intimate relationships.

Demi Lovato opens up about her eating disorder and how it is related to her loneliness on her documentary here. As a side note, I am a HUGE Demi fan, and feel weirdly connected to her (we are the same age~). Anyway, the whole documentary is worth watching, but I am always impressed by how honest she is – both with herself and publicly – about her struggles with food and body image. Recognizing where you are on the body image spectrum can be really difficult. Taking the next step in the direction of health and wholeness can be utterly overwhelming. Is it worth it, though? 100%, I say. If you struggle with this is any way, I hope that you find this to be true for yourself too <3