Taxes and self-worth

It may see pretty odd that I would group these two things together, but it’s actually a big realization I had following this past weekend. Right now we’re in prime tax filing season in the US. I am no expert on taxes or anything, but the part I do understand is deductions. Whatever deductions you have will lower taxable income and increase taxes you get back. You can itemize deductions and get more back if you have enough over a certain threshold. Examples of deductions include donations to charity, having dependents or children, and medical/dental expenses. The goal then is to find as many areas to qualify for this since you can receive more money back.

My dad was working on our taxes Saturday when he called me into the bedroom. Originally, he wanted to try using medical expenses I paid to get taxes back based on my taxes, but I didn’t make enough income for that.

I knew that medical would be an example of deductions, and we have paid an insane amount of money this past year towards my treatment. I’m talking thousands of dollars (and we still have a dept, but anyways). When I found out that we could possibly get more money based on that amount, I went into overdrive. I spent at least 2 hours pouring through all of my payments towards IOP, the one for PHP, and residential. Once I had that number, I needed to subtract out what we did through insurance so it wasn’t counted twice. It was a super long process, but I had this intense need to do it. Ulltimately, my parents will receive double the refund of what they were supposed to before medical came into the picture.

There was a part of me that wanted to do this only to help them out. More money means more security, less stress, etc. What I’ve realized is that my drive to work so hard wasn’t entirely a healthy thing.

I feel like I need to do something in return for every way I’ve harmed my parents. They had to deal with all of the stress that comes along with loving someone who has mental illness. I tried my best to prevent it, but they did share the burden of medical expenses. Because I wasn’t able to work, I needed help with things like gas and insurance. These situations and many more are proof that I must be a burden. I try to fight those thoughts, but it’s difficult when there’s all of this “evidence right in front of me.

Helping them in this way reduced some of my guilt. I can’t be that bad if they get something back for dealing with me. I still feel terrible, and maybe I always will. Even if it’s not in a healthy way, my contribution here has increased my self-worth in the tiniest way. If I had instead failed to get a deduction after all they do for me, it would have multiplied the opposite.

I don’t want to be defined by how much I can “repay” others. That’s quite obviously not a healthy view of myself and makes my self-worth completely dependent on acts of service. While doing things for others can benefit me in the short-term, it will quickly become an issue. I need to build genuine compassion for myself so I can reduce this guilt and shame I constantly experience.

I loved how I felt after helping out with taxes; however, shortly after I went right back to self-loathing and negativity. My goal (which is far from easy) is to write and look at often reasons why I matter, am a good person, deserve love, etc. I am trying to believe that I deserve this grace, no matter how much I feel like I’ve failed.

I wear my seatbelt.

I don’t always drive the speed limit, because the chance of a ticket for going 5 over doesn’t scare me much.

I drive the safest possible. I use my turn signal, drive slower when it’s raining or snowing, look both ways before going, watch vigilantly for what other drivers may do. It isn’t just my car that I’m protecting when I choose to drive this way.

I wear my seatbelt. I’m not concerned about the hefty ticket associated with not wearing one any more than I am about getting a speeding ticket. It isn’t done to ensure anyone else’s safety. It’s uncomfortable and annoying. I don’t particularly like to have a strap across my chest.

Why then, do I?

I wear my seatbelt because I choose to protect my own life every time I get into a car.

I may have lost you by now. Wearing (or not wearing) a seatbelt is a choice that we all make. For me, this is different than being a moody teenager who wanted to spite her parents by saying no.

I make the conscious choice to wear mine because I give myself value. It shows that I feel I am worth saving. I don’t deserve to be seriously injured in a car accident when I could have walked away fine.

Wearing my seatbelt means telling all of the nasty voices in my head to shut up. It is showing my younger self that she deserved to be protected too. It is an act of self-love and compassion.

This is a simple act I’ve been choosing to complete for the majority of my life. It feels different now compared to back then. I can now use this as a constant reminder and evidence that I care for myself and I am beyond worthy of my life.

 

 

An open letter to girls at college

Dear lovely young women at college,

First off, you are beautiful daughters of God. No one can ever take that from you, so cling to it with all of your being. His love for you is just as unconditional as the beauty you hold.

As women, we have an obligation to each other and ourselves. The media and society as a whole tells us so many lies each day: we must be skinny to be happy, the “freshman 15” is our biggest fear, you have to be dissatisfied with your body, avoid all of the “bad” foods, you should consume under X calories per day, compare your body to others, sustain yourself with plain salads, being fat is the worst thing that can happen to you, diets are a must at all times, self-love is not necessary or possible. Most of us believe at least some of these and live by them each day.

Putting faith in any of the above lies or others like them is extremely damaging. Suddenly, body image, self-love, and sense of worth go out the window. Unfortunately it doesn’t end there. Every day, we share diet tips, dissatisfaction with our bodies, calorie contents of foods comment on other’s “strength” if they are able to skip a meal or lose a pound. Distorted thoughts and feelings towards ourselves, our bodies, and food multiply.

Undoubtedly, this hurts everyone who participates in or overhears the conversations, but what about those who already have severe body image problems or even an eating disorder? Imagine bravely heading into the dining hall for another meal you don’t feel you deserve and fear, only to stand in line behind a few girls talking about how little food they’ve eaten. To someone without these issues, it seems like that comment wouldn’t hurt anyone, but in truth it can be one of many that cause an ED sufferer to feel worse about themselves and the food they are about to eat. Likewise, hearing girls complain about their size would be detrimental to someone with poor body image and add to her negative thoughts.

You can never know for sure if your words like these are hurting someone, even yourself. Because no good can ever come of it, let’s make an effort to shift our conversations. We need to work together to promote body positivity, health over size, foods not being inherently good or bad, and loving ourselves just as we are. Imagine how much this world would change.

The choice here is ours.

Sincerely

A college freshman

If you or someone you know is struggling with body image, an eating disorder, or disordered eating please get help. This website has tons of great articles on all of these topics http://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/