Naming My Fear Is Vital for My Healing

August 18, 2022 Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

When I operate within the framework of an eating disorder, my life orbits around fear. I am afraid of consuming three balanced meals. I am afraid of not being able to squeeze in enough exercise. I am afraid of the number staring back at me on a scale. I am afraid of seeing the calorie count on a nutrition label. I am even afraid of existing inside my own skin.

Yet these are superficial fears—they motivate the eating disorder behaviors, but they are nothing more than smokescreen curtains to distract me from the actual source of those external behaviors: my deepest core fear. The reason an eating disorder took control over my life in the first place was not because of an aversion to food. It was the result of something more complex and painful to identify. As a teenager, I had no terminology for this. But now, as an adult, I know that naming the fear is vital for my healing.   

Why I Think Naming Fear Is Vital for Healing

When I am tempted to reach for an eating disorder behavior, it's usually because I would prefer not to feel a distressing, uncomfortable emotion (a fear). I would rather numb out or detach from reality than experience the heavy load of fear pressing in all around me. But the truth is, my eating disorder will not insulate me from this unresolved fear—quite the opposite, in fact. Fear is the ember that sparks an eating disorder, just as an eating disorder is the blaze that stokes fear into a wildfire. It's a vicious cycle if allowed to continue.

However, naming my fear stops this inferno in its tracks. When I understand what the fear is, where it comes from, and how it manifests on the surface, I have all the information I need to challenge it. Power lies in a willingness to admit the vulnerable truth: This is what I'm afraid of, and this is why I'm afraid. The more I choose to be honest with myself, the braver I feel to confront a fear head-on, rather than cowering behind the false security of an eating disorder. Not only does this neutralize the eating disorder's influence, it also spares me from continuing to live in the shadow of fear. That alone is vital for my healing. 

The Core Fear I've Learned to Name in My Healing

Everyone's core fear is unique to their own particular story. Mine is the fear of rejection and betrayal—that I will be scorned by those I love, forgotten and invisible, left to navigate this world alone. I fear anyone I grow close to will eventually conclude that I am unlovable, that I am no longer of any use or value to them, that I am not worth sticking around for.

In the past, I used my eating disorder to escape from the hurt and shame of this core fear. But now in the present, I choose to feel the emotions and heal the wounds by naming that fear. I will not pretend this is the easiest or most enjoyable activity, but I can confirm it's vital for my healing, and it starts with a simple dose of honesty:

  1. I am afraid that who I authentically am is not enough to be seen as lovable.
  2. I am afraid that my worth lies in how valuable I can be to another person.
  3. I am afraid that once my usefulness wears out, I will ultimately be rejected.
  4. I am afraid that if I trust others with my vulnerabilities, I will suffer betrayal.
  5. I am afraid that, without an eating disorder, I am unremarkable and average.
  6. I am afraid that my voice does not matter, and my emotions are a bother.
  7. I am afraid that I do not have the right to claim my own space in this world.
  8. I am afraid that, when push comes to shove, I will be forsaken and alone.

These fears might come across as self-indulgent—I am fully aware of this. But they are part of my life experience, whether real or perceived, so I have a responsibility to acknowledge them. The first step to dismantling any fear is to tell the truth about its existence. And that is why I believe the power of naming my fear is so vital for my healing.   

Tags: naming fear

APA Reference
Schurrer, M. (2022, August 18). Naming My Fear Is Vital for My Healing, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 22 from

Author: Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

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