On Self Reflection: An Incomplete List of My Failures

In this installment of “Mouthful,” a monthly column at Hazlitt about the author’s relationship with food ten years into her recovery from anorexia and bulimia, Sarah Gerard examines failure. She recounts failing a stranger, a failed project, and her failed marriage and considers how these experiences have affected her outlook on life and her ongoing recovery.

I have no excuse for why I asked these questions at the end. I offer this story as an example of earning someone’s trust and then breaking it because I failed to acknowledge my own limitations. I had assumed the role of an expert but in fact would have needed to spend years researching in order to write the book I wanted to write. I gave M. the impression that it was safe to open up to me, and my last questions for her were exploitative and dehumanizing — I could see it in her face; she shut down. Her story had thrown me into a state of mind where old survival techniques took over: my anorexia needed a number to explain what it was hearing, to make it safe again. I was weak and unprepared. I fell back on bad patterns.

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